For many years, Life in the Boomer Lane smugly told people that she didn’t watch network TV. She limited her TV viewing to shows on the Discovery and History channels (if religion consisted solely of archaeological hunts for the “real” Jesus and other mysteries of the Bible, LBL would be on board) , with an occasional smattering of PBS.
When video stores started popping up, LBL could now watch films that she hadn’t seen in theaters. But video stores necessitated actually going somewhere to choose the film, and often resulted in walking the aisles reading titles of movies she hadn’t wanted to see anyway. Or, she would rush to the video store for a specific film and discover that it wasn’t in stock and, instead, purchase a box of microwave movie theater popcorn.
Netflix was a revelation. Suddenly, films magically appeared in her mailbox. She never even had to take her pajamas off in order to watch movies she had initially bypassed. Some of them were actually good. But the real magic was the ability to watch TV shows that everyone in the world, except her, had seen and loved.
Friends started hurling advice at her. Watch The Sopranos! Watch Mad Men! Watch The Wire! Watch Scandal! Watch The Good Wife! LBL’s head was spinning. She and Now Husband took the plunge with The Wire. She was hooked. She was a Netflix junkie, standing at the door and waiting for the sight of the thin red envelope of joy.
LBL and Now Husband don’t TIVO. They don’t subscribe to premium TV channels. They continued to wait patiently for the little red envelope. When The Wire ended, they watched Friday Night Lights, Treme, 24, and started Mad Men. They thought life could get no better than this. Until those same friends said “Why are you waiting for the mail!? You should get Netflix On Demand!”
Mad Men was the first show they saw On Demand. One day, they sat on the couch for four hours, watching Don Draper be a handsome, talented asshole, and consuming more alcohol than was imbibed during the entire run of the Roman Empire. LBL didn’t know why she was so taken with Mad Men, since she didn’t really like any of the characters on the show. Joan was cool, except LBL spent most of her time being mind-boggled over those breasts. People suggested, “But doesn’t the show remind you of how things were when you were growing up?” LBL thought about it and suspected it did, minus the money, the alcohol, the cigarettes, the fancy clothes, the nice homes, the cars, the restaurant meals, and the fact that people spoke without accents.
Mad Men was the beginning of a slippery slope, made even more slippery with the advent of original Netflix productions. Life soon devolved into a nightly stay on the couch. Breaking Bad was the show that brought LBL and Now Husband into the 21st century. Now they understood what all the fuss was about, although it was tough to get other people excited about talking about a show they had watched several years ago.
When LBL and Now Husband jumped onto the current productions, everything changed. Conversations with friends revolved around the bottomless smarminess of Frank Underwood, the ordeals of Piper, the horror of the Red Wedding. Was Brody really a terrorist? What’s the deal with the Children of the Forest? LBL and Now Husband were part of the club, if a club could be defined as a place where nobody ever left home.
LBL now scans Netflix and Hulu for any shows she can watch when she and Now Husband aren’t in front of the TV together. This takes place primarily in the middle of the night and involves primarily a murder (The Killing) or serial killers (The Fall). These shows have replaced her usual fare of watching reality shows about hospital emergency rooms. LBL isn’t sure why death (or the anticipation of or the cheating of) should be so compelling at these times, but it is.
Of course, there’s Downton Abbey, which reminds LBL that she is still an educated, cultured human being, although her graduate degree and deep appreciation of culture is often limited to comments like “Holy shit! That dress is amazing!” or “I love Mary’s new do!” or “How is it that Daisy is getting cuter as the show goes on?” or “I think there is something seriously wrong with Edith’s daughter. Everyone just carries her around and all she ever does is to stare vacantly. ”
Just when LBL thought she could stoop no lower with her TV viewing, she and Now Husband have started a new viewing habit. When they are home in the afternoon, around 4PM they tune into House of Cards, in order to watch one episode in advance of their nighttime viewing. As soon as Season 3 was released, they tuned in. But Now Husband inadvertently started Season 1, Episode 1 all over again. After a minute, they decided to start watching the series from the beginning. They are now on Season 2 and take joy in being able to once again appreciate that they have absolutely no idea what is going on (What is it with that bridge, anyway? Why does everyone let Frank push them around? Does Remy have the ability to teleport himself? Do Frank and Claire ever have sex or do they just sit on the window sill and smoke? And, most importantly, where can those ribs be purchased?)
LBL envisions countless others, all seated on their couches/chairs/Barcaloungers/beds, spending their evenings staring at a TV/laptop/cell phone screen. She and Now Husband take comfort in the fact that they, like those others, are in a woman’s prison/in the White House/in the head of an unmedicated bi-polar/in the Lands Beyond the Wall at the same time they are chomping away on their microwave movie theater popcorn.