On Watching Dora the Explorer with my Daughter

A few months ago, my daughter woke up and sang-spoke the D-word? Was it Dada? Doggie?

Nope. It was “D-D-D-Dora!”

Whenever my daughter is upset, extremely tired, or a car-ride becomes too long, the cry of “D-D-D-ora” – stutter-spoken as per Nick Jr.’s TV Show theme song and inexplicably pronounced with a slight French accent – inevitably repeats, increasing in volume in the hopes that an episode will be delivered.

This chant was gradually joined by others, including  “La-la-la-La!,” (Elmo’s Song)” “E-I!” for Old MacDonald or “A! B! Shee!” for an Elmo and Indie Arie duet. The saddest cry of all is “Meow! Meow!” which means she wants us to the nearest electronic device and immediately produce the “Talking Tom – “I Get You” video.

Judging by the numbers for this video on youtube (as of this writing, there were over 116 MILLION views of the video) there are obviously several million other children making similar demands as my daughter, particularly as the daily views of the video increase by something like 500,000 clicks per day.

The presence of technology makes these chants even more prevalent, particularly as she knows that by merely pointing to my wife’s cell phone, a kindle fire or TV remote, we can access any clip from any media text from any time.

So, whenever my daughter sees the kindle, she will immediately chant Dora, whereas when she hands me the apple tv remote, she might say “Pooh!” so that I can pull up “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” or this super-weird version of Old MacDonald…

Just in case you’re getting the wrong impression, I should probably say that we don’t always acquiesce to our daughter’s demands for media. As a parent, the issue of media consumption is always a difficult and uphill battle. My wife and I do our best, and, admittedly, my wife does a better job than I do. The differences in our childhoods – my wife had three channels growing up, while I had a universe of channels at my disposal – makes our parenting philosophies very different as well.

(I’m pretty sure that I actually love TV, whereas I think my wife is probably a little more sensible about its role in our lives)

I am not naive enough to ignore studies that suggest that parents should limit the amount of screen time that children are exposed to. I do have to say that children’s programming is inspiring on some levels.

There is something entirely sweet about the level of address for some of the better quality shows – such as Sesame Street, Super-Why and to some degree, Dora, and if the goal of these shows is to educate, they do an amazing job of it. The credits of each usually list some child psychologists who are employed as consultants, either to hook their youthful spectators, or to employ the most suitable methods of learning.

The shows often address issues of race, language, gender and inclusion in ways that are altogether missing within the larger media sphere. Issues of a diverse culture and plurality (as presented in some of these shows) all but disappear once adults begin to watch TV and are gradually replaced by the regular offerings of the Prime-Time schedule. For now, these programs offer a hopeful world that is more often than not musical, magical and where anything is possible – including the aspiration of a young fairy to become a Supreme Court Justice…

My daughter’s favorite episode of Dora allows the show’s main villain, Swiper, to step outside of his role as the antagonist and lets him help. The episode is titled, “Swiper the Explorer” and Swiper joins Dora and Boots as they try to find   the parents of a baby fox.

What I like about the episode most is that in isolation and repetition (it is the episode she watches most), Swiper just gets to be a good guy, not stealing anyone’s balls or bananas and everyone just accepts that he wants to help out. It is also the episode where Swiper sings a song about “giggling” which fast became my daughter’s favorite word.

Kindness, understanding, patience, friendship and love seem to be the keys to each of these programs. As a parent, these are values and messages that I do approve of, despite my needing to juggle multiple technologies and the systems that deliver them.

I now watch as much children’s media with my daughter than what I watch myself. I think that it is having an effect on me.  I love that I get to sing along with her and ask her questions about what she’s watching and  I  feel like I am sharing the experience of her world as she enters it. Sometimes I even get to point her towards things that I love – like the Muppets, certain songs or other things that I enjoy – making me one part daddy and another part passenger on this amazing journey.

She doesn’t always love what I have to offer. She’s deathly afraid of the Chewbacca doll that I got her early on, which will make introducing her to  Star Wars a challenge later. She’s still more likely to chant D-d-d-ora before I am able to pull up a clip that I want to show her. Occasionally though, I’m able to sneak in something good that I liked when I was a kid, and that we can share together. When that happens, it is a moment that is entirely too rare, beautiful and magical.

