My Binge Runneth Empty

by Bruce Stockler

–I need a new TV show.

–It is 11:40 PM on a Sunday night and I have deleted and undeleted my Tindr profile, searched the obituaries to see if anyone with my name died recently and posted hideously intrusive baby photos on my college kid’s Facebook page. On my lap sit a bag of zero-carb protein chips and a liter of diet grapefruit soda, a sad table setting for my cruel viewership purgatory. I have nothing to watch except the cats.

–My entertainment algorithms are failing to keep pace with the baroque mutations of my attention. The more shows I consume, the more difficult it is to find satisfaction, which alarms me less as an analogy to porn, food or sex addiction than as a brutal map of my future nights alone on my couch.


–As I look at the coming weekend, I would love to find a TV show as weird and unpredictable as The OA but with much more senseless bloodshed, like Banshee, yet built on real-world political intrigue, like Fauda, except with sunnier denouements for the central protagonists, like Murder, She Wrote, and John Hughes movies.

–A modern, quirky comedy would prove bingeworthy, something as surprising as Catastrophe and rich with women’s voices like Better Things, but filled with gratuitous nudity like Westworld and propelled by mindless Tom and Jerry-style hijinks like characters smashing their fingers with hammers and suffering grotesque bodily-fluid emergencies.

–I miss George Costanza. I know he is not a real person and is not even culturally relevant anymore but the world I am seeing on TV news is not remotely real, either, and at least George Costanza made sense when I sat alone in the dark clutching my sweaty pint of low-fat ice cream, which isn’t fooling anybody.

–Maybe I could snuggle up to a brainless, feel-good family saga like Parenthood that teems with playful camaraderie and sophomoric insights into the human condition, so long as it sports a twisted underbelly like that of the original Twin Peaks and a brooding atmosphere that reminds me of The White Album and the flying monkeys and middle-aged Danish people you meet at the airport bar after a couple of mixed drinks who are completely incomprehensible.

–Would it be juvenile to look for a middlebrow entertainment that makes me feel as safe and secure in my dank little cave as Manimal and my Mom’s challah French toast and a room full of beagles, but that disappears immediately once consumed, like a Snapchat, so I am not doomed to argue its plot twists with angry, inappropriate tirades fired randomly at the poor people in line with me at Starbucks, a process that ends with me cowering with grief under my blankets upon the show’s inexplicable cancellation, like Operation Petticoat and Al Gore?

–A thoughtful history show might just be what I need to break up my laziness: Something sweeping and grandiose, like the fall of Rome or what China was doing during the age of the dinosaurs, but with fewer casualties and poor people and broken, abscessed teeth, like a sweeping story about how the world changed suddenly with the invention of zippers. Did the have-no-zippers people rise up against the zippered people or did everyone just all of a sudden experience an inexplicable zipper paradigm shift? What roles did zippers play in the American revolution? Did Thomas Edison do anything with zippers?

–More than anything, I would love to see a game show in which contestants who provide incorrect answers are severely beaten with metal pipes or ax handles. It would be so refreshing to see people risk something besides their dignity for once and receive the proper collective punishment for all the stupidity and greed in our culture and also there is something broken inside me that only a well-written TV show may be able to fix. Until then I will just wait around and mindlessly ingest food products divorced from any connection to the natural world and change channels without resting, like a clueless mouse running through a maze that has no exit, which I am pretty sure was an episode of Night Gallery, or Danny Bonaduce.

Bruce Stockler’s humor has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Times of London, Esquire, Ms. Magazine, and elsewhere.
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