Love and Television, aka First World Problems

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Their haircuts are cooler but our TV is bigger.

My husband and I have been together for over 11 years. And except for one year back in 2001, when we thought we’d “experiment” with not having cable (a terrible, failed experiment, by the way), we have also been watching television together for 10 years. Generally, if a couple is compatible with each other — sharing similar views on politics, childrearing, home decor, and food — then their tastes in television will also be compatible. Let’s call this our “TV relationship.” Our TV relationship has remained healthy and thriving for the last decade since we share key viewing preferences: we will watch any HBO “original series” at least once and will likely keep watching it, even after we determine that it is awful (John from Cincinatti, I’m talking to you); we will watch every single season of Survivor, ratings be damned; we will watch any series featuring characters who regularly get shot, beheaded, scalped, or mauled (but not eaten); we will watch any MTV reality show that makes us feel better about who we are and the life decisions we have made (i.e., every MTV reality show); we will not watch any comedies containing laugh tracks (bye bye, Whitney). I should also point out that TV watching takes place during a specific time-frame in my house: a. after the children are asleep and b. when all other work has been completed. So we generally watch TV between 9 pm and 11 pm. Likewise, there is just one DVR in our house, so if TV is being watched in my house, my husband and I are probably watching it together.

You should have seen what he did to the other guy. No really, he SCALPED the other guy.

A few years ago, there was a definitive rift in our TV relationship, precipitated by the premiere of a new “cycle” (not season, Tyra doesn’t like seasons) of America’s Next Top Model. My husband and I love gamedocs (Survivor, Top Chef, So You Think You Can Dance), and this one delivered the works: competition, delusional bulimics, and most importantly, Tyra Banks. “Top Model comes on tonight!” I called from the den. These sort of TV-based announcements are like foreplay in my house. In fact, my husband and I send each other links to reviews/publicity about new TV shows in the same way that other couples might send each other sexually suggestive e-mails. The subject line is “Oh baby” but the e-mail itself reads “We should watch this, right?” But when I announced the new cycle of America’s Next Top Model, my husband was not very excited:

Him: I think I’m done.

Me: What do you mean?

Him: I think I’m done watching America’s Next Top Model.

Me: [incredulous] You mean you’re just … not going to watch it anymore?

Him: You can watch it without me.

So I did watch America’s Next Top Model without him. Alone. But it just wasn’t the same. Every time Tyra told some ingenue to “smile with your eyes” (later becoming the portmanteau, “smize”), there was no one on the couch next to me with whom I could commiserate over the stupidity of asking someone to smile with a part of the body that cannot smile. And every time a contestant explained “I’m not here to make friends!” there was  no one on the couch next to me with whom I could say “That’s the 10th time someone has said that this season!” I made it through that cycle of America’s Next Top Model, but it was to be my last. The show just wasn’t as much fun to watch without my husband around.

After that first blow to our TV relationship, it became easier for one of us to drop out of a show. When this happens, it is customary for desperate campaigning to ensue, with one partner attempting to convince the other that a terrible mistake has been made. The dropped show is the “BEST SHOW ON TV!” or the dropped show has finally “hit its stride!” “Don’t you want to come back and start watching it again?” For example, when I gave up on the 90210 reboot after just three episodes (I missed the original cast too much), my husband, an ardent fan of all teen melodrama, would make casual comments like “It’s a shame you stopped watching 90210 because this is the best season yet.” Or I’ll tell my husband, “There was a scene in Parenthood last week that was an exact replica of the conversation we’re having right now. Isn’t that funny?” And my husband, aware of what I’m doing, will reply, “Yeah, I’m not going to watch that show again.”

Deal breaker.

Of course there are certain shows that I watch, knowing full well  that my husband will never watch them with me (Project Runway) and there are shows my husband watches that he knows I will never ever watch with him (Walking Dead). There is no attempt to convince the other person of the merits of these programs. I will not watch a show containing zombies and my husband will not watch a show in which  people discuss asymmetrical hems and “taste levels.” These are “deal breakers.”

DEAL BREAKER.

