I did not have a television for over 20 years. I know that seems crazy, but it was an evolution born of necessity. In 2000, I broke up with a fiancee who was sharing living expenses with me. In order to afford my mortgage, I had to cut costs and cable was among the first things to go. I still watched DVDs on my television set, but I no longer watched anything else. As my finances got sorted out, I was able to afford cable, but I had broken the habit of watching television, and it just seemed like I’d have to MAKE myself watch it. I just didn’t see the point.
My friend Randy texted me one day during the lockdown and offered me his TV. He was getting a new one and knew I didn’t have one. Given that I can now hook up my computer to the television, I thought it would be a great idea. Besides I had lots of free time when I was out on furlough and truly nothing else to do. So I said thank you and signed up for Netflix.
I’m on the fence of whether I think this is a good thing or not. I quickly got back in the habit of watching TV when I really could be doing something more productive. But I have really enjoyed some of the shows that are available to watch and binge-watching has transformed the experience. I am stunned when I think that we all had three hours to kill four nights a week for mini-series back in the 70s. Life was very different, but we just had to wait for the next episode, the next season or the next re-run. It drove me crazy to flip through channels to find something to watch and watching drivel just because there was nothing on. That was definitely a waste of time.
During lockdown I started with Grace and Frankie and quickly moved to Schitt’s Creek. Both helped me shift my attention and provided laughter during a very dark time. I fell in love with Schitt’s Creek and began reading everything I could about the show. I’ve since watched the entire series twice and follow the entire cast on Twitter. In a world where love and laughter is in short supply, I found a source right at my fingertips and for only $12.99 a month. Want to laugh? Hit Play.
Once I was done with Schitt’s Creek I sort of lost my way. I watched a few old movies such as Tootsie and The American President and then I found a few new ones about drag queens and plant-based eating. Somehow I stumbled on to The West Wing. I’m not sure why I chose it the first time, but I found myself so enamored with a White House that was actually filled with love of country, intelligence and a way with words. It felt like a long, cool drink of water, and I kept pressing play. I am like the patient with a morphine pump looking to ease my pain. I am quite simply addicted and madly in love.
This is old time television with 22 episodes per seasons, and the shows are an hour long. When I tell you that August and September have literally been spent watching The West Wing I am not exaggerating. I watch in the morning when I drink coffee. I watch during lunch. By the time it’s 4 PM I am settled in for the evening for a literal marathon of episodes before bedtime. And, if it’s a season ender, you won’t find me in bed until long after the plot line has been resolved. I …. cannot… STOP.
I can’t decide which character I like best. I’d like to sleep with every one of the men on the show including Toby. I want to be C.J., and I would love to be best friends with Mandy. I am googling them all to see what they are doing now. I’m listening to The West Wing Weekly podcast which covers literally every episode one by glorious one. I’m listening to interviews and blow-by-blow accounts of the making of each show. I am fascinated by the writing process and how an episode comes together. I am obsessed, and there is just no other word for it. I’m learning so much about the way our government works, and I feel like my intellectual soul is in heaven. It is truly sapiosexual porn, and I’m all in.
I’m almost at the end of Season 7, the final season. John Spencer, who plays the wonderful, wise and warm Chief of Staff dies of a heart attack during the last season. I was devastated when I read it, and I dreaded getting to the part where he would no longer be in it. But I was not prepared for the emotional reaction I’d have. For one thing, his character, Leo, has a heart attack in Season 6, and it was so painful to watch knowing that he actually died like this in real life. They moved him into a role where he was less on his game, and I just imagined the whole time he was marching toward his death. I literally was an emotional wreck when I got to the episode where they had to write him out due to his real-life death. I feel like I’ve lost a best friend and mentor.
When I was in my thirties, I got hooked on Thirtysomething in the same way. Ironically, a couple of those actors were guests on The West Wing, and I felt so connected to them. The show reflected something about me back then that I needed to see.They were my friends at a time in my life when I needed friends and a role model for adulting. I was devastated when it ended. Lonesome Dove was the fantasy of my high school years, and I remember being completely addicted to Dallas during college. They all offered me something, and I literally fell in love with every single one.
I’m not sure when this West Wing obsession will end, but I joined a Facebook group obsessed with it, and I am making my way through that crazy podcast. And, actually, it’s not doing any harm right now, so who cares? I certainly don’t. But I probably need to go now as I haven’t had my fix for the day. I still have time for 3 episodes!!