Confessions of a “TV Connoisseur”

Olivia Pope, Raymond Reddington, John Snow, Walter White, Don Draper, Rick Grimes. Do any of these names sound familiar to you? If they do, then you have engaged in some form of television viewing. If you’ve never heard of any of these names, then…congratulations! You are probably not beholden to your DVR and Netflix account. I, on the other hand, am a life long television addict. Actually I like to refer to myself as an “Episodic Programming Connoisseur.”

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From “Sesame Street” to the “CBS After School Special” to “Fantasy Island” to “Breaking Bad,” I have been watching television for as long as I can remember. I relate pivotal times in history based on what shows were popular at the time. If someone mentions a day of the week, I immediately associate that day with whatever is on television that night.

Monday: “The Bachelor”

Tuesday: “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”

Wednesday: “Nashville”

Thursday: “Scandal”

Then there is Sunday…Oh Sunday! Some of the best programs have landed on this coveted time slot: “The Walking Dead,””Downton Abbey,” and “Mad Men.”

We are currently in the “Golden Age” of episodic programming thanks to the miracle of both internet streaming and the DVR. Both of these technological advancements have led to the phenomenon we now know as “Binge Watching.”  If someone had told me 30 years ago that I could watch quality television shows, back to back, without interruption, and in sequential order, I would have told them “Yeah, right. I’ll make sure that I do that in my spaceship on the way to my condo in Mars.” But here we are today able to do just that.

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It’s not just the technology that has evolved, It’s the quality of programming as well. Never before has there been such thought provoking writing, exceptional acting, and intelligent content. Television is at its peak, and it only keeps getting better.

But how does a productive, busy wife and mother of two defend watching so much television? The truth is, I don’t defend it. To “defend” my excessive viewing habits would be to admit that I think that they are somehow destructive. I don’t believe they are, in my particular case. In fact, television has gotten me through some of the toughest times in my life.

Growing up, television was an outlet where I knew I could escape whatever sadness happened to be going on in my world. If my parents were fighting I knew I could head to the living room and laugh at the Sweathogs of “Welcome Back Kotter” fame. When I was recovering from an eating disorder in my late teens, focusing my thoughts on figuring out “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” on “Twin Peaks” kept my mind off of restricting food. I remember renting all of the Seasons of “ThirySomething” from the library and watching them while I struggled to breastfeed my baby. When I lost my son at 22 weeks pregnant due to a severe birth defect, watching “Judging Amy” was the one hour where I wasn’t in unimaginable grief.

I watched CNN for three days straight from September 11 to September 13, 2001, getting up only to use the restroom and force myself to eat and drink. I re-watched all 156 episodes of my favorite program of all time, “The West Wing,” every night while my mother wasted away from Liver Cancer. You see, I’ve always been someone who has held in her emotions. I don’t easily allow myself to “feel”. But when I can get lost in an imaginary emotion-evoking fantasy world, it is very therapeutic. When I engage in the “ugly cry” while watching television, it has less to do with “Denny “ dying on “Grey’s Anatomy” and more to do with whatever emotion I was holding in that particular week.TV

Television is a joy for me. It is a source of happiness and education. It provides motivation and insight. Watching television serves as “date night” many times for my husband and me. It is the catalyst for special family events, like the yearly viewing of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

And what about my kids, you may ask? I don’t set many limits in regard to watching television with my kids and, oddly enough, they aren’t all that interested in it. They do, however, understand that I like it a lot. They see that I have a tv in my bedroom and they know when they go to bed, Mommy is going to “watch her show.”

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Television viewing is my form of self-care. It is how I recharge. There are thousands of articles, studies, and opinions that state television is bad for you. I don’t dispute that in the collective sense, and I respect everyone’s opinions about the subject. But for me, it is an integral part of who I am, and I make no apologies.

“Don Draper” (one of the greatest television characters of all time) said about technology “..it is a glittering lure. But there’s the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product.” I have a sentimental bond with episodic programming and always will.

Now, if you will excuse me. I need to go re-watch “Game of Thrones” Season 5, Episode 10 to see if John Snow really is dead. Because after all, “Winter is coming,” Sunday, April 24, HBO, 8/9 CST.

Anissa moved to Johnston in 2016 after living in Iowa City for more than 20 years. She has two girls, Faith (16) and Fiona (10). She and her husband, Patrick, have been married for 21 years. Anissa is a registered dietitian and works for Sanford Health. For fun she loves to clean, organize, read, and binge watch Netflix. Her vices include watching the “Real Housewives” franchises and doughnuts!

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