Last week, when I was watching one of my favorite shows of yore, "Supernatural," while nonstop tweeting how hard the show sucks, my other half helpfully suggested that we watch something else. Naturally, this was heresy.
No matter how much I despise how tragically the thriller has declined and how much I miss the early days of classic rock, muscle cars and urban legends, I am not going to give up on it until the bitter end. I am going to gut it out through endless angel subplots, turgid family melodrama and jump-the-shark Spike and Cordelia guest spots all the while tweeting up a storm of righteously indignant criticism.
Once beloved, the exploits of demon hunting hotties Sam and Dean Winchester have become now merely tolerated, much more fun to trash than watch. It's the "Smash" of the horror genre. For the record, I still enjoy the show's considerable eye candy factor (see Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki) but as a narrative junkie, "Supernatural" no longer gives me chills.
The incident got me wondering why we keep watching shows long after they have begun the inexorable slide into awfulness. Why do we love to hate watch? Call it the curse of rabid fandom.
Maybe it's because it's so much fun to dish out snarky commentary, especially in the age of Twitter. The instant gratification of commiserating with thousands of other disgruntled fans
But I suspect there is also something to be said about misplaced loyalty. Perhaps it's like sticking with a relationship or a job out of habit more than real commitment. Maybe long-running TV shows become part of the family in an odd way. It's hard to move on from anything that inspires feelings of warmth and nostalgia. We don't want to let go.
Certainly for shows I love, the ones I plan to rewatch until I drive my loved ones crazy, there is a deep sense of comfort and ritual to the process.
For the record, this is not a long list. As a connoisseur of horror, I have a special place in my heart for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which inspires marathon rewatching sessions when I am feeling particularly needy. While pregnant, exhausted and perpetually on the verge of tears, very few things could cheer me up quite like Season 3 (my fave) of the vampire slayer oeuvre. As a theater critic, I am insanely fond of "Slings & Arrows." Classics such as "Breaking Bad" and "The Wire" also are on the repeat list. But these are masterpiece TV shows worthy of repetition and remembrance.
The thing that makes me question my sanity is why I have a hard time parting ways with shows such as "The Office," which has begun to devolve into dreadfulness. Steve Carell is long gone, ditto most of the laughs. Everyone on the show acts like they are auditioning for the next gig instead of investing in the characters. Yet as soon as I hear that wistful theme song, I know I will not click away.
Truth be told, even my beloved "Buffy" tanked in its final seasons, but this die-hard viewer still insisted on watching the Chosen One stave off various and sundry apocalypses for seven seasons straight in her stylish yet affordable boots. (Other recovering Scoobies are invited to reach out at Twitter.com/karendsouza4).
For those of you cringing that a theater critic would confess to a compulsive TV habit, I apologize. There is nothing on TV that can ever match the electricity of live performance. But it is also nice to put my little one to bed, uncork a cheeky pinot gris and curl up with my honey. When you go out at night for a living and crank out copy in the wee hours, nesting is an irresistible luxury -- a guilty pleasure beyond compare. But I digress.
The more I ponder my TV addictions, the more I suspect one of the reasons we cling to former favorites is that we secretly think they will bounce back. We harbor the fantasy that the show will regain some of its former glory, like a sports team pulling a victory out after a long, hard losing season. Perhaps if we just wish hard enough, the shows we love will reward our devotion once more. Hope never dies.
You hear me, Winchester boys? I have my fingers crossed.