What’s Your Go-To Crappy Show? (or, Watching Extreme Couponing by Myself)

Not quite my new addiction…Extreme Couponing on Netlfix

I just finished writing and submitting my Ph. D. dissertation, so my needs for watching “quality” shows on TV has diminished significantly. Instead, I increasingly watch TV to turn off my brain, rather than to seek out provocative or stimulating programming.

A couple of months ago, we cancelled our fancy and expensive Direct TV cable package and save well over a hundred bucks a month. Now we use a combination of on-air HD antenna (for the 4 major networks and live programming) as well as Apple TV – where we now stream and purchase most of our shows via netflix, hulu and itunes. All of this offers tons of options, and for the most part, we don’t feel like we’re missing too much.

Our new set-top box

While on the one hand, this puts us in better command of what we can watch, sometimes it makes it more difficult to settle on a particular show, especially as we are no longer tied to a programming schedule, and rarely engage in “appointment viewing.”

For me, this also means that the chances of me finding something stupid to watch is less of a passive than an active choice, which is how my wife found me watching “Extreme Couponing” via netflix the other day. I can no longer really argue that I’m watching something that ‘just happened to be on’ (which happened to my wife, who “accidentally” watched Splash on ABC the other day).

For the most part, the show is fairly harmless, although I do occasionally wonder about some of the eating habits of these families as they amass their stockpiles of vitamin water, pasta, and frozen foods (or in the case of Broderick, the “Coupon Kid”, why he needs a stockpile of feminine products at all).

So, not only is the show ridiculously fascinating, but also, it provides the perfect opportunity to literally shut off your brain and simply watch an event (the big haul) as it occurs.

Which brings me to my main point and question. Surely I can’t be the only person who watches something terrible – otherwise TV would not exist. My question to you, dear reader, is whether you actively seek out terrible shows to watch, what you get out of them, and what they are.

(This might also go a long way to explaining why I’m watching the show to my wife, so your help is appreciated!)

On Not Watching Downton Abbey With My Wife

A couple of months ago, my wife returned from a plane trip with a blush on her face and a secret. There seemed to be something a little bit different about her — a spring in her step that hadn’t been there before, a giggle and some reddened cheeks. Occasionally, she would stare off into space and simply smile.

Eventually, the subject of the change came up. “I began watching something.” She said, “without you.” Not only was I  shocked, but felt somewhat betrayed.

Anyone who reads this blog somewhat regularly knows what an affront this is. After all, am I not the man who watches along as my wife views the latest episode of BunheadsAll the Right Moves, or even, ANTM: College Edition?

Top Model College – where I finally learned the term “smeyes”.

I set out to make it right. To see what the appeal was. To see what she saw in the show. And in the meantime, I ended up getting a little bit hooked.

And so it began, just a little at a time. I watched with my 4-month-daughter as I fed her from a bottle and realized that not only was it the perfect amount of time to feed and give her a little nap in my arms, as my wife was at work.

Two things struck me about Downton (as my wife calls it). The first thing is that there’s this little blushing thing that happens when she talks about certain characters and their respective love stories. It’s a little shy thing that I never quite expected from her, because she regularly has a really strong personality.

The other thing that I realized, slowly, as I got into season two, was how little the things that initially motivated my interest – the historical aspects of the sinking Titanic, the coming of World War One – was how incidental they were to the plot, which was ultimately always far more interested in prolonged love-affairs that may or may not happen.

Will Matthew and Mary, uh, marry?

I think that there is also something to be said about nostalgia for class in Britain, and America’s obsession with the nobility. Of course, the British craft this sort of story better than anyone else. It seems that the UK in its heyday, almost stands in for a projected dream world for Americans, perhaps accounting for the show’s wild popularity and the popularity of other British shows as they make their way stateside

I find it impossible not to notice the small stable of British actors who not only star in this show, but also appear in Game of Thrones – making for occasionally odd moments when I realize that one actor is playing a character in a show that I watch at the same time, occasionally resulting in my difficulty in separating the characters from the two shows – such as the case of Iain Glen, who not only plays Sir Richard Carlyle on Downton, but Ser Jorah Mormont on Game of Thrones.

Iain Glen as Ser Jorah Mormont, er, Sir Richard Carlyle…

What remains, as we move into season three tonight, is my excitement for my wife. To see her show return. For us to discuss and (perhaps) share the watching of the season together as we watch the ups and downs of the Granthams and their servants. For me to find articles for her about the production and season spoilers and for us to occasionally pretend that we haven’t read and know what we know in advance, and that everything will be a surprise until we let the other one knew that we knew that thing was going to happen.

