Hey Friends, Annie here.
Jack and I watch a lot of television. Name a TV show, and it’s more than likely that we’ve seen at least a few episodes. Probably more. Jokes from How I Met Your Mother were one of the first things that brought us together. Even on our honeymoon, we spent a few nights bingeing The OA on Netflix.
As they say on Master of None, we really are living in the golden age of television. But, balancing our Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and HBO subscriptions can be a dangerous game. There are times when we’ll spend an entire night watching episode after episode, eyes glazed, barely grunting to acknowledge each other. As my mom used to say, too much time in front of the tube will melt your brain (and maybe your relationship, I might add).
Staying in and watching TV isn’t the most glamorous date night in the world, but some of the best conversations Jack and I have had have come from watching these shows. After putting our heads together, we’ve come up with five different shows that have been surprisingly good for our marriage.
For helping us develop emotional intelligence: Parenthood
Description: The show follows three generations of one family living in present-day Berkeley, CA. The main characters include grandparents in their sixties/seventies, their four adult children, and a whole crop of grandkids. It follows the family throughout all the milestones you would expect.
What we like about this show is how many (at least somewhat realistic) situations it presents. Marriage, divorce, parenting, infidelity, conflicting ambitions, health issues, are just the first ones that come to mind.
I can’t count the number of times Jack and I have been watching this show and pause it when something dramatic happens to ask: “What would you do?” Sometimes, we’ll talk for hours about whatever situation just happened on the show. Usually, we disagree with what the characters do (they all are pretty terrible at least sometimes, except for Joel--we love Joel!) but it has helped us get to know each other, our values and our relational instincts, especially at the beginning of our relationship.
For the stimulating our creativity: Chopped
Description: This is a reality game show on the Food Network. Chefs from around the country compete with each other to create three-course meals in quick succession. If you’ve never watched the show, the famous twist is that they have to incorporate four mystery ingredients into each course. Imagine cooking a delicious entree using lime Jello, canned chicken, durian fruit, and Doritos.
When we watch, we love planning out what we would do if we were on the show. This is a show that sparks conversation and creativity for us. It’s a fun mental exercise. More than just sitting passively. We like to watch it play out, and see if any of the chefs have the same instincts we do.
Plus, it gives us new ideas of what to cook for each other. That’s romantic, right?
For challenging our moral and intellectual curiosity: Black Mirror
Description: Available on Netflix, this (originally) British show is an episodic drama that explores the dark side of technology. Every show presents a different situation, usually set in the near future, where technology plays some new and vital role in people’s lives. For instance: In Season 1 Episode 3, people now have the capability to capture video footage of every memory and can play it all back at will. When people go through airport security, officers will ask to see their last 36 hours. This gets tricky for individuals when infidelity and loss happen.
I’ll warn you that this show is dark. Usually, we can only watch an episode at a time, and then have to chase it with a Parks and Rec or a long walk.
We watch Black Mirror sort of like we watch Parenthood, in that our viewing is punctuated with pauses and questions of “What would you do?” But, this show deals with more abstract concepts like morality and reality. We talk late into the night about these problems, connecting on an intellectual level (as opposed to Parenthood which is more emotional).
For widening our horizons: Big Love
Description: This HBO series (from a few years ago) follows a polygamist family in Utah. The family consists of a husband, three wives, and several children. Each episode explores the idea of polygamy in a non-judgmental way. It explores how this family can live true to their values while also navigating modern times. The show plays with themes of sexual taboo, jealousy, family dynamics, and the ups and downs of spiritual convictions.
While Jack and I were endlessly entertained by the at times cartoonish antics of characters on this show, it presents some interesting relationship scenarios. Right off the bat, though our relationship is not like this one, we empathize with the characters, we root for them. By watching this show, we learned new ways to understand the decisions and thought processes of people not like us.
I think the bigger lesson we took from this dramedy is that love looks different for everyone. It gave us a lot of interesting scenarios to discuss. The show forced us to deconstruct monogamy and to look at romantic love in a completely new way. While we don’t ever plan on practicing polygamy (we don't share well), the show always helped us to have interesting conversations about what it means to love another and if it is possible to love more than one person at a time.
For morale: The Office
Description: A group of people work at a paper company. Seriously if you don’t know The Office please stop reading and watch it now.
Most of the time, Jack and I fall asleep to this show. We love it that much. We’ve watched it so many times we can quote scenes back and forth to each other. It’s comforting, stress-relieving, and if they ever take it off Netflix I don’t know what we’re going to do with ourselves. Most simply, this show is a stress reliever. Sometimes, all it takes is an episode to calm us down so we can speak rationally to each other. Maybe that’s strange to admit, but it works.
Even more than that, it’s also show that makes you feel good about love. Watching characters that you love so much find happiness is uplifting. There have been viewings of the Jim and Pam wedding episodes, or Michael’s proposal episode that remind us of how amazing love can be when we’re feeling uninspired or low. And then in the last seasons, the show gives us even more. We get to watch Jim and Pam struggle, grow apart, and then find their way back. It feels like more than just a happy ending. It feels real, and encouraging to us as we figure out what it’s like to live beyond the “happily ever after.”
As TV addicts in the best way, we always want to know what shows are worth watching. So, your turn! Is there a TV show that has helped build or influence your relationship? Please tell us about it!
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Annie & Jack
Love. Marriage. Teamwork. Art. Offsetting the patriarchal footprint. These are some of the things we're thinking about.