The Things We Talk About When We Talk About TV

I have always been aware that Mr Litlove and I are opposites and generally this works out okay. We worry about different things, and can therefore count on one of us being sensible for the other in a crisis. Although our interests are wildly different, they both require space alone and time to indulge, and so we’re usually sympathetic to each other’s needs, particularly now we don’t have childcare to share out. But every so often, the deep-down difference in our natures makes itself felt to my surprise.

We were watching The Good Wife – the first season, as I’m on average six years behind the curve when it comes to television and films – and in this episode, the legal drama concerned a wife and a mistress who were wrangling over the body of the man they shared, as he was being kept alive on a life support machine after a motorbike crash. One wanted to turn the life support off, the other to keep it on. Thrown into the discussion was testimony from a doctor who’d witnessed a patient suddenly revived and healing after twenty years of comatose inaction.

So naturally, I expressed my feeling to Mr Litlove that I would never want to be maintained in a vegetable state. That if the lights go off, then that’s it for me and no regrets. A bad virus gave me thirteen years of chronic fatigue syndrome, and I can’t imagine what the payoff would be for twenty years in a coma. Not worth considering in any case.

‘So what about you?’ I asked.

Mr Litlove didn’t say anything; he just scanned the ceiling for a while with his eyes.

‘Oh my Lord,’ I said. ‘You want to be kept alive, don’t you?’

‘Well,’ said Mr Litlove, batting his eyelashes, ‘if I wasn’t being any trouble.’

‘I think you might be a little bit of trouble.’

‘Well,’ said Mr Litlove, still batting, still reasonable, ‘if I wasn’t in any pain.’

‘No pain, for sure. You’d be dead.’

I still can’t quite believe he’d want that, I mean, who would want to exist in a vacuum of thought and sensation, with no relationships, no creativity, no feelings to access? And then I thought of Mr Litlove on the weekend, and how he works his way through hours of seven-minute-long clips of The Graham Norton Show on youtube in order to be in exactly that insentient state… and I suppose it came a little clearer.

As for The Good Wife, I absolutely loved the first season, but having reached the end of the second just last night, my admiration is waning a teeny bit. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, it’s essentially the story of Alicia Florrick, the wronged wife of a politician caught in a damaging sex scandal. Alicia has to return to work as a lawyer in order to support her two teenage children while Peter is in jail, but then he gets bail and comes home and wants to get back into politics. (I don’t understand the American system – he’s state attorney, which somehow seems to be political.) The question in the first season is whether Alicia can forgive him for what he’s done to them all. She’s remained loyal on the surface, partly out of the paralysis of shock, partly because she wants to do the right thing by her family. But you can see that forgiveness is almost beyond her. In this second season, it’s looked as if the marriage is healing, until we reach the end when a new revelation splits them up again.

The thing is, I understand the television series requires oodles more conflict in order to keep going. But the lovely purity of motivation that powered the first season seems to have gone. Now it looks as if Alicia never really forgave Peter, that she was always holding out for a good reason to leave him. She has no statute of limitations on past misdemeanours, and she seems to think that people are good or bad, with any fault or crime putting someone beyond the pale in her life. She’s also become very controlling, which sure, is a response to having been put out of control through no fault of her own, but it also speaks to the litigious nature of American legal practice, and it never works as a life strategy.

Anyway, I’ve watched two seasons in a row and it’s probably just time for a break. I need a new box set!


35 thoughts on “The Things We Talk About When We Talk About TV

  1. Whenever I’ve had the ‘on or off’ conversation with H he looks shifty and avoids the issue – I’m firmly in the ‘off’ camp. If pressed he tells me he doesn’t was to think about it. So helpful! As for The Good Wife, I’ve tried very hard to like it but failed and I’m not sure why.

    • Well there are plenty of conversations that end the same way in this household too – taking the compost bucket out, any decision about soft furnishings, attendance at family parties…. I did like the first season as it was so well plotted, but as ever, I do fear that stories have a natural end which tv series seek hard to ignore.

  2. “And then I thought of Mr Litlove on the weekend, and how he works his way through hours of seven-minute-long clips of The Graham Norton Show on youtube in order to be in exactly that insentient state… and I suppose it came a little clearer.” That…is hilarious. Re: legal dramas, you might enjoy “Damages,” starring Glenn Close. It’s very different from “The Good Wife” (which I enjoyed as a way to unwind after editing, which meant that I found it passably entertaining in a way that required very little of my attention)…much more intense.