I would love to hear what others think of the show. Are there any other husbands who watch with their wives? Are there wives out there who watch the show apart from their husbands and for whom this is their moment away from the ins and outs of marriage. Independent voters? Hate-watchers? Drinking game partipants? Slash fiction writers? Historical buffs who laud the show for its accuracy, or are there simply folks swept up in the phenomenon?

Watching (and listening to) The Voice

It’s hard to believe that we’re already in the third season of The Voice, which my wife and I, after abandoning many of the other reality-based competitive shows, still watch.

There is something about the recipe – experienced singers, all of whom have distinctive signatures – being coached by bona fide stars in their respective genres that is winning. Opposed to American Idol, The X-Factor and, to some degree America’s Got Talent (am I mistaken in hearing that a dog won this edition?) - shows that tend to exploit the differences among those auditioning for their programs – this show actually focuses on finding and nurturing talent and celebrating difference. This last point extends not only to the diversity of voices themselves and song interpretations – making the but to the idea of varying accents (the South, particularly), languages (Spanish – as in Julio Cesar’s audition), genders and sexualities.

While part of the show’s success can be credited to its cultivation of talent way before the audition phase even begins, I think that there are just as many bizarre reasons that compel my wife and I to watch the show.

First, The Voice is so incredibly complicated, beginning with the chairs and just moving on from there. Not only does the show have this central gimmick, but even more surprises along the way, not only for the viewing audience, but for the coaches themselves.

The chairs, which bear cultural resonance of Captain Kirk’s command chair, are only one of the reasons for the show’s success

Beyond the chairs are the coaches themselves, whose personalities, rivalries, expertise and name-dropping creates new and pleasurable experiences for all who watch the show. I would say that over the course of the seasons, the biggest payoff has been seeing the development of what seem to be genuine relationships between the mentors and their charges. In this respect, Blake Shelton has been the biggest surprise, especially as he seems to champion underdogs who might not otherwise get airplay, such as Dia and Xenia, who always seemed out of her depth, but who Shelton never lost faith in.

Other pleasures come with the show’s use of melodrama. It appears that it is not enough to merely have a great voice, one needs to have a compelling story, circumstances to overcome, or something to aspire to. This is perhaps the most typical element of the show, as all reality TV uses the sob story as its main way to hook its spectators. Mainly this is because it is the most effective way to get viewers to keep watching – compelling them to follow the various contestants’ narratives and ultimately vote for them. But occasionally, the stories border on the ridiculous – such as Tony Lucca’s having to overcome being the ‘unsuccessful’ Mouseketeer (among his peers Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake) – or merely the fact that one had to overcome being overweight.

I don’t mean to demean any of these contestants, nor to make fun of anyone, just to mention that the logic of the audition rounds and the narrative tradmemarks of reality TV compels the contestants towards their need to ‘overcome obstacles’ (such as teaching children – ech!) to give a go at their one last chance to ever be successful.

Carson Daley is another of the worst elements of the show, but this actually works for it. As far as reality hosts go – he’s not the most insincere (that title would go to Nick Lachey on The Sing Off), but is pretty close. Our favourite part of the audition rounds is when Carson Daley leans over like an umpire with the families watching their auditions.

The battle rounds are where the real pay-offs begin and where my wife and I get the most out of the show. Here, the coaches prime their charges to out sing other people on their teams, usually resulting in some of the worst displays of singing – ever. Usually this means the contestants try their best to do the most runs or to sing as sharply as possible. Sometimes this means seeing some of the most bizarre match ups imaginable, as in this case – (I’m having trouble embedding this, but please do yourself a favour and watch this thing…)

http://www.nbc.com/the-voice/video/erin-martin-vs-the-shields-brothers-whats-love-got-to-do-with-it/1391461

(This is easily one of my favourite TV moments of all time – and I am laughing with tears streaming down my face as I type this…)

The Battle Rounds do have the odd effect of solidifying the contestants to the point that when the finale comes, the bizarre bracketology has truly whittled the competition down to the best of the best – with only truly amazing singers rising to the top such as Season 1 winner Javier Colon, who gave what is still one of my favourite performances here.

http://www.metatube.com/en/videos/63994/The-Voice-2011-Javier-Colon-Fix-You/

(again, my embedding isn’t going well today, but take a look!)

