An evening of feel­ings

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

Tues­day night is cry­ing night.

What­ever pent-up emo­tions I’ve been car­ry­ing around all week, ev­ery­thing — and then some — comes out dur­ing “This Is Us.” I knew from last sum­mer’s pre­views of the NBC show that it was likely to de­stroy me emo­tion­ally, and it has. But I plunged ahead. It hurts so good.

I watch very lit­tle tele­vi­sion “live” these days. Our fam­ily DVR holds back episodes of ev­ery show Spencer and I once held dear, but can no longer seem to keep up with. When Ol- iver was an in­fant, Spencer and I would catch up on our fa­vorite sit­coms at 2 a.m. when the baby would only rest in some­one’s arms. To­day, most TV shows get recorded to en­joy on the week­ends or af­ter Ol­lie has gone to bed. If I can stay awake that long, any­way.

Ah, to think of the hal­cyon days of hav­ing the re­mote to my­self. Though I try to re­sist the urge to plunk Ol­lie down in front of a screen (re­cent iPadin-a-restau­rant in­ci­dent notwith- stand­ing), there are just times you need to buy your­self 20 min­utes to do dishes, use the re- stroom, pon­der your life choices . . . what­ever. That’s where “Ses- ame Street” or “The Mup­pets” come in.

As soon as Oliver was old enough to re­al­ize the power of tele­vi­sion, he be­came dic­ta­tor of our daily pro­gram­ming. It’s not like we couldn’t still watch what we wanted — but would he sit with us? Neg­a­tive. Putting on an ed­u­ca­tional(-ish) pro­gram he’s likely to en­joy means we spend less time chas­ing him around the house, where he’s sure to lick can­dles, jump off chairs or pluck ev­ery one of my books from the book­case.

In short? TV brings about less de­struc­tion.

Still, all that soul-numb­ing chil- dren’s pro­gram­ming means we spend very lit­tle time watch­ing “our” shows. I once had a full sched­ule planned around our nightly view­ing and never had to worry about spoil­ers; I saw ev­ery­thing in real time. The DVR and abil­ity to “pause” — or even rewind — live TV changed all that.

There’s no sense of im­medi- acy now. Though many friends and I watch the same shows, we’re not watch­ing them simul- taneously. We live in a world where spoil­ers are avoided like the plague, but each pop onto Face­book or Twit­ter can be per­ilous. Will some­one ruin the closely-guarded end­ing you won’t be able to watch un­til the week­end?

I’m not de­voted to much these days, but NBC’s “This Is Us” — so beau­ti­ful, so heart­break­ing — is one I watch at 9 p.m. ev­ery Tues­day. And also record to, you know, watch again be­fore the next week . . . ’cause it’s just that good.

My brother-in-law fa­mously re- fers to tear­jerker dra­mas like the now-de­funct “Parenthood” and “This Is Us” as “Feel­ings.” As in: “Oh, are you watch­ing ‘Feel­ings’ again?” Watch­ing “Feel­ings” is typ­i­cally joined by eat­ing feel- ings, es­pe­cially in the form of choco­late. So the an­swer is, of course, yes.

Spencer hasn’t jumped on the band­wagon, and that’s OK. Af- ter three-plus years of mar­riage, he’s cer­tainly seen me at my best and worst — but “This Is Us” is the sort of show you want to watch alone with a box of Girl Scout Cook­ies. Spence typ­i­cally re­treats to the base­ment to work on projects, re­turn­ing only to find his wife sob­bing in a dark- ened liv­ing room at 10 p.m.

Tues­day’s episode was so bad — by which I mean good, of course — that I could not sleep after­ward. Milo Ven­timiglia, the ac­tor who por­trays fam­ily pa­tri­arch Jack, play­fully tweeted out a “form” view- ers could present at work or school Wed­nes­day to ex­cuse them from ev­ery­day life af­ter such an emo­tional show. I should have printed it. I re­al­ize that I am very, very preg­nant, but we can’t just chalk this up to hor­mones. It’s a very re­al­is­tic, com­pelling fam­ily dra- ma: one with char­ac­ters to which I re­late as a mother, daugh­ter, sis­ter, friend. Tues­day’s episode felt like a gut-punch; I saw where the plot was headed, of course, but that didn’t cush­ion the blow. At all.

Why do I watch some­thing that makes me cry so hard I’m phys­i­cally ill? I think be­cause it feels . . . well, it feels good to feel. In my day-to-day life, I can be stoic. Se­ri­ous. Col­lected. I’ve come a long way from that “mood­i­est” award in high school, you know? Life is com­pli­cated enough with­out let­ting your emo­tions dic­tate your at­ti­tude, day and per­spec­tive. I try to con­trol my thoughts so my thoughts don’t con­trol me. And be­ing a par­ent, es­pe­cially, means con­stantly putting out fires; I have to try to keep it to­gether.

Some­times it works; some­times it doesn’t. But I’m not a crier. Not usu­ally. When the tears fi­nally come, they’re usu­ally born of ex­treme stress — the kind that I try to avoid by “han­dling” chal­lenges be­fore I reach that point.

But not ev­ery­thing can be han­dled.

“This Is Us” deals with the tough and beau­ti­ful, the easy and quite com­pli­cated. It cap­tures re­la­tion­ships in a way that feels au­then­tic, not solely play­ing up the dif­fi­cul­ties for the sake of dra­matic plot lines — but not brush­ing them off, ei­ther.

Noth­ing can make me sob like this show, but it’s cleans­ing. I feel both wrecked and re­freshed af­ter each episode . . . not some­thing I can say about any­thing else on TV right now. Def­i­nitely not “Sesame Street.” Elmo only brings out the crazy.

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