I recently discovered I am as old as the characters in The Golden Girls were when that show started. I can’t begin to express how horrifying this is to me. When the show first aired, I was 17 years old. Now I am 53, inching towards 54, firmly in Golden Girl territory. It’s appalling. How the hell did this happen?
Now I guess the only question that remains is which Golden Girl am I? Obviously, because I’m not 79, it’s safe to say that I am not Sophia. Not yet, anyway. Clearly, I am not the charming, sexpot Blanche. And, I’m not nearly as doe-eyed and sweet as Rose. So that means I am, of course, Dorothy. Sarcastic, cynical, strong-willed, and, quite frankly, a little bitchy. She might have been teased for being a little manly, but at least Dorothy was arguably the smartest of the group. So that is a positive, I guess. One thing Dorothy and I do not share in common is the wherewithal to live with other women. I would not at this age live with my mother and two other women, or just my mother, or just two other women, or actually any women at all. Women are complicated. I prefer my husband, my sons, and our dogs. They take up less counter space in the bathroom.
Aging is a mixed bag. I am so grateful for the wisdom I have today that I did not have at 17 when The Golden Girls began. I like myself far more now than I have at any point in my younger past. I don’t want to go back in time to when I was younger. I simply want to be who I am now but in a 25-year-old body. Oh, the trouble I would get into being that young and understanding my power. It’s frightening to think what I would be capable of. Damn.
On Friday, February 18th, my husband and I were searching our television haunts for something to watch. Truth be told, we subscribe to a lot of services. We have Hulu, Netflix, Prime, Disney+, and Apple TV+. Despite having all the services, we usually aren’t up on what’s coming out to view. We know about the new shows on Disney+ because of our sons. Other than that, we often are late to the party.
Anyway, while flipping through our choices that February night, I found Severance, a new show beginning that day on Apple TV+. The premise looked fascinating, so we figured we’d give it a go. At the end of the 57-minute premiere, we were hooked. We were feeling pretty smug about being early watchers of this brand new show. Maybe we could be the first ones out in front sharing the news? Each week since that night, we’ve looked forward to the next episode. With each episode, we became more engrossed and we told more people about it. Tonight we finished the latest episode, the seventh installment, and I found myself livid that I have to wait another week to see what happens next. And then I I remembered why we don’t get on board and watch shows in real time. It’s because we’re impatient.
After years of binge watching shows we missed out on while others were raving about them, I’m used to having ALL the episodes available to me and burning through them one episode after another in rapid fire succession, staying up until 2 am each night for a week, if necessary, to do it. Watching the entire show in a series of lengthy sessions keeps the story progression fresh in your mind. There’s no digging through your brain for the nuances of what happened the previous week. It’s simply a more efficient means of digesting a story plot. Of course, the streaming services producing the shows don’t care about that. They want to build intrigue and grow viewership. They want the public conversations at the water cooler to expand their audience without having to advertise their show. Greedy jerks don’t even care that binge watching is what we all want to do now. We have no patience. Why should we when so much television is on demand these days?
I am no longer capable of delayed gratification because delayed gratification takes too much time and dedication. And this revelation clued me into why my husband and I don’t hop on the bandwagon of a show immediately. It’s because watching television one week at a time is frustrating. So we miss out for a while. So what? We’re late to the party, but what an amazing party it is when we finally show up. It’s so good we sometimes stay up all night so we don’t miss anything. At 53, this is the closest I get to an all-night kegger and its accompanying next-morning hangover.
Binge watching is where old college students party. Now you know.
There are some television comedy shows I can watch over and over and not ever tire of them. These are the shows from which I still have zingy one-liners memorized. I can’t remember what I did yesterday or what my son’s phone number is but, dammit, I can pull lines from television shows (and movies and songs) from the recesses of my addled brain like some idiot savant.
This mania began, I think, when I started watching Cheers when I was 14. Ask my family members how many lines I remember from that show and recount regularly. I will start singing, “Albania, Albania, you border on the Adriatic,” courtesy of Coach Ernie Pantuso, for no reason at all. I remember many one-liners Norm delivered after he walked into the bar and was asked about his day, but “It’s a dog-eat-dog world, Sammy, and I’m wearing Milk Bone underwear” is my favorite. Then there’s one of the best exchanges between Carla and Cliff, when Cliff tells Carla how you wouldn’t find any girlfriend of his leading him around by the nose and Carla replies, “No. But you might catch her sunning herself on a rock.” I also regularly yell out lines from Friends, such as “Joey doesn’t share food” (when someone asks for a bite of my meal) and “Pivot!” (when hubby and I are moving anything at all). I quote Michael Scott from The Office, too: “I’m not superstitious. But I am a little stitious.” And just this weekend we were talking about Curb Your Enthusiasm and I popped off with a lisping “Lo siento.” So wrong, but so funny.