I didn’t really even get a chance to talk about the show’s engagement with social media and twitter. Perhaps I will write more in the future about the show – but this year’s incarnation seems to offer more of the same recipe that it has not only built upon the successes of earlier reality variety shows, but combines all of these elements – good and bad – to provide an extremely entertaining, serialized and melodramatic experience for my wife and I, and obviously the other audiences that have put the show on top.

Watchin’ With My Little Girl (or, my summer of Cooking Shows)

Bonding with my little girl while watching the kid-friendly series “The Wire”

So, apparently, I’m a father now. As most of you parents know, parenthood changes your relationship to everything, from your relationships to your own spouse, to your own family, and to lots of things you took for granted before.

I could talk about many of these changes – how the birth of our daughter has brought me closer to my wife in ways I could never have imagined, how I feel more connected to humanity, and how I have now become an amateur photographer with only one subject – but since this is a blog devoted to television, why don’t I start there and see where it takes me.

Quality Family time?

In some ways, television has become even more important to my daily life, especially as there are always new tasks to complete – feeding, cleaning, cooking, etc. In this way, having the the TV on in the background is the perfect complement to some of the more mundane duties. More often than not, in my experience, the cooking show, and its more exciting cousin – the competitive cooking show – fits the bill for the amount of information I can actually process while doing something else (or while adapting to my often sleep-deprived brain) – which is how this became my summer of cooking shows.

The sub-par “Food Network Star” – a variant on the theme of “Amateurs cooking” show

Without any conscious effort on my part (and with the aid of my DVR) these shows have become part of the fabric of my daily life as I go about my day, play with my daughter or do some cleaning.

What is interesting to me is the way that these shows are exactly at the level of what I am able to concentrate on, how little I actually care about the “characters” or even the events as they occur on screen. What I tend to be looking for is a little white noise, something perhaps to distract me from the crying, something soothing to put on while I bottle feed, or rock the baby to sleep.

My lack of investment in a) the cooking techniques employed, b) the outcomes of these competitions, and c) my lack of any knowledge of what “uzu gelee” tastes like does not deter me from my daily doses. In fact, they only compel me to watch more.

Of all of my summer stable of shows, Chopped seems to me to serve up the best “white noise” while doing something else.

“Chopped” – my new passively active obsession

For one, there are no real “main characters” as in the long-form competitive shows and therefore no one to really follow into the next episode. Instead, you get a mystery box, you get some obscure contents, and you just need to watch (or in my case, listen) to the people as they talk about assembling their incredibly obscure dishes, then listen to the judges critiques as they talk about the need for more acid or crunch, or how they love the contrast between the canned chicken and Fruit Loops that they assigned to the cooking contestants.

More than this, the main irony of the cooking show is that because you can’t actually taste any of the dishes, and are not likely to ever encounter any of the ingredients, the cooking show becomes all about character, rather than the outcome of any food preparation. I can say with confidence that I will never try to replicate any of the meals I have seen on this show, nor have I ever actually learned anything.

I see now that this is likely a better introduction to my experiences watching cooking shows on the Food Network in particular, so maybe it’s better that I stop here before discussing shows that I am actively invested in, like Top Chef, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Master Chef as well as Time Machine Chefs. These are shows that my wife and I still watch together after the little one is sleeping, and that do offer different sorts of pleasures. I also hope to post my long-gestating thoughts on Girls, Smash, Bunheads, Shark Tank, The L.A. Complex and Louie in the coming weeks and months.

So, for now,  look forward to more posts about these shows (and a separate post on Gordon Ramsay) – if and when I have the time to pull myself away from my most compelling and amazing distraction – my little daughter, who is the best thing to watch…ever.

Watchin’ The Good Wife, With, uh…My Good Wife

So, first off, apologies for neglecting everyone. This (last) year has been a doozy, but I have definitely been missing being able to write about the stuff that the wife and I have been watching over the course of the past year and into the new.

(and please forgive me if I’m rusty at this, I’ve been doing nothing but writing dissertation stuff in the meantime, which I find tends to stifle the ‘fun’ writer in me)

As I’m sure many of you also do, in addition to the shows that we watch on  a regular primetime schedule, we’ve been working our way through complete series, binge-ing on marathons of complete  shows almost exclusively. The most recent of these is The Good Wife, which we bought for real cheap at Target, and which we are a couple of episodes into  the second season (so please, no spoilers – we’re behind!)