    • Thank you! And yay, I like the recommendation. I haven’t seen Glenn Close since Dangerous Liaisons when she was at her peak. I always liked her, though, and think anything she is in is worth a try.

  3. I haven’t watched the Good Wife yet but I hear it gets better and better and is now considered one of the best shows on American TV so maybe keep going? I guess Alicia’s character development really takes off. And I’m with you – no vegetative state for me – but I find that decision easier to make than perhaps physician-assisted suicide if I had terminal or painful cancer. I really don’t think I’d be able to take my own life no matter what the pain level.

    • I am the biggest coward ever, so whatever decisions I made would be based on that, I expect! It’s interesting to know The Good Wife is so well regarded. Perhaps I should have a look at season 6 that’s currently playing and see where we end up!

  4. LOL. I’m with you, I don’t want to be kept alive in a coma for 20 years on the off chance I might wake up and still be able to function as a normal human being. Thankfully Bookman and I are both in agreement. However, Bookman tells me he couldn’t live without me, which some days I can believe, and expects me to say the same. Uh… Sometimes it seems like should he die first he expects me to follow him immediately. Thank goodness wives are no longer required to immolate themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre!

    I haven’t watched The Good Wife but your comment about not understanding American politics made me laugh because I think most Americans don’t understand it either!

    • It may be wrong but I did snort with laughter when I read about the Bookman. Tell him what he wants to hear and and I think that what he doesn’t know will never hurt him…. American politics is SO complicated! I’m sure things are complicated in the UK, it’s just so easy to be cynical that it removes the need to think about them too much!

  5. States’ Attorneys have a good chunk of political clout. In fact, most of the real power in American politics is at the local levels where the major amount of manipulation and cronyism occurs. Much like the rest of the world. The networks of local government also help politics promote from within, and move money up the ranks from the taxpayers. Mid-level politics groom for the federal level, and the feds give the media something to chase, so it isn’t watching the real work being done at the local levels. Money and sausages, never let people see you make ’em.

    Our States’ Attorneys have influence in legislative matters, both criminal and civil; they help control and manipulate the economics through things like taxes, fines, and debt; the muck about in the personal welfare of the state’s citizens (children and adults); they have their hands in drug enforcement, administration, education, civil rights, etc.–they are linked to just about every office in the state. They wield a lot of power.

    Sometimes they’re called District Attorneys. They’d be the equivalent of UK’s Crown Prosecutors? I think that’s the correct term?

  6. I’m with the off brigade – I most certainly wouldn’t want to linger. And as for TV – I always have too much to read to watch it! 🙂

    • Well that’s generally true for me (with TV) but this winter we’ve watched one programme a night with our dinner and it’s been great. I have so many books to read at the moment that it’s rather pleasant to take a break from time to time!

  7. How eerie. We had the almost exact same conversation. Or rather the same topic. The conversation as such was very different as it was more about what would we do about the one in the coma. Not what would we want the other person to do if we were in a coma. And, no, it wasn’t inspired by The Good Wife.

    • I wonder if it’s one of those things that has to be considered in any long-term relationship? It definitely has to be thought about and wishes expressed. Odd it should be in the air at the moment though for both of us.

  8. I’m not into TV programs that much. But I did start watching House Of Cards on Netflix after my son told me I could get it on my iPad. I started with season one and watched it through a weekend. Wow, pretty exciting I thought. Then into season two. But it got more annoying and less interesting. I started wondering why I was spending so much time with people I did not like. I got bored and gave up completely. It’s also about politics. Gosh, I hope it really is only fiction, but politics is a fairly smarmy business.

    • Well I cannot deny this! Politics as it appears on tv series is every bit as bad – if not worse – than the worst things we think about it. It’s gripping drama but dishearening if you think about it for too long! But I do think that a good series gets strung out for too many episodes. There’s only so many character twists a person can take.

  9. Unplug me PLEASE! I’m with you on being behind when it comes to TV and films, and especially so now that Cormac is around. I watch maybe one season of one show per year, or