An evening of feelings
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.