I’ve spent a lot of time sitting around this year. That’s what you do during a pandemic, if you care about yourself and the survival of an entire civilization. You just sit around.
You go to work and then you come home or, if you’re fortunate, you work from home and then move to the other side of the couch in a feeble, fruitless attempt to pretend that a phrase like “off the clock” means anything. Grocery shopping is a countdown-worthy activity like Mets games and day trips to Philadelphia once were, back when we had things and places.
I watched a lot of TV this year, too. There was nothing else to do (as the Daily News’ senior TV writer, it’s also my job, but mostly there was nothing else to do). I watched “Lovecraft Country” and “I May Destroy You” and “Normal People.” But I also rewatched “Gossip Girl.” I binged “Desperate Housewives” and “Revenge.” I found a 2003 show, hidden in the depths of the internet, in which Alicia Silverstone played a Los Angeles lawyer-turned-matchmaker; Bradley Cooper and Josh Radnor appeared in the same episode.
I am under no pretenses that any of those shows are good television. But they’re perfect.
I’ve always hated the phrase “guilty pleasure” because it relies on the idea that you should feel guilty about what you enjoy. It’s the old chick flick cliché: it’s only a walk of shame if I’m ashamed. “Guilty pleasure” means Nancy Meyers movies and blasting Taylor Swift in the car and drinking chocolate syrup straight from the bottle.
So here’s my question: Who cares?
Critics and fans alike have gotten caught up in the idea of prestige TV — that label meant to signal quality — in the elite shows that go in the pantheon alongside “The Wire” and “The West Wing.” We’re constantly searching for the series that delves deeper into the human subconscious, that tells us something about ourselves that we never knew or explains the world in a way that’s never been explained before. “The Leftovers.” “Fleabag.” “Hannibal.” “Bojack Horseman.” They explored their subjects and society as a whole, with clever dialogue and beautiful cinematography and soundtracks that hit at just the right moment.
These shows are great. But do any of them evoke the same feeling as the dog eating Dan’s new heart in “One Tree Hill?” Will anything ever come close to Steve’s flash mob proposal to DJ in “Fuller House?” Has anything been as catchy as Aaron Tveit thrusting along to “Summer Nights” in Fox’s “Grease: Live?”
The duality of man is enjoying both “Mad Men” and “The Bold Type.”
There’s been a lot of discourse over the last few weeks about “Emily in Paris,” the Netflix rom-com about a mid-20s millennial (Lily Collins) who moves to France to work at a marketing firm. Emily is as basic as they come, with her Eiffel Tower-print fabrics and her Instagrammed croissant breakfasts. “Emily in Paris” is not good television. That’s fine! No one ever pretended it was. It was intended to be mindless escapism and it accomplished exactly that. That should be the mark of a good show, not that it reflects back to you a world that could or should or may be, but that it gave you what you needed, whatever that is.
If you want to watch “The Royals” instead of “The Crown,” go for it. If you want to watch “The Mob Doctor” instead of “The Sopranos,” have at it. If you want to watch “Weeds” instead of “Breaking Bad,” enjoy.
The world is falling apart. Watch whatever you want to watch.
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