We both agree that the show is enjoyable, but not always because the show is especially good. It definitely gets better (and much weirder) in the second season, with the addition of some new characters and a little bit more political intrigue, but we have discussed what we would definitely change about the show (as with all intelligent conversations about TV) and what doesn’t work.

So here is is our unscientific list of things that should happen on the show, if we had our way.

1. Get rid of the kids. Alicia Florrick’s son and daughter are two of the most annoying characters on TV.

2. Spin off Kalinda and Blake into their own show called “Lawyer-Detective Battle Royale” (or something like that). For that matter, put these two, the children, Alicia’s husband and political intrigue plot, and the son’s insane girlfriend into their own series.

3. Stop pretending that the writers of the show know anything about how modern political campaigns are run, or the importance of youtube, which no one seems to know anything about. Is it possible that I am underestimating the extent to which the nation is fixated on the Chicago State’s Attorney race?

4. Show “the other side” of things, by showing the police in the series at their most inept. It really seems as though only Alicia and Kalinda can find evidence in the show, so I would love to see how the “other side” works.

Speaking of which, my favorite part of the series is actually watching Kalinda investigate things. We agree that the actress playing this part is somewhat limited in her capacity to convey things like subtlety, so it’s always a joy to watch her go into investigative mode. We also love her insane conflict with former Friday Night Lights quarterback Jason Street (whose facial hair in this show connotes his evil, as per my theories of beard acting, elaborated here) .

I have a really hard time believing that she actually won an Emmy for playing the role, but agree that her part is definitely a vital element to the success of the show.

Okay, that seems about it from me for this post. In all likelihood I’ll have more to report when I get further into the season. I’ll end by saying that there is obviously as much enjoyment to be had from watching the good elements as the bad in the show, and the ability to watch episodes back to back enhances the pleasure of these elements, which may otherwise go missing on a weekly viewing.

What Would You Do…If You Cancelled Your Premium Cable During NHL Playoffs?

Very recently, my wife and I made the decision to cut our premium HD cable package (which we only got because it was part of a Time-Warner bundle) in order to use the new TV watching alternatives like Hulu and streaming netflix.

But when my laptop cord stopped working the other day – thus reducing almost all of our choices – we found ourselves in a strange fix. In a world with only four channels where there used to be infinite amounts of crap to watch, we suddenly found ourselves watching Prime-time scripted programming and looking to each other to ask – who watches this stuff?

Outside of NBCs so-called “must-see comedy bloc” (more on that in a later post) every show on  Thursday night seems to have a handsome but quirky male detective and a wisecracking female sidekick with bangs. Flipping between Bones and the Mentalist (with a little Grey’s Anatomy thrown in for good measure) produced one all-encompassing conclusion:

If you were caught in the net of the plots of these shows and somehow invested in the characters, I’m sure they were rewarding, but for an outsider looking in, it was almost alienating – and also – so gross (click here if you want to see the bowling alley crime scene in the last episode)!

The main question we have is – who is the audience for this stuff? Recalling that even the youngest of network audiences (NBC) is 48(!) I would venture to guess that crime shows skew older. But also, what kind of image of the world is this producing?

The example of $#*! my dad says, as well as its renewal may be a prime example of the disconnect between generations raised on TV and those who were not.

But on to last night, where a solid marathon viewing of ABC shows brought more surprises, some pleasant, some not.

On the pleasant side was ABC’s What Would You Do? bizarre cross between Candid Camera, Punk’d and The Price is Right, where you “win” the chance to either be an ethical person, or a complete asshole, depending on your reaction to an awful situation staged around you.

More often than not, the show ends up actually producing better people than not, as seen in this clip, where a gentleman (in the best sense of the word) defends a gay couple with children against a bigoted waitress in a fairly moving scene.

http://abcnews.go.com/WhatWouldYouDo/hidden-cameras-roll-cafe-patrons-defend-gay-parents/story?id=13631544

As this particular episode was shot in Texas (where we live) one of the show’s more interesting conclusions was the interventions on issues like a discussion on abortion on religious, rather than strictly moral grounds. I also think that the Texans on this show mostly showed themselves as the friendly sorts who have no problem getting involved in any circumstances.

