Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Out of the Closet

Time for another confession and no, I’m not gay. The closet is a literal one where we used to keep a big, clunky TV on a cart and roll it all the way down the hall on a Thursday night to watch our one ritual night of TV with the kids. It was the perfect solution of monitoring a potential addiction, neither a strict Puritanical prohibition nor a permissive “anything goes.” It became a ritual marker in the week that we all— my wife and the kids— looked forward to and enjoyed, along with a Saturday night video. Even later when we put the TV in the corner of the living room, it still required enough of an effort to roll it ten feet over the carpet to avoid the mindless flicking through channels that always tempted us in hotel rooms. It required a conscious intention and thought. "Is this worth the effort of rolling it out?" These days, the TV is lighter and easier to roll, but it still sits in the corner. 


“How do people spend their evenings?”, I often wonder. Before kids we had roommates that we hung out with and talked and listened to music, sometimes lying on the floor with our heads between speakers just listening with our whole being. Some nights my wife would weave while I played piano or we sat on the couch and read. Lots to do!


Then with kids, even more to do and with work, planning classes, preparing classes, reflecting on classes. For me, always piano but not past 9 o’clock and writing the nine books I published and numerous articles, some of them about the dangers of watching too much TV. I read Jerry Mander’s Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, I contributed to Frances Moore Lappe’s book What to Do When You Turn Off the TV, initiated a TV turn-off week at school and even spoke publicly in a few places about the dangers of giving your life over to the hands of TV producers. 


And then, many, many years later, came two turning points, both at the same time. A retirement that gave me whole days to follow my interests instead of teaching for six hours. Without staff meetings, report cards, classes to plan and prepare, the days and nights grew instantly longer. When evening came, I was happy to turn off my own thinking and doing and let somebody else sweep me up into their story. All of this at the exact same time as the pandemic hit and the usual possibilities of going out to the movies or to dinner or to a jazz club were gone. Add to that the birth of the streaming series, ongoing dramas in which you got to know the characters and follow an unfolding story far beyond the two hours of a Hollywood movie. A chance to get some relief from the increasingly distressing reality of the pandemic, climate change and the constant attempts to dismantle democracy. Sign me up!


So I signed up. Netflix, Prime, Hulu, Kanopy, PBS were (and are) my new evening friends. 

When we did start socializing again, by Zoom or phone or outdoors and eventually otherwise, barely a conversation would go by without “What are you watching that you would recommend?” We kept a running list so we wouldn’t be caught empty-handed when the last season of a favorite came to an end.


So the other day, drawing from memory and comments I had made in my journal, I tried to write down a summary of these shows, more or less in the order we watched them. The ones with the asterix are ones we particularly enjoyed. If you’re hooked into these things, this might be the best Blogpost you’ve read! Giving you new ideas in case you missed them.




• Downton Abbey *

• Mozart in the Jungle

• A Place to Call Home *

• Last Tango in Halifax *

• Seaside Hotel *

• Little Fires Everywhere

• The Queen’s Gambit *

• Call My Agent *

• The Marvelous Ms. Maisel *

• The Chair *

• All Creatures Great and Small

• Family Business

• The Durells in Corfu

• Bonus Family



• Broadchurch *

• Shetland *

• Endeavor *

• Inspector Morse

• The Unforgotten *

• Collateral

• The Split

• Lupin *

• The Sandham Murders

• The Bridge

• Damages

• Only Murders in The Building *

• Mare of Eastown *

• Deadwind

• Murder at the Lake

• Annika

• Scott and Bailey



• The Crown *

• Mrs. America *

• Borgen *

• Atlantic Crossing

• Occupied



• The Good Wife *

• The Good Fight *

• The Lincoln Lawyer

• Anatomy of a Scandal *

• You Don’t Know Me *



• The Office

• Schitt’s Creek

• Curb Your Enthusiasm


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