I am known to fixate. People who know me are now laughing and muttering things like, “Way to understate it.” Look, awesome things are awesome, and I will gladly mainline those awesome things on a regular schedule and perhaps go on about them at length. My television habits are no different. While right now I am exploring that wonderful rabbit hole that is Netflix Instant, remember how we used to have to, you know, make an effort to see our favorite shows? And perhaps threaten violence against anyone who might impede upon that time? Yes, let us talk about the shows over which we obsessed as young Persephoneers.
Oh, the cheese. Unfortunate hair, unfortunate clothes, unfortunate catchphrases. And yet, I watched every damn week for several years. In first grade (this was 1989), I staged a protest at recess because my elementary school’s Open House Night was scheduled at the same time as Full House. I rounded up friends, and we stood on a concrete bench yelling about it while those in charge ignored us. Sadly, we were forced to miss that week’s new episode after all. In 1991, anticipating the episode where Becky would give birth to the twins, I was annoyed that my parents had plans to drag me to their friend’s house instead. First thing I did when we arrived was inform the host that I needed to watch Full House, so if they could point me in the direction of the TV, that would be great. My parents were probably relieved to have me finally quiet for half an hour. Like a lot of kids, I eventually outgrew the show, but I think people around my age who say they never watched it are probably lying.
I watched the show for pretty much its entirety, coming in some time during its 1993 opening season, up until it finished in 1997. Because I ranged in age from 10 to 13 during that time, my fascination can basically be summed up thusly: Dean Cain. I mean, it probably wasn’t the writing that did it, right? Except, the show was totally into cliffhanger episodes. In another instance of “I don’t care what we’re doing, I need to find a TV at this time,” I’d accompanied my dad on some sort of work-related trip to West Yellowstone, and told him that I had firm plans to watch the Season 2 finale. He was probably glad that he had plans at that time, and I was left in the hotel room to watch in peace. That is, until Clark proposed to Lois, and they ended the episode before she answered. Lots of middle school “OHMIGOD”-ing occurred. I’m sure that if I were to watch the show now, I’d wonder what exactly I saw in it, and maybe Dean Cain might seem a little too wholesome looking. I don’t know. It’s popped up on Netflix, but I have yet to succumb to curiosity.
Okay, clearly, my young self had a weakness for over-dramatic plot lines. One of my best friend’s older sister watched General Hospital, and over the summer before seventh grade, I became hooked. I watched Monday through Friday and was sad that there weren’t episodes on the weekends. Even sadder I became when I had to start school because the show aired at 1pm. But then! Christmas came, and my parents gave me a VCR to go with the small TV I’d received the previous Christmas. A glorious, wonderful VCR and a stack of blank tapes, and more middle school “OHMIGOD”-ing occurred. I taped the show and watched every night before bed, careful not to actually mention the show to my parents, who viewed it as a waste of time, not to mention possibly inappropriate for a 12-year-old. If you watched the show then, you know the addictive story lines the mid-90s brought: Miguel (Ricky Martin, with long hair) the musician being all hot and then leaving Brenda (Vanessa Marsil, whose haircut at the time, I totally had). Mobster Sonny’s wife Lily dying via car bomb after she found out she was pregnant. Brenda dating Sonny. Brenda leaving Sonny for Jax. Robin dating Stone, the AIDS patient. Stone’s totally tragic death over which I cried. Emily (Amber Tamblyn) going catatonic for reasons I can’t remember. Bobbi’s secret daughter Carly. I don’t know why my brain has held onto this information for almost 20 years, but it has. One summer, I was going to be out of state for a month, and only had enough tape to record Monday and Friday episodes (which is when the most stuff happened/resolved). My friend’s older sister dutifully hand-wrote recaps for each full week I was gone. That’s some pre-internet dedication, man. I’ve never watched any other soap, and gave up watching this one regularly some time in high school, but I still have a soft spot for it whenever I hear it mentioned.
See, I eventually developed what is commonly referred to as “better taste.” For some reason, our local cable company didn’t get FOX until the mid-90s, and I didn’t watch the show until mid-way through Season 5. I was sick and had fallen asleep with the TV on, and when I woke up, I saw what I now know is the Stephen King co-written episode, “Chinga,” which primarily features Dana Scully. I don’t know if it was the Nyquil that helped, but I was invested in it immediately. I found both Gillian Anderson and David Duchovney exceptionally attractive, though Gillian Anderson perhaps more so – something that was a rather new sensation to realize. As in, Huh. Ladies are something I like, too. Being 14, I didn’t tell anyone this, but I do credit that show for assisting in my figuring out the murky business of sexuality. But as for the show itself, yes, those giant plot arcs mixed with monster-of-the-week stories were completely fascinating. Luckily, FX was rerunning the show every night, two episodes at a time, and I quickly caught up on the seasons I missed. I saw the 1998 movie in the theater, obsessed over the conspiracy details with like-minded friends, and wondered why they gave Scully such ill-fitting clothes in the first few seasons. It was such an interesting show about belief, loyalty, and possibility, and I am even one of those people who enjoyed the later Mulder-less seasons. By then, I was in college, but I still had the same trusty VCR and I recorded the show every week. I still watch the show, when I come across it, every once in awhile.
If you don’t think this is one of the best shows to have been on television, we might be in a fight. Aaron Sorkin’s writing, particularly his rapid back-and-forth dialogue, makes me want to get to work on my own writing. For whatever reason, I didn’t start watching until the Season 2 premiere (2000), when I happened to sit down and watch it with my mom. She gave me a quick summary of what was going on during commercials, and then we were silent while we watched. From then until the 2006 series finale, I think I only missed one episode, and I eventually saw all of Season 1 as well. Talk about belief, loyalty and possibility – this show was smart, funny, heartbreaking, and perfect for me. Friends or my boyfriend would sometimes make the mistake of calling me on Wednesday night while the show was on, and all I’d usually have to say was, “And what time is it right now?” before they were apologizing and saying that whatever it was could at least wait until the hour was over. Even once I’d moved on to college, I’d make time to watch the show as it aired, while the VCR recorded Dawson’s Creek for my roommate while she worked. Girls in the dorm would come down the hall, and poke their head into my room during that hour, hoping to catch Dawson’s Creek, and would be somewhat baffled when I turned them away, with one eye still on the West Wing screen. I loved all the main characters in their own way, particularly CJ Cregg (Allison Janney). She kicked ass when she needed to, but was not infallible. She was unconventionally beautiful, one of the smartest people in the room, and Jeezy Chreezy, are you talking to me during The Jackal? Never talk to me during The Jackal.
So what about the rest of you? Any common ground here? What were your TV Dates in your formative years? Remind me of my glaring omissions.