Long-form television is not for the lonely-hearted.
I have friends. I love them. My single friends are very interesting. Their conversation and personal enthusiasms are as varied and individual as the books in a vast library. My coupled friends talk about television. Yes, they’ll go in for a little news or food chat, but when they diverge from their sweet spot, “What We’re Watching,” I note in their eyes the deadness of disinterest, a silent plea to return the conversation, posthaste, to Matthew Weiner.
This is new.
I can actually remember when the opposite was true: when the single folk stayed at home with the tube, and couples saw the world. But this is no longer possible. In our current age of long-form viewing, when you have to watch every mother-loving episode to know what’s going on and therefore have to make some kind of commitment to being home, alone, just you and Peter Dinklage, every week, it begins to dawn on the unmarried American, over the many hours of appointment solitude—I am speaking hypothetically here—that he’s entered a really sad and unattractive Grey Gardens realm, is gaining weight, and is fast becoming a character for which Philip Seymour Hoffman would have won an Oscar.
I know what you’re thinking, and, no, it doesn’t work. You can’t watch television, regularly, with a friend and feel good about it. It’s unnatural. You call up a friend to go to a movie or to dinner. “Gary,” you say, “how about dinner on Thursday?” You do not say, “Gary, how about watching an hour of television with me every Sunday for the next six months?” No one does that. Because that’s a relationship.
Now that we are a nation of long-form television watchers, this leaves us—the unmarried population—quite vulnerable whenever the subject of television arises, which it always does when we’re out with couples, which we always are.
“What are you guys watching?”
“We love Veep!”
I really, really want to see Veep. And Gary does too. I can feel it.
One night, a few drinks in, I got up the nerve. “Gary,” I said, touching his shoulder, “what if we just… did it?” He held up a hand. “Sam, you know you’re a great guy—”
“Thank you, Gary.”
“But I can’t….” He trailed off.
“What? Say it.”
“I can’t watch 14 hours of Julia Louis-Dreyfus… with another guy.”
“Sorry.” I fake laughed. “I’ve had a lot to drink—”
“You know, I don’t even have HBO,” I lied. I haven’t seen Gary in six weeks.