Yes, differences in TV preferences are a part of any couple’s life. They cannot be avoided. But there are ways to keep your TV relationship as stable and functional as possible. This is important because, as the old saying goes, the family that gazes together, stay-zes together. To that end, here are some tips for promoting the longterm health of your TV relationship:

1. Don’t Box Him/Her Out

I enjoy HBO’s How to Make it in America. It’s not my favorite show, but I like it’s focus on fashion and hipsters, as well as it’s wicked awesome opening credit sequence, which is worthy of it’s own blog post. But my husband is lukewarm about the series; he only watches it because I do. Just after Season 2 premiered a few weeks ago my husband went out of town. 2 episodes of How to Make it in America sat on the DVR, beckoning, “Watch me, Amanda. Your husband doesn’t even like this show. He won’t care….” And so I did. The next week, I watched another episode without him, noticing that we had acquired 3 in our DVR queue (I hate an unwieldy DVR queue). When I encouraged my husband to catch up on the series, he was dismayed. “You’re boxing me out,” he whined. It was true. What motivation did he have for watching a series he only mildly liked on his own? Conclusion: if one partner is lukewarm on a series, make sure you watch it together. Otherwise, you will be watching it alone forever and always.

2. Give it a Chance

Blerg.

Sometimes when I get those not-sexy-unless-you-love-TV e-mails from my husband, in which he attempts to seduce me into watching a new series, I think “Ugh, this looks terrible.” I feel like the authority on these matters since it is I who has the PhD in visual media. What does the software programmer know? I’m the expert here! But there is something to be said for allowing your significant other to select some programming, even if you are sure that the show is going to be horrible. Case in point: my husband decided to put Whitney in our DVR queue (Whitney for crying out loud!!!). I was resistant, but ultimately agreed to watch the series premiere. The show was not nearly as awful as I thought it would be, but it had a laugh track, and that is a deal breaker. So even though I am no longer watching Whitney with my husband, I did try it. And that’s all you can expect in your TV relationship. Conclusion: take your partner’s preferences into account and give all new programs a chance.

3. Watch it Anyway

Foreplay.

Another key to harmony in your TV relationship is something you are probably already doing, and that is “compromise.” Longterm relationships are all about compromises. Especially when those relationships involve the watching of TV. Earlier in this post I mentioned that my husband and I always watch Survivor — in fact, my husband and I have watched every single season  of Survivor together, except for seasons 1 and 2 (which predate our moving into together in 2001). So in a way, Survivor is most representative of our TV relationship. But the thing is, I have lost some of my love for Survivor over the last few years. I still believe that it is the greatest game show of all time, but I started watching it at a time when reality TV was far more compelling than scripted television. But right now TV is just so good that I would prefer to spend the limited amount of time I have for TV viewing on something else. But I don’t.Why? Because Survivor is what my husband and I watch together. Some couples have a vacation spot or a restaurant or a song that symbolizes their relationship. My husband and I are united by Jeff Probst and “The tribe has spoken.” So I will continue to watch Survivor even though I’d rather be watching Parenthood, because only one of those shows includes my husband on the couch. And that makes TV viewing 65% more enjoyable (these are hard scientific numbers).

But now I’m curious about your own experiences with watching TV with your partner (current or former). For those of you in long term relationships, what hardships have you faced in your TV relationships? Are there shows your partner loves and that you despise? Do you have more than one DVR in your house?

I’m also curious about TV relationships between non-romantic couples. For instance, do you regularly watch TV with a roommate, sibling, or parent? If so, how do you keep that relationship stable?

Please share below…

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20 thoughts on “Love and Television, aka First World Problems

    Faye Woods said:
    October 25, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    I feel you on the group viewing ANTM as I used to watch The Apprentice during my PhD in a big shared house, but when I moved out I couldn’t bear to watch it alone, way too stressful without the diffusing mocking.

    I see my young man every other weekend coz he lives in another city. If we didn’t like all the same comedy I don’t know what we would watch (or more accurately, ‘if I hadn’t forced upon him all my taste in comedy’) – maybe Grand Designs? Our second conversation after ‘How was your journey’ and I hand him his dinner (every other weekend I am a sitcom wife) is ‘what you wanna watch’.

