Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Premiere of Our TV Drama

This new series brought to you by an obscure network on a channel you only happen upon in the middle of long sleepless nights has been reviewed by test audiences as presenting a realistic view of family life--with moments of comedy--but relying too heavily on the whiny kvetching of its protagonist, "Mom" (who is no Seinfeld).  The season premiere has a postmodern approach:  it's a TV episode about...TV, or lack thereof.  Despite the likability of "Dad," the pilot ultimately fails to capture its viewers, with the outcome of the episode's central dilemma elusive and an unsettling sense that no real lesson has been learned.   Critics wonder if this show will continue to revolve around appliance mishaps and misbehaving children, in a kind of Super Nanny meets Repo Man

The series is set in the suburban bungalow of a family which Still Does Not Own a Flat Screen TV.  In the pilot's opening scene, Dad is depicted changing (again) the batteries of the TV remote, which by now he should recognize is almost assuredly broken.  He waits to call the cable company during regular business hours and is promised a new remote by mail.

Coincidentally, the daughters' elementary school is celebrating TV "Turnoff Week" with a variety of activities, beginning with a family picnic on Monday evening.  Dad and girls attend; Mom stays home to watch TV.  Just kidding!  Though it does cross her mind, she admits to the viewing audience:  she always has the last fifteen or twenty minutes of some DVRed show to watch--the part she views with eyes closed, snoozing on the couch.  The parts best watched when no one else is around to register his impatience.

To be real, while Mom expects her family to take advantage of organized "Turnoff Week" activities she is not intending to actually exile the TV.  Husband is portrayed as a guy who likes to have the TV on when he folds laundry, when he's walking through the living room, when he's "turning his mind off," and when he's got a spare couple of minutes and the newspaper is read and the gardening is done.  There's hardly a sport not worthy of his attention.  Meanwhile, Mom grew up in a family in which TV Time was a rare, controlled commodity (a deprivation to which she attributes her weakness for The Bachelor series). 

It appears the kids are too busy for evening TV except on weekends.  In the mornings, however, because their school starts at 9 AM and they wake up somewhere between 6 and 7 o'clock, they are permitted to meander sleepily from their beds onto the living room couch to watch a show or two. They've been hoodwinked into thinking the DVRed list of PBS shows is the range of programming options, so viewers watch them choose between Electric Company, Word Girl, and Maya and Miguel.  Mom maintains that for the most part (her penchant for reality TV notwithstanding), TV and computer time are not issues worth tackling in the household.

Imagine Mom's surprise, then, when after picnic and baths and books and the girls are tucked away asleep on Monday evening, Husband grabs a book and heads into the bedroom to read.  Mom freezes on the couch, malfunctioning remote pointed at the TV. 

"Wha-?"

"It's 'No TV Week', Hon," he says over his shoulder. 

"Really?  We're doing that?" 

"I  am," he declares. 

Mom turns begrudgingly to her iPad and Words With Friends.

The next morning, as Dad slumbers and Mom prepares to leave for work, the girls shuffle off to the couch and their shows as usual.

Husband calls Mom at work a few hours later.

"In case you get home and wonder where the TV is, I put it in the garage."

"Okay...?"

"I had trouble getting the girls to follow through with their chores this morning, and I had to lay down the law."

Hmm, thinks Mom, applauding her partner's follow-through while noting internally that unplugging or hiding the unreliable remote were other strategies he could have employed, and then imagining the dramatic moments around Husband unplugging and lugging the not-a-flat-screen tube out the French doors as daughters stand by. 

"All righty then," mutters Mom, beginning to feel like collateral damage and recognizing that removal of the entire TV means she can't even set the DVR to record some series premieres this week.  Who planned TV Turnoff Week to coincide with Fall season premieres, anyway?  Humbug

Tuesday night is Mom's Book Club, and as she departs for her meeting, she half-jokingly suggests to Dad, "I won't be too disappointed if I come home and find the TV back where it was!"

She returns home to find the same empty space where the TV used to be and Husband curled up in bed, ear to the radio sports station.  I can't very well listen to The Daily Show, though, can I? she grumbles, pouting as she cracks the novel at her bedside. 

On Wednesday the new remote arrives in the mail, which Mom observes is just as impotent under the present circumstances as its predecessor.  That night she plops on the couch and wryly notes to Husband, "Look!  Still no TV!" to which he replies, "Uh huh.  I kind of like it." 

She raises her eyebrows and scrolls through Facebook, commenting on friends' updates about the Glee and Modern Family season premieres:  "Still.  No.  TV."  "What happened to it?" responds a friend and victim of Facebook's new feed.

On Thursday night:

Yep.  No TV.
Daughters kiss Mom goodnight and ask her to wake them if they're still asleep before she leaves for work so they have the maximum amount of time to draw and read before school, activities they've been enjoying in lieu of PBSKids.  Mom feels a little proud and little like she might vomit.

Dad, on his way to bed, suggests that the TV just might return to its regular slot in the network lineup on Friday.

Why now?  Mom mumbles, with the novel in hand that has gripped her attention and the unanswered question of whether or not this week's season premieres are available online...

The pilot ends with a preview of next week's episode, in which the family's ten-year-old laptop dies, and Mom considers sharing her iPad.

1 comment:

katemcknite said...

This made me chuckle and also have waves of self-loathing as I just paid to have cable TV installed after not having television for TEN MONTHS!