Sunday, May 19, 2013

Thank You, Television

My husband and I finished the last episode of The Office yesterday. Though I wasn't impressed with the episode itself (it was a little sappy for my taste; the Michael surprise was nice, but it didn't feel like Steve Carell was in character) it did make me nostalgic. The wonderful thing about TV shows is that the characters become part of your life in a much more permanent way than in a movie or even a book (possibly excepting a book series). They become to feel like your family and friends, and you look forward to seeing them every week. It's like getting together with people you care about for good times and laughter, without any social pressure on you.

Certain TV series have gotten me through rough times in my life. The first show I ever became completely addicted to was Friends. I didn't start watching it until my junior year of college, which was late in its eighth season. The next semester, I was student teaching a few hours away from my family and friends, and I was often lonely and bored. Renting Friends on VHS (yes, VHS) from my local Wegmans and watching re-runs on TV made me feel happy and comforted. It may have even saved me from feeling depressed. I watched the finale of Friends from the living room of my roommate's house my first year out of college and on the job. It was the first place I lived that my parents didn't contribute to, and I remember feeling proud and independent as I watched that finale.

A couple of summers later, when I lived alone in my one-bedroom apartment, I watched What Not to Wear every day at 12:00 while I ate my lunch. The emotional transformations of the women on the show inspired me to higher self-esteem and self-confidence. (I also picked up a lot of tips that I still use on how to dress my body shape.)

As a result of issues with my thyroid medication (combined with difficult life events) I've suffered periods of depression, sometimes brief, sometimes lasting up to a year. It's surprising now, considering how happy and fulfilled I am living a life with many interests and hobbies, but there have been times in the past when I could only manage to go to work, come home and watch television. Shows that lifted my spirits during those times were I Love Lucy, How I Met Your Mother, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and The Simpsons. 

Several shows got me through my pregnancy. During the first trimester, when I felt so sick I could barely get off the couch, I watched Gossip Girl and Greek. (Not great shows, but they did make me feel pretty and thin for a few minutes.) During the last trimester, when I spent too many evenings bored at home, my husband and I watched a lot of The West Wing (we actually watched an episode or two in the hospital while I was in labor) and re-runs of Deal or No Deal (I'm kind of obsessed with how brilliant that show is). I remember those evenings fondly, watching TV and playing gin rummy, balancing the cards on my huge stomach. It was the last time we could count on watching an entire show without getting interrupted by Edwin.

The Office was special because it was the first show that my husband and I really bonded over. Before that, he was Seinfeld and I was Friends; he was The Sopranos, and I was Sex and the City. But after my first episode ("Diversity Day", which made me want to cover my eyes in shame for Michael Scott) I fell in love with it as much as my husband did. Watching that show became a special bond for us, and over the years we've started to enjoy more and more shows in common (The Daily Show, Modern Family, and Parks and Recreation, to name a few.)

So it's the "end of an era" (yes, I stole that from Friends) for the Office. I'm grateful to that show and to all of the others that got me through some tough times.

Have you ever turned to TV during trying times of life? Which shows did you choose?

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