    He will let me fast forward through Strictly Come Dancing – mainly I think because he is amused by my intricate commentaries on each routine when he has no clue – but he will not watch ‘talky teen shows’. When I tell the latter to people they can’t believe we can be a couple, as that is basically my life. I explain, that is why it is a long distance relationship! (ha, not really, but TV selfishness is my main barrier to living with others – too long alone!)

    princesscowboy responded:
    October 25, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Ha, I love the image of you seeing your beloved, after being apart for 2 weeks, and asking him what TV he’d like to watch! When my husband and I are travelling a lot — in the summer or over the holidays — we are always so happy the first evening we are able to sit on our couch and watch TV together. Sweet? Pathetic? I just don’t know.

    Anna Froula (@frozola) said:
    October 25, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Great post, Amanda! I love that Z sends you emails trying to seduce you to watch new shows.

    Nowadays we generally the same shows – Sons of Anarchy (watching season 3 on DVD while keeping up with season 4 – I know you don’t approve! :), Glee, Community, The Office, Parks and Recs, etc. In the early days I went through a stage of watching 2 episodes of Dawson’s Creek in the mornings during the summer we spent on home repair. He didn’t join me much for that one, but he’ll often watch what I’m researching or teaching, especially with this satire class, and talking it through with me. Now we have trouble keeping up with what we both like & it’s rare when I’m watching something alone. We get streaky (when nothing else is on, we’ll stream some Sports Night) and sometimes gorge on several episodes at once.

    But we have 3 tvs in one room so we can have football on while watching other things or leveling up in Borderlands. Steelers games are more or less sacred – social media is off, phones don’t get answered, whether we’ve DVR’d it or not, and my Troy Polamalu Christmas ornament is around my neck. (We just need a terrible towel kerchief for Murphy.)

      princesscowboy responded:
      October 25, 2011 at 7:41 pm

      I am pretty sure that both of you are very TV compatible with Z.

    p00rrichard said:
    October 25, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Hoarding and Terrible Person Matchmaking Other Terrible People nearly soured our TV Relationship.

    but as we are now new parents, my wife and I have come to value that 1-2 hours in the evening SO MUCH. we have recommitted to Rule #3. if only Parks and Rec came on every night…

    great post! 🙂

      princesscowboy responded:
      October 25, 2011 at 7:42 pm

      Absolutely! Before the arrival of children my husband and I watched TV at all hours of the day– during lunch, during dinner, and sometimes during the day because, why not? Children really limit those hours, so the evening’s TV becomes a very special time of the day–even if it’s only 30 minutes.

    Kim Akass said:
    October 25, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    The gauntlet is down. I can never resist commenting on your blogs and this one positively gave me the come on. So. I will gladly share. In our house tv watching is subtly changing. It used to be that we would watch TV after the children were in bed. Like you. But now my daughter stays up later so the choice of series is very different. Definitely no Walking Dead in our house. And all HBO shows now go straight to Sky Atlantic anyway. And we don’t have Sky. Virgin customers can’t even buy that. So our TV watching is seriously compromised now. The last show we compulsively watched was The Wire on DVD as British TV didn’t screen it till much later. Now we tend to watch British TV much more than ever before. As for ANTM. Thus is one show I watch with my daughter (and always have). Lately even she is moving on from it. If only we lived closer Princess Cowboy – we could share Tyra and the two Jays together. It certainly isn’t as much fun alone!

      princesscowboy responded:
      October 25, 2011 at 7:45 pm

      I have fond memories of watching shows like FAMILY TIES, CHEERS, TAXI, and THE COSBY SHOW with my Mom and brother when I was around 8. These were shows that my Mom clearly enjoyed but that I also loved. I’m wondering what shows I’ll be able to watch with my kids when they are older. Are there even any sitcoms like that anymore? For example, I love PARKS & RECREATION but I’m not sure an 8-year-old would get it’s humor.

