Smile Politely

January: A Return to Watching TV
By Myself

January really is the most private month of TV-watching, a return to normalcy after all the communal TV-watching of the holidays. If you come from a family like mine, the television is and always will be on, comforting with its warm glowing warming glow. The family gathers around it like an actual hearth.

The TV gives us random movies (last year, the entirety of Alpha Dog, starring Justin Timberlake, was watched by me and my father on Christmas Eve — “Merry Christmas you wonderful ol’ building and loan!”) and the news/weather (always a panacea when large groups of people who are related to each other amass). And plenty of college football. (There is no science to this. Sports, in general, help focus the attention at jittery family gatherings. Even if you think you don’t like watching sports, you still benefit from sports being on at all times — trust me.) The physical and emotional posture one reverts to when watching TV with one’s family at Christmastime is total biology. One’s brain is completely hardwired for it. And while I enjoy the comfort, come this point in January, I am more than ready to resume watching TV privately.

So here, in a short list, are a few of my television activities — my return to guilty-pleasure, watch-what-I-wanna, regain-my-singularity, private TV-watching — this January:

1) Flight of the Conchords, first season DVD

With the new season of Flight of the Conchords about to hit HBO on January 18, I was ready to revisit season one. There is total, wintery, deadpan joy in the adventures of Bret and Jemaine, the two New Zealanders who make up the indie (I guess) New York band Flight of the Conchords. They are accompanied by their manager (New Zealand’s Cultural Attache) Murray, and their one fan, Mel, and a whole bunch of other random characters. There is nothing not funny about this show. If you watch nothing else before season two, watch the episode titled “Mugged,” where our heroes, among other things, get mugged on the dangerous streets of NYC. This episode features the Conchords’ foray into rap, “Hiphopopotamus Vs. Rhymenoceros (feat. Rhymenoceros and the Hiphopopotamus).” “Ain’t no party like my Nanna’s tea party.”

2) Rosemary’s Baby, some movie channel, late at night, last week

I didn’t seek this one out, it sought me! I’m starting to worry that it’s a bad sign for 2009, but catching this ultimate summer movie (see: Mia Farrow’s outfits in the heat of a NYC July, obvious hellish imagery, the Devil, etc.) in the dead of winter has really stuck with me.

3) Commercials, commercials, so many commercials

I think my intake of commercials is related to my intake of sporting events (a lot of buying and selling goes down when one is watching sports). I am generally okay with this. I like a good Troy Polamalu / LT Nike commercial. Occasionally, I feel a little dirty for it, as was the case when I saw the commercial for the new Bacon Cheddar Gordita Crunch for the 44th time this past Sunday. I would never in a million years eat that thing, but I’ve seen the commercial so many times, I feel like I already have. I’m sort of sick to my stomach and ready to die.

4) The 2009 Golden Globes, NBC, Sunday night

I have a hard time with awards shows, because they are mostly broadcast live, and I have a hard time with live TV, because I never want anyone to mess up or act crazy or say crazy things or break the fourth wall that allows me to watch something as opposed to experience it. I always catch the best bits of awards shows, but I have to flip away during roughly 80% of the presentations, just so I won’t get too nervous. Is anyone else made pathologically nervous by awards shows? The best bits of this one included Mickey Rourke’s acceptance speech for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama, for The Wrestler (he earnestly thanked all the dogs he’s ever had!), Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan accepting awards for 30 Rock (best show on TV right now, hands down), Drew Barrymore’s outfit and hair (I don’t know, I liked it), Tom Cruise acting cogent and smooth as a presenter (like I said, I need that fourth wall), and Heath Ledger’s Best Supporting Actor win for The Dark Knight (very happy that happened). My only complaint is the losses for both Mad Men acting nominees (Jon Hamm and January Jones). I’m sure I’d have some other complaints if I hadn’t flipped to Iron Chef America during the nervous parts.

5) Iron Chef America, Food Network, Sunday nights

What can I say, Bobby Flay calms me down during the nervous parts of everything else.

6) And last but not least, the ridiculous Yule Log, free on Comcast’s OnDemand

It’s a photographic representation of a burning fireplace. There’s a DVD version as well. I basked in its warm glowing warming glow, privately.

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