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Confessions of a TV junkie

By LISA SMITH MOLINARI | Special to Stars and Stripes | Published: May 14, 2021

[In the basement of a dingy community center, a fluorescent light buzzes over a dozen or so people seated in a circle of metal folding chairs. Some nibble anxiously at store-bought sandwich cookies, while others sit in nervous silence. There is a screeching of chair legs against linoleum, as one bleary-eyed woman stands with a trembling Styrofoam coffee cup to speak.]

“Hello, [clears throat] my name is Lisa ... and I, ... I am a Binge Watcher. It's been one week since my last television fix, and I'm here to share my story….”

Believe it or not, there was a time when I didn't know what binge watching was. While our Navy family was stationed in Germany, we felt lucky that American Forces Network aired day-old episodes of “Survivor” and “American Idol.” The rest of the time, we entertained ourselves with middle-of-the-night football broadcasts, quirky BBC shows and strange AFN public service announcements.

But when we moved back to the States, my husband and I finally discovered the joys of Digital Video Recording. Despite this, our television use was purely recreational. We were mere "social watchers," catching a recorded program here and there, and streaming a movie over the weekend.

Little did we know, we were perched on the slippery slope of instant gratification.

Eventually, we needed more episodes to be entertained. Our digitally savvy kids introduced us to the allure of services such as On Demand and Hulu. How intoxicating it was to take a double hit of "The Bachelor" and chase it with “Dr. Pimple Popper” all in one evening!

Soon, we were hooked. There was no going back.

Before we knew it, we were spending perfectly sunny weekends holed up in our base house watching episode after episode of random television series. We told everyone that we were "just catching up on 'Modern Family'" or "simply wondering what all the hubbub is about ‘Stranger Things’." 

Ironically, it was the show "Breaking Bad" that nudged us into the deep, dark abyss. We'd been jonesing to see the series for a while, and when we found out that the episodes were streaming, we knew we’d just scored.

During our epic three-week "Breaking Bad" bender, we hit rock bottom. Our family room looked like the scene of a rave party, strewn with soda cans, popcorn and Chinese takeout boxes. Our permanently dilated pupils stared, transfixed, into the psychedelic LCD screen, our cold, clammy fingers gripping the smudged remotes.

We were so strung out after that binge, we quit cold turkey, satisfying our cravings with short doses of "House Hunters" and “The Office" reruns in hopes that we'd avoid the painful withdrawal symptoms of rapid detox.

Just when we thought we had a handle on our addiction, the pandemic hit, rendering us helpless to resist our visual drug of choice. “Tiger King” merely whet our appetites for the year-long relapse. Every night we took to our well-worn spots on the sofa and held remotes with trembling hands, in search of relief from the unprecedented boredom and monotony of quarantine.

Now that we’ve been vaccinated, one would think that we’d peel ourselves away from our television pacifier. However, ads have been popping up for “City on a Hill," "The Real Housewives of New York" and “Sasquatch." Season four of “The Handmaid’s Tale" premiered April 28th, and we still haven't finished watching “Goliath" and backlogged episodes of  “Schitt’s Creek” ... What's a TV junkie to do? Binge watch, of course!

I must confess that Premiere Season has triggered my addictive tendencies. Although I'm not sure there's a 12 step recovery program for Binge Watching, I'm absolutely certain I'll gain 12 pounds if I don't get off the couch and stop watching so much TV.

Mark my words: I'm quitting binge watching for good this time. I'm 100% serious. No more lounging in sweatpants on Sunday afternoons pressing "play" hour after hour. Summer is coming, I’m vaccinated, and I'll be spending time in the great outdoors. I swear, I’ll get clean, and there's no time like the present.

And I'll start just as soon as the new season of “The Handmaid’s Tale" is over.

Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com, and in Lisa’s book, The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com. Email: meatandpotatoesoflife@gmail.com