Different Strokes for Married Folks

The time has come, indeed, the time is long overdue, to address the issue that has been tearing married couples apart for decades. I am referencing, of course, irreconcilable differences in television program preferences.

My wife, Mary, gravitates toward “reality” (and I use that word very, very loosely) and drama shows. Drama I can take or leave, depending on how far it strays into soap opera territory. I liked L.A. Law. I liked Hill Street Blues. Hell, I even liked Desperate Housewives, until the people behind the show seemed to forget that it was a spoof of soap operas and let it devolve into the real thing.

Reality shows I hate. How can viewers ignore the fact the people in the show are surrounded by cameras recording everything they do and say? The Hawthorne Effect kicks in immediately as show participants react to the camera presence. Beyond that, raw footage is intensely edited to move events in whatever direction the producers want it to go. Reality. Hah!

I am at the complete opposite end of the television spectrum, deeply immersed in science fiction, liberally seasoned by comedy and fantasy offerings. I am more than willing to suspend my disbelief for 20 to 40 minutes.

Of course, television is an escapist medium for most of us. Mary says she just wants to watch something that doesn’t require a lot of thought.

I think all day,” she said. “I don’t want to have to think when I get home.”

Luckily for me, my job doesn’t put a lot of strain on my brain. For me, it makes no difference whether a show amuses or amazes me, as long as I am entertained. If the subject matter sticks in my mind for a bit after the program ends, so much the better. If anything, I probably think too much.

I once made the mistake of criticizing my wife’s choice of the Home and Garden Channel as a top choice for her viewing options. I mean, how many different damn ways can HGC find to choose or remodel a house? And why have I never seen a program on gardening? The answers to those questions are: “a number too large to be expressed by a non-mathematician” and “gardening is your job.”

Then came the day she came home and found me watching an episode of Doctor Who in which a hospital was staffed by nurses who happened to have cat heads. Seemed perfectly acceptable to me, as one who has been watching the Doctor for decades. Mary didn’t think so.

Don’t you ever say anything about what I watch again,” she warned me.

I think I already knew that.

Dissecting our DVR “series manager” shows the diversity of our TV tastes.

Hers – Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, The Biggest Loser, Project Runway, Big Brother, Nurse Jackie, So You Think You Can Dance, Top Chef Masters, American Idol, Brother vs. Brother, Flipping the Block, Downton Abbey, Project Runway All-Stars, The Voice, Property Brothers, Fixer Upper, Master Chef and Curvy Brides.

Mine – The Librarians, Falling Skies, Extant, The Last Man on Earth, Outlander, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Man Seeking Woman, Black Sails, Vikings, Banshee, Person of Interest, The Big Bang Theory, Hell on Wheels, The 100, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Doctor Who, Marvel’s Agent Carter, Strike Back, Da Vinci’s Demons, The Last Ship, Sherlock, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and iZombie.

Ours – Mike and Molly, Madam Secretary, The Amazing Race and Survivor.

Yeah, yeah. The Amazing Race and Survivor do, in fact, qualify as reality shows. My explanation for watching The Amazing Race is getting a peek at other cultures around the world. For Survivor, which is basically Big Brother staged in some godforsaken wilderness, I have no excuse, other than I’ve been watching it since the second season after Mary introduced it to me not long after we started dating. Tradition? Inertia?

So, a whopping four of 47 regularly recorded shows in our house are watched by both of us. Not a lot of common ground there. One might even think these widely divergent viewing habits might lead to conflict.

One would be correct. Believe it or not, many of these programs share time slots. What was an otherwise compatible couple to do?

The easiest solution to sidestep this dilemma was to own more than one television set. We did, but then, who was to be banished from the comfy living room couch to the bedroom to watch a lesser TV set from an angle not really intended for long-term viewing?

I decided that I would make the supreme sacrifice and watch my programs in the basement. There, I feverishly devoted every moment of my spare time to constructing a home theater – complete with surround sound, a 1080p projector, 96-inch screen and reclining, stadium seating. The projector is connected to a satellite box, Blu-ray player and computer. A refrigerator well-stocked with craft brews is only a few steps from the door, and salty snacks always seem to be within reach.

I owe it all to reality television.

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