    Kim Akass said:
    October 25, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    PS. Great post. We have 1 TV.

    […] by the way), we have also been watching television together for 10 year … See more here: Love and Television, aka First World Problems Posted in Uncategorized Tags: been-watching, failed-experiment, having-cable, one-year, […]

    melisser said:
    October 25, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    I love this post.

    I went crazy the year C and I had to live apart because he didn’t have a tv. I ended up reciting whole episodes of Mad Men to him, as well as giving him the play-by-play of Steelers games he missed (we seriously should have recorded me doing that, by the way).

    Now I try to lure him in. I watched True Blood on my laptop and would sort of just *slightly* tilt it toward him and catch him watching out of the corner of his eye. “That’s Jesus,” I’d say. “He’s Lafayette’s boyfriend.” And C would grudgingly reply, “Lafayette is pretty awesome.” He is TOTALLY hooked on True Blood, but would never admit it. This is how I got him on Game of Thrones, too, and I’ve caught him reading the books. After mocking me! Douche.

    Two things we regularly watch together: Reruns of Law & Order SVU (the crazier the better) and No Reservations (we both have massive crushes on Anthony Bourdain). Things he will never get into: Top Gear (he accuses me of being a “frat boy” when I watch TG), any revolting reality show I love (esp Biggest Loser, Toddlers and Tiaras, Hoarders).

    By the way, he was absolutely flabbergasted last night while I was watching Once Upon a Time. No way he’s coming around on that one, even if I am “watching it for research.” IT’S RESEARCH.

      princesscowboy responded:
      October 25, 2011 at 7:46 pm

      I can envision this entire exchange between you and C and it is AWESOME.

    inessentials said:
    October 25, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    I wooed my wife with Buffy DVDs. We were distance dating, and the first long visit included seasons 1-3 on DVD. It was pretty much make or break time for our relationship. It worked.

    Now N gets sad when I drop out of our “together” shows. That’s been more this fall, as I’ve been busier than usual. She’s worried about the state of our relationship because of this. After all, TV time is quality time. (No computers, no twitter, no reading or it doesn’t count.)

    We too have sort of a ranking system.

    1. Shows we watch together immediately. (Community, P&R, Happy Endings)
    2. Shows we watch together, but take a while to clear off the DVR. (Castle, The Middle)
    3. Shows we sometimes watch together, but one or the other can watch an ep or two with permission. (Good Wife, Parenthood, Project Runway, Men of a Certain Age)
    4. Shows we used to watch together, but is now mostly for one person, so no permission needed. (Gossip Girl, Survivor, Amazing Race)
    5. Shows only one of us likes. (No Reservations, Ace of Cakes)

      princesscowboy responded:
      October 27, 2011 at 8:30 am

      I could never date you or your wife–we are TV incompatible. Sigh.

    internet televisie kijken said:
    October 26, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Hello this is somewhat of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding experience so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Max Dawson (@fymaxwell) said:
    October 26, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: the family that watches Survivor together stays together. Survivor is pure romance. Think of all the castaways who found love in the game: Boston Rob and Amber. Ozzie and Amanda, Yau Man and Earl. Probst and Colby. Mark Burnett and Rupert and Rudy. Ladies, next time you’re feeling down on your man, just be thankful he’s not Russell Hantz. And dudes, if your lady is getting on your case, imagine the horrors that NaOnka’s man endures.

      princesscowboy responded:
      October 27, 2011 at 8:31 am

      There was a 3-way between Mark Burnett, Rupert and Rudy? How the hell did I miss that? Stupid DVR!

    Jon Kraszewski said:
    October 27, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Usually one of us gets the TV and the other watches something online. We sit together and watch different things. Our TV tastes are so different. But Sue introduces me to some really cool things I’d never watch–stuff such as Freaky Eaters. I have to say I enjoy people who eat couches. We share the same screen when she can introduce me to some lunacy.

    SMG said:
    November 13, 2011 at 7:21 am

    I do not even understand how I ended up here, however I thought this publish was once great. I do not know who you’re however certainly you’re going to a well-known blogger should you are not already. Cheers!

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