I released “To-Do List” this week (which you can watch here). It includes an argument about Netflix. As I thought about it, I started to realize this type of argument is so cliché and old. It’s so 2011. Then, I found myself in this exchange with my wife:
Wife: I want to watch SVU live tonight.
Me: They’re doing a live broadcast of SVU? How would that even work?
Wife: Not live. Watch it as it happens. At 9pm.
Me: Oh, you want to watch the commercials?
Wife: Fine. Then we can start it 15 minutes late if you want.
Me: Wait. You’ve watched the last 3 episodes without me. Now you want me to skip ahead? And when am I going to have time to watch those other episodes anyway? I’m going to have to say up till 3 in the morning one night just to catch up.
Wife: Oh, right. You can’t go out of order.
At this point, I started to notice that I’m sounding a bit whiny, but that didn’t stop me from seeing my mini-tantrum through to the end. After all, I’m a man of conviction and stupidity. I rambled on further, until I talked myself into conceding that it’s not that big of a deal to watch a procedural out of order. We watched it live, alright, and I was proud of myself that I recognized my issue while it was happening – live -- instead of having to DVR my issues and watch them later.
It’s challenging to recognize your own issues as they occur. However, noticing issues exhibited by other people? That’s easy. So, let me get into my parents and their issues with television.
The complex and mysterious relationship between my parents and television would pose a respectable challenge for a superstar team of Dr. Phil and Columbo. The nature of the relationship ranges from dismissive to enthralled, from confused (and yet engaged) to apathetic (and yet addicted). They could not have developed such a complex tapestry of perspectives on television without a keeping the TV on daily from 10am to 10pm. Programming starts with the cackling ladies of morning shows of some sort, and always end with the delightfully local WGN news. Somewhere in the middle includes several hours of repeating CNN stories.
Some of my memories include a mesmerizing television that held my parents like zombies, unable to interact with the changing world around them. During these moments, I was able to cultivate my own personal desperate need for attention –I learned to kick and scream to compel my parents into a verbal acknowledgement to verify that I was indeed in the room. Other memories include shows that we shared with bounding / bonding laughter such as the Carol Burnett Show. Then all the other memories between these extremes include hours and hours of cross chatter, making it impossible for me to hear the show, as if they didn’t seem to care about Grady’s critical moment on Sanford and Son!
These days I observe my parents in their natural TV-watching habitat with a grown-up perspective, and you can see those moments over several #CrainStreet tweets. Let me start with some general TV tweets that drive me the most nuts:
This tweet perfectly demonstrates the very confounding nature of my parents and their relationship with television. This confession proves that she keeps the television on without watching it. At any one moment, she could be playing Candy Crush, talking on the phone, balancing the checkbook, or napping. Through it all, Anderson Cooper carries on without taking personally her lack of attention. So, why is the television running then? Either pay attention, or conserve energy.
This tweet confounds me so hard, I need to make a list:
1) They are paying extra for HD capability.
2) They have a brand new HD TV, and yet they seem okay with seeing an image that only covers part of the screen?
3) They are technically challenged, so in some ways, they watch the tiny square like the natives that can’t see the ship off-shore.
4) When I confront them about the lower quality image, they show me – despite their technical limitations, mind you – they show me how to press OK twice to switch to the HD version of the channel. They demonstrate how easy it is. If they know how to find the HD channel, why, why, why, why do they not choose the better image? Why do they accept a small, crappy image, when they know how to make it better? If you’re listening to a song on a transistor radio, and you know that sending the song to a Bose system was a simple press of a button, would you just continue to listen to the transistor radio? Apparently, my parents would. Choose better quality!
Here’s that talking-over-the-show thing that they do so well. If you’re not into the show, I get it. No need to pay attention. My outrage writes itself!
OBSESSION WITH COMMERCIALS
My parents can’t handle a full television show any more, but the mini-story of the advertising age has replaced it. They love commercials. They talk about them. They quote them. They critique them. Here are some examples.
PARENTAL ASSOCIATION OF CRITICS
My parents do find some shows and movies watch-worthy. My dad will enjoy a good action or suspense movie once in a while. They also enjoy family movies and kids movies, possibly more so than my niece. One of their interests that frustratingly aligns with my wife’s includes the Hallmark Channel, which assembles the most thin elements of story with the sappy cheese of a greeting card. Some of my best work gets done during Christmas break when I’m blaring music in my headphones to drown out their awws and other annoying delight over the girl trying to save her town from the real estate villain who wants to cut down the Christmas tree farm to make money off a ski resort, or so I suspect. And, of course shows like “Dancing with the Stars” were hand-crafted for their demographic like an artisan brew of semi-recognizable faces and annoyingly pleasing music. Here are some tweets where they enjoy expressing their opinions on television programming.