Sunday, August 30, 2009

Death Be Not Proud

With the start of my third and final year of law school last week, my usual Sunday night feeling of overwhelming melancholy about the start of a new work week have been replaced by my usual Sunday night feeling of overwhelming melancholy about the start of a new school week. On the whole I guess it's a slightly lesser degree of grief, but still grief never the less.

In fact, my impending work week grief follows quite predictably along the famous five stages of grief model which describes the gradual process by which most people supposedly come to terms with tragedy and traumatic loss. Well for me, few things are more tragic and traumatic than the loss of my weekend freedom. I usually wake up Sundays mornings content and happy about another full day of carefree leisure with the upcoming work week being almost an inconceivable theoretical abstract (1. Denial). As the day gives way to the afternoon hours and as I start to becomes aware of the reality of tomorrow being Monday, I begin to resent the fact that the weekend is over just as it started (2. Anger). As the afternoon begins to wane, and I realize I'm hopelessly behind on my work, I begin to think that if only I had an extra day or two I'd be on top of my shit (3. Bargaining). The sun begins to go down and I realize, I'm just dinner, a night's sleep, and change away from Monday and all I can do is helplessly sulk (4. Depression). As the evening comes I end up catching "Til' Death" on Fox (5. Acceptance).

It's not like it's appointment television for me or anything. In fact, between its numerous time slot shuffles and hiatuses, it's actually kind of a challenge for any dedicated fan (there must be some, right?) to actually keep appointments. Most of the time I randomly catch about less than half the show. However, despite my total lack of interest in actually following the show, few Sundays at home have ever gone by over the last three or so years (with the major exception of the football season where everything gets preempted) where I didn't catch some amount of "'Til Death".

In a way, it sort of makes perfect sense that I would eventually associate the show with the sad acceptance of the awful and terrible. It couldn't have been a show I enjoyed because that would have just kept me at the first stage of denial by giving me a temporary reprieve from my harsh reality. My emotional progress towards the eventual peace of acceptance would have been shunted. It couldn't have been a show that was so terrible that it would have locked me into the depths of a harrowing depression stage. It had to have been a show that was just barely awful enough to remind me of my fate, but not so much as to make me downright inconsolably despondent.

With "'Til Death" I get that subtle terribleness. It's sort of like a real life version of "The Lockhorns" except it's not over the top or mean enough to make it interesting. When Brad Garrett (who helped perfect the art of the mediocre sitcom) makes a wacky expression or cracks some punchline about married life that was too dated for vaudeville or gets henpecked by his bossy sitcom wife, I don't laugh but I know there's a joke. The show is almost watchable solely as a fascinating case study on the bare minimum of creativity and sub par ratings a sitcom can have while still being constantly renewed (4th season debuting in October). Despite having shown all the signs of a terminally ill show, from introducing and then changing the daughter, to half of the main cast essentially leaving for the third season, to a shameless parade of B list guest stars (Nick Bakay, Margaret Cho, Will Sasso anyone?), it has maintained an uncanny cockroach like ability to stay on the air. You can sit and watch and deeply wonder what magic element does this show have that other similarly mediocre but failed sitcoms like "Carpoolers" or "Back to You" didn't. With the venerable "According to Jim" finally signing off the air in June (after 8 seasons and 182 episodes!), "'Til Death" now wears the heavy crown of being the worst multiple season sitcom on TV.

Thus this show has managed to become the very symbol of the acceptance of my eventual Monday morning fate. It is that uncanny combination of a complete lack of excellence with an amazing degree of endurance and staying power that has made "'Til Death" such a dependable source of melancholy in my life. And with any luck it'll continue to help me come to grips with unhappiness for many seasons to come.

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