1. I ponder whether or not my wife will enjoy the show. With a show like Walking Dead, there's no question she will want nothing to do with it. Something like Boardwalk Empire or Game of Thrones, however, is less clearcut, and in those situations, I'll try and get away with watching on my own until she sees me hunched over my computer screen and says, "Hey! I thought we were going to watch that together!"
2. We watch the show together.
3. At some point, she drops out. I can tell this is coming because she'll begin to waffle. If she hesitates even the slightest bit when I ask if she's up for another episode, she's fading.
4. I watch the rest of the series alone.
I never know when this will happen. She dropped out of Breaking Bad almost immediately, and I don't think she got more than two minutes into the premiere of Luck before returning focus to her iPad. I definitely know this point is coming when a show turns dark or violent. Last season, she was moderately invested in Boardwalk Empire, then begged off early in Season 2. This was a good thing, since there were murders involving a pipewrench, a scalping, and a slit throat, all of which were vividly depicted. She would've had a nervous breakdown during the pipewrench bit.
At first, this frustrated me. "This is the human condition!" I'd cry indignantly, even though pipe wrench beatings aren't especially common. Then I remembered she's a pediatrician at Phoenix Children's Hospital, and frequently treats children on the brink of death, while I sit in front of a screen and jam my fingertips against a keyboard. (I also realize, contrary to my overstated title, not all women share my wife's sensibilities.)
In general, I like having the freedom to watch a show at my leisure. I like being able to binge on Old-Fashioneds and Mad Men without having my wife's schedule tripping me up. But it's also quite special sharing a dramatic series with your spouse. It's nice to laugh along with comedies (almost all of which we watch together), but dramas mean a little more investment, and sharing that investment can be rewarding. Here are the four shows that we — so far — watch together, and how much we are drawn to each.
Friday Night Lights
Mutual Appreciation Level: Equal.
With fully-realized characters of both sexes, a relatable setting, and well-rendered drama that rarely goes teeters into melodrama or darkness (the Landry/Tyra murder cover-up excluded), Friday Night Lights is the ideal show for couples. Oh, and the show boasts history's most realistically likeable married couple in Tammy and Eric Taylor. My wife would also like to point out the appeal of Tim Riggins.
Mutual Appreciation Level: Equal.
Despite the implied sexism of polygamy, Big Love always wrote its female characters best. At its best, the show was a high-end soap opera, packed with dramatic twists rooted in the relationships between characters. At its worst, it was just a soap opera. I appreciated the whiplash plotting (sometimes literally, like when one character died of whiplash) and the intriguing/horrifying look into what it would be like to have three wives and busload of children. My wife teetered dangerously on giving the show up in the darker fourth and fifth seasons, but those first three were a blast.
Game of Thrones
Mutual Appreciation Level: Higher on my end.
This one was a surprise, because until Boardwalk Empire upped the ante less than a year later, the HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin's fantasy epic was ridiculously violent. Just a constant rain of blood. Something about hand-to-hand weapons makes it worse, you know? Still, it's a testament to the storytelling that my wife hung around. It's only one season, I suppose, and there's a lot more darkness ahead.
Mutual Appreciation Level: Higher on her end.
This British drama set in the years before and during World War I examines the relationship between an aristocratic British family and the servants who run their estate. It's a period piece, with accents and garden parties, and even the butlers dress better going out to a carnival than I ever have in my life.
I never could stand that Jane Austen-y stuff, with all the intrigue over whether some rich-ass 18 year-old will marry within the next six months or die a shamed spinster, and those sorts of stories feature heavily into Downton Abbey. Will sisters Lady Mary and Lady Edith reconcile? Will Bates ever be able to love again? Will O'Brien give birth to the Antichrist? I hate that I care about these inanities, but I do, dammit. I only wish Britain had been invaded in World War I, since maybe the stakes in season two would be more along the lines I've come to expect from cable drama.
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