The show is a pretty fascinating and paradoxically moving portrait of what people do in particular situations and the payoff is when people “win” by doing the right thing and helping others out in tough situations.

On the other hand, it seems as though the show is being sold by ABC as news. It is a spin-off of 20/20, which I hadn’t watched in years. What disturbed us most was the level of address in all of these programs, and the idea that this is what is passing for “news” on network TV. For instance, the hard-hitting story “Infomercial-Nation” which spent a half-hour suggesting that infomercials do not, in fact, sell quality products.

All of which makes me pine for a decent internet signal or a better way to find and stream the hockey playoffs to my TV. As it stands now, my method resembles a combination of holding my laptop in my hand and yelling at the TV as I miss the goal. In other words, despite all of the technology at my disposal, I am left with the same options of 20 years ago, perhaps as clear a sign of the apocalypse as anything else.

More Like “Secret Thousand-aire”

Reader Note – This post was in process for a little while. I have resurrected it in an effort to clear my desk and to get on with new material.

March 20th(ish)

Yesterday’s TV viewing was a day of many tears as my wife and I not only watched the finale of Big Love, but also watched the first episode of ABC’s Secret Millionaire on hulu.

Secret Millionaire Dani Johnson emotes

In this episode, “secret millionaire” Dani Johnson returns to the streets and is assigned the task of giving back to a community and volunteer organizations that desperately need money and help. Johnson is an interesting subject, as she went from poverty to millionaire with her motivational speaking tours, all of which allowed her to achieve the wealth and happiness that the episode initially presents her with.

The show follows the trend of what Laurie Ouelette calls “Do good TV”, which is basically a show that makes money by showing a bunch of extremely down on their luck folks and giving them stuff while making us cry.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition seems to be the exemplar here, but the economic downturn has resulted in a proliferation of these shows, including Undercover Boss, Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, School Pride, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, The Biggest Loser and now Secret Millionaire.

According to Ouelette, what is interesting about these shows is that they actually end up servicing the means of the capitalist system, favoring the rich rather than the poor saps who receive their charity. In her words, “Do Good TV” classifies

 “deserving” individuals and redistributing the surplus of informational capitalism in a manner of its own choosing, TV also drew from an arrogant philanthropic logic that can be traced to Robber Baron industrialists. The difference is that TV has fused charity work with the rationality of the market, so that there’s no distinction between public service and cultural product.

What is so interesting about these shows is just how fine the line between helping people and crass commercialism is. Not only do these shows presumably help those in need, but they furnish them with the finest new products from their various sponsors.

This is exactly the subject matter of Erin Copple Smith’s recent post on Antenna: Egregious Product Placement: The Biggest Loser. What is interesting to me is just how seamless the integration of these moments are to the narrative, and how they actually go so far as to freeze the show’s narrative for a moment.

The phenomenon is really taken to the next level with Undercover Boss, which basically fuses this philanthropic capitalist model, with a full-length ad for a businesses “ethical” practices.

While there is always a certain satisfaction in watching how often the CEOs of these companies are fired, and certainly an emotional reward in seeing workers rewarded for their labours, the relationship between the cheapness of these shows and the revenue they generate is really what I take issue with.

In almost every case, the sheer amount of advertising in Reality TV generally significantly undermines any positive emotional reward of viewing, or emoting towards the subjects of these shows.

None of which is to say that these shows aren’t affecting, that they don’t serve some sort of function to spread awareness about people who work hard, they certainly do their job on my wife and I, who are presumably people with hearts who are definitely hooked in by the shows and their subjects.

The problem is that none consider the larger systemic issues of poverty and low wages, and ultimately end up exploiting their subjects.

Which brings me back to my original sticking point – that Secret Millionaire is extremely cheap. Instead of offering a real model of philanthropy (the millions implied in the title) the show basically gives away $50,000 total to several worthy causes. To me this seems like an unfair exchange for the many tears that accompany very sad lives that are burdened by poverty, rising health care costs and a total systemic breakdown of the social safety net.

The Vital Importance of Shemar Moore to this blog’s success

Okay – this is my third attempt to write this post. Apparently every time I hit “save draft” my computer thinks this means “erase post”. So I’ll make this short and sweet.

I’m back after being very busy.

Consistent interest in this blog has been sustained almost completely by people typing “Shemar Moore” and “wife” into google, and finding themselves here instead.

So in order to fulfill the needs of my two sets of readers, here is what you came for:

In the meantime, my wife and I have still been watching tv, so I am ready and eager to continue to talk about our viewing habits and reactions to the stuff we watch. So look for upcoming posts on The Secret Millionaire, Undercover Boss, Bethanny Ever After, the swelling national (Canadian) pride to be found by  watching HGTV’s House Hunters, and our Saturday ritual of watching Property Ladder and Yard Crashers.

I also plan on writing about why I love watching Kevin O’ Leary on Shark Tank

…as well as why we think Cobie Smothers’ role on How I Met Your Mother is offensive, and why we (as a unified front) hate Glee (there are aesthetic as well as personal reasons…) and how much we love Season Five of Friday Night Lights.

Ugh - Gweneth Again? (I blame this image for erasing my previous posts too!)

Finally, I hope to write something soon on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, which is currently on the top of our list for “Must-See” viewing.

Okay – more posts to come! Thanks for your continued interests in images of Shemar Moore!

Watchin’ TV – Long Distance – With My Wife

Watching TV By Myself, With My Wife

First off, apologies for all but abandoning this blog. I have been super-busy with the day-to-day needs of working on my degree, studying for exams, teaching, and finishing up a book.

Somehow, in my absence, readers have continued to visit, and the blog just hit 2500 views, despite the fact that I haven’t written anything since last November. So thanks yous go out to my casual visitors and dedicated friends, and whoever happens to stumble upon this thing while searching for links to Rachel Zoe and Andy Cohen.

So updates:

Those of you who know me know that my wife has been out of town on a contract, another impediment to a blog dedicated to the experience of watching TV together. Nevertheless, TV has continued to play an important role in our relationship, even when she’s not around. In some ways, it provides some sort of sense of normalcy, knowing that despite our long distance, we are still the same people, performing the same rituals, by watching the same shows.

Which reminds me, in an odd sort of way, to An American Tail. One lyric that I will never get out of my head is from “Somewhere Out There” in Steven Spielberg and Don Bluth’s collaboration.

“And even though I know / how very far apart we are, It helps to think / we might be wishing /on the same bright star…”

While I never saw the movie, I did see the sub-par Saturday morning cartoon later on, decided that Fievel was annoying to me, and put it out of my mind for years.

To me, this song is appropriate for several reasons: 1) My mother has a tape recording of my sister singing this song as a duet, which she listens to repeatedly when she misses us, bringing the double whammy of distance and ideas of home, 2) As stupid as this sounds, I think that the “same bright star” for my wife and I, is TV, and most often, this TV is tuned to Bravo.

So, while it’s been difficult to be away from one another, TV has helped to bridge the distance, and somehow allowed us to spend some quality time watching low-quality behaviour.

Beverly Hills' The Amazingly Aggressive Psychic Allison DuBois

For us (or for me at least) it seems the knowledge that we’re sitting in different places, yet watching the same stuff helps to bridge the distance and to create a sense of normalcy and shared pleasure that we can still maintain contact despite the distance.

Though I’ve talked about this before, Bravo also tends to provide the most bang for your buck in terms of a) shutting off your brain and just letting it happen, b) not having to decide what else to watch, because their shows just blend into one another (kind of like the ending of Michael Jackson’s “Black and White” video), and c) Entertainment value! Every time I think I’ve seen it all, Bravo delivers something I could have never imagined…like Cookie Monster on Top Chef?!

There is also the what the…? factor, as seen in the “Producer’s Cut” of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills: The Dinner Party, which features some of the oddest behaviour from the participants.

(I can’t help posting this version!)

Despite the claims that TV is becoming “old media” my opinion is that TV is still something that bonds people together. The emergence of hulu and timeshfiting technologies seems only to have increased people’s ability to engage with TV and to watch things dependent on their own schedules. For couples, this can also mean “saving up” episodes and series, for future viewings together, or for conversations later on.

As for my wife and I, sadly, the busier we have gotten in the past little while, and the later that my wife has to work (during Primetime! – thus canceling the opportunity to talk about the night’s viewing) the distance seems more substantial.

I look forward to visiting in a couple of days, hanging out, and catching up, obviously with each other, but also on our deficit of shows.