Thursday, June 17, 2010

Can I Get Some Popcorn to Go with These Shows?

For reasons I shan’t get into right here or right now, I’ve been bamboozled into buying cable TV. As an adult, I haven’t been much of a TV watcher. In fact, I’ve all but shunned the practice. So cable has never felt like a valid addition to my bulging budget. But it’s suddenly become an official part of my household (although it took Time Warner long enough to send someone over to finally seal the deal).

Last Saturday morning, my Time Warner installation maven finished puttering around my apartment a little before 11 a.m. I had alot of grocery shopping and errand running to take care of but right after Time Warner finally took off, I curiously flipped through my new stations with the help of the intimidatingly more complicated remote control that had just been passed off onto me. At 11:33 a.m., I was right about to turn it all off and head out the door – until I stumbled onto the TV-guide listing and was like: “Oh my God, the Real Housewives of New York City is coming on at noon – and, oh shit, it’s the one where Jill and Bethenny meet up for lunch to discuss their failed friendship!”

Even though I haven’t clocked as many TV-viewing hours as most people in this country, I know alot about what the kids are watching via my friends and various print-based publications such as Newsweek. I can’t remember at whose house I was when I first came across this Housewives series – all I remember is how good it felt. I most recently caught a pivotal NYC Housewives episode in a hotel room, while on a brief Memorial-Day-weekend vacation. Thus, I was trembling with delight at the prospect of being less than 30 minutes away from my next sure-to-be-fascinating brush with this charmingly flawed troupe of Upper East Side provocateurs.

The only niggling problem was the groceries matter – there was hardly any solid food left in my home at the time and I was starting to feel hunger pangs. But Housewives was coming on in T-minus 20 minutes and I doubted I could make it to the store and back by go-time. And I saw that this 12 p.m. airing would be immediately followed by Part I of the three-part Housewives reunion special – so it was a given that I’d be in the throes of Bravoland for a full two hours. I leaned back into my couch and resigned myself to wait it out and just enjoy the show. Then I was like: “Man, imagine how much better the viewing would be if I had a wide range of satisfying snacks at my beck and call.” As if on cue, my stomach started growling and I began to feel faint. That settled it. I grabbed my wallet and ran out the door. I will not starve myself for Bravo.

But I will, evidently, fly into a frantic fit for Bravo. I hate Races Against Time – they can spawn so much bad energy. After trotting the 5 blocks to the grocery store, snubbing neighbors and dashing in front of oncoming buses along the way, I manically zoomed up and down the frustratingly crowded aisles, grabbing bags and boxes off the shelves and fruits and vegetables out of bins, cradling everything in my arms, underneath my armpits, and in between my right cheek and shoulder. When I got to the check-out area, there were a number of people milling around in front of me with unclear intentions/absolutely no direction. Exorcising the native Midwesterner out of me, I pushed past all of them to insert myself at the head of the line. I helped my slow-moving, well-meaning cashier with the bagging process, encouraging her to follow my lead and just throw everything in wherever it would fit. Afterwards, I tried to haul ass back home before High Noon, but I was seven minutes late for mini-marathon episode #1, and it seemed like I had missed the meat of Jill and Bethenny’s emotional tete-a-tete. But Bravo likes to constantly re-air this shit – which now makes me question what the earlier tizzy was all for.

I had been under the impression that I was above these kinds of impulses when it came to something like a television reality show. But it looks like Time Warner has made a fool out of me and I’m not as high-rent as I thought. It was relaxing to spend two hours with these back-to-back segments. It gave my over-taxed mind a little rest, and watching these petty socialites in action made me re-appreciate the long-term importance of distinguishing between authentic friends vs. the more surface-level relationships we all have. As the Housewives are re-teaching me, the surface-level people won’t ever really get you through the night.

I’m very critical of contemporary pop culture and the entertainment industry. But in order to most effectively and responsibly criticize something, it’s best to know exactly what you’re bitching about, to the full extent possible. So thanks, Time Warner, for foisting this costly service more squarely into my purview and for potentially providing me with more pointed padding to my material and retorts. It’s you who very well might make a better, more well-rounded judgment-passer and writer out of me.

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