There’s Nothing On

by Valerie Nusbaum

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating for this column: Randy and I watch a lot of television. We have premium cable, which offers us hundreds of channels, including all the HBO variations. We also have at least five streaming services, including Netflix, IMDb, Peacock, HBOMax, and the Roku channel.  There may be more channels and services, but if there are, we haven’t figured out how to access them or we don’t even know they’re here.

It’s our preferred mode of watching television and movies to sit at home on the couch in our clean, quiet, uncrowded living room. I stopped enjoying going to movie theaters years ago, mostly because the tall person always sat in front of me, while the talkative person with the cellophane-wrapped candies sat directly behind me. Not to mention that there were usually five empty seats in my row but some complete stranger always came and sat right beside me. My feet stuck to the floor in the theater, and my fanny could never find a seat without a hump.

Randy and I are also both guilty of buying a movie ticket (which isn’t cheap these days) and promptly falling asleep in the uncomfortable seats as soon as the lights dimmed.  I dozed off during City Slickers and also during some movie about a mouse. I had taken my then six-year-old nephew to see the mouse movie, and I swear I only slept for a few minutes, but when I woke up, the rotten kid had covered me in popcorn. That movie theater butter won’t come out of your clothes either. Randy also fell asleep once during a live production of The Nutcracker ballet. He had an aisle seat, and he started sliding out of the chair into the aisle. Thank goodness he let out a loud snore and woke himself. But I digress….

Lately, even though we have literally thousands of movie and television show choices, we haven’t been able to find anything worth watching. Our list of stuff that we’ve tried and turned off continues to grow. It used to be that buying a movie ticket kept us in the theater until the final credits, even after finding out early on that the film was a real stinker. Technically, we could apply the same principle to our television/streaming viewing, but life is short and I’m not punishing myself for two hours with another situation like Godzilla vs. Kong or Wonder Woman 1984. Yep, I turned off both of those puppies after about five minutes of trying to watch.

Conversely, the hubby and I totally dismissed Downton Abbey years ago when the show was new to PBS, but we decided to give it a try earlier this year, and we were delighted that we did. We binged the entire six (I think) seasons, as well as the follow-up movie—and we still quote Cousin Violet and Cousin Isabelle. Dame Maggie Smith portrayed Cousin Violet, or Granny, in Downton. When I discovered that she and Dame Judi Dench were playing sisters in a film called Ladies in Lavender, I knew we should check it out. (Please don’t tell my mother this, but Randy and I have been watching a LOT of British imports. Granted, sometimes it’s hard for me to understand what’s being said, but it does give Randy an opportunity to drag out his considerable skill for mimicking all the accents.) Anyway, I can highly recommend Downton Abbey, but I would suggest you skip that sad tale about the spinster sisters who save a Polish violinist who washed up on shore. Generally, anything starring Helen Mirren is worth a look. We enjoyed The Queen and also the series called The Crown, which didn’t star Ms. Mirren but was another vehicle about The Royal Family who are always fun to watch.

We’ve watched a lot of series and movies about detectives chasing murderers. Poor Randy gets so frustrated almost every time with how silly the protagonists are.  Everybody knows not to go into the killer’s lair without backup, right?  And why do women who run always fall down? We also really dislike the way teenagers are usually portrayed as having parents who are inept and don’t care, while these kids run around and run amok wreaking all kinds of havoc.

Randy chose a movie called The Book of Henry, which was described as “boy genius uses his smarts and skills to help a girl in danger.” We figured that hijinks would occur, but (spoiler alert) Henry was an eleven-year-old extremely intelligent boy who had a brain tumor and died. So many of the movies and shows we’ve seen recently have either started off with a funeral scene or later killed off a main character halfway through. Talk about a letdown. Hey, Hollywood, how about some new plots?

If you’d like a curated list of shows and movies that are actually worth watching, email me, and I’ll send you my suggestions. There aren’t too many movies, but I have seen a couple of series I’d recommend.

I’d offer to send you a list of stuff that’s not worth watching, but that would be a much longer list. Just last night, Randy flipped through all the selections and pronounced, “There’s nothing on.”

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