One of my favorite comedy shows to rewatch is Parks and Recreation, which was originally brought to me by my then 9 year old son, Luke. There are too many great lines in Parks and Rec to recount, but I do often run around singing Andy Dwyer’s song about falling into the pit. Then there’s “Right to jail” from when the ministers of parks from Boraqua, Venezuela, visit. Or this gem, from when Chris gets the flu and is staring in the mirror at himself and says, “Stop pooping.” I’ve repeated Donna and Tom’s rallying cry of “Treat yo’self” ad nauseam, as well. But one of my favorite episodes of Parks and Rec is the one with the end of the world, where we hear a member of the Reasonabilist cult tell Chris, “Well, this morning at dawn, you will take a new form. That of a fleshless, chattering skeleton when Zorp the Surveyor arrives and burns your flesh off with his volcano mouth.” I walked around for weeks after watching that episode talking about Zorp and his volcano mouth. That line still makes me laugh for absolutely no reason. Hail Zorp!
I have favorite lines from so many shows, now that I really think about it. Like when Sheldon, on The Big Bang Theory, says, “I’m not crazy. My mother had me tested!” Or on Scrubs when J.D. keeps moving their taxidermy dog around to scare people and he chastises it by saying, “Rowdy, NO!” And I have watched the first three seasons of Arrested Development enough that “There’s always money in the banana stand” is a mainstay in my vocabulary, along with “I don’t understand the question and I won’t respond to it” and “I’ve made a huge mistake.” Oh, and when GOB responds to his brother calling his work a magic trick and he corrects him by saying, “Illusion, Michael. A trick is something a whore does for money…[sees children]…or candy.” That was genius
As I’m sitting here reflecting on the plethora of television knowledge I pulled up for this post, I’m becoming aware that perhaps I’ve watched a little too much television in my life. Certainly, I can’t be the only one, right? There must be dozens like me. Dozens! And while I suspect my excessive sitcom viewing may have significantly reduced my ability to carry on an intelligible conversation at a serious dinner party, it might just pay off some night at DJ Trivia. At least, that is what I tell myself to make myself feel better.
Today, my son’s dyslexia tutor suggested we get him some recorded songs to help our auditory learner remember his multiplication facts. Thinking that was a brilliant idea, I hit up my friend Google for some suggestions. As I was flipping through the treasure trove of information, I happened upon something I could not resist. Schoolhouse Rock! Need I say anything more? I have many happy memories of sitting in front of Saturday morning television watching cartoons and catching all kinds of useful information from Schoolhouse Rock! I tell you with absolute certainty that the only reason I can recite the entire Preamble to the Constitution is because I can sing it first in my head to a tune I remember from those Saturday mornings. True story.
Joe was sitting with me as I was looking at Amazon trying to decide which DVDs to order. He looked over at my laptop and saw Schoolhouse Rock on the page. He got very excited.
“I’ve seen these!” he exclaimed. “My teacher shows these to us in class.”
“Really?” I replied. I knew his teacher, Mrs. Downs, was good people.
“Yes. All the math ones and some social studies ones. Here….I’ll show you,” he said as he ran off to grab his iPad.
He came back with a bunch of videos queued up on You Tube. He opened up the Elementary, My Dear video about the two times table and hit play. We sat and watched it. It made me smile. After that we watched Three Is A Magic Number. Then, I saw it in the side margin. A video of The Preamble. I clicked on the link.
“I know this one, Joe. Watch.”
Then, along with the video, I sang the entire Preamble while my son watched in complete amazement. At least, I think it was amazement. I prefer to think he was looking at me with awe because he had no idea I knew these videos rather than in horror because I should by law be banned from singing publicly. I prefer to think he’s continually shocked by how smart his mother truly is.
I have to wonder if my boys would have had struggled as much as they have with their math facts if they would have had the pleasure of sitting each Saturday morning and watching Schoolhouse Rock like I did. I’m not entirely sure that the Schoolhouse Rock songs cemented the math facts into my head, but it is kind of intriguing that 35 years later I still remember the words to the Preamble I learned while catching my dose of Saturday morning cartoons. It can’t all be coincidental. Some of the things I saw as a child stuck.
I wish more networks made programming choices based around what was best for people rather than what made them the most money. There was a time when there were public service announcements on television for our children to watch, things like Time for Timer where kids would learn about healthy food choices. Now, though, our kids get nothing but a healthy dose of ads for all sorts of processed junk food and then more junk food in the form of brainless programming all hours of the day and night, on demand even.
Maybe it’s a romantic notion to wish that we could go back to a time when there was some actual thought given as a society to how to raise children to become well-balanced, informed, thoughtful, healthy, and creative individuals. I admit it. I wish kids had less homework and more time on their bicycles, fewer hours of television and more hours for creative and social interaction with friends via a means other than texting. I’m a dinosaur, I know. I’m not suggesting we go back to the 1970’s (personally, bell bottoms pants were never a look I could rock), but it would be nice if we could give our kids a little bit of the childhood we had. It might be nice to give them a break from the innumerable activities topped off with hours of homework. As I think about Schoolhouse Rock, what becomes clear is that it’s not that our children watch too much television but rather that they watch too much of the wrong television. The things I learned on Saturday mornings have stuck with me this long, and now I’m going to share them with my kids. Hopefully they will remember Conjunction Junction and I’m Just A Bill and forget everything they’ve ever seen on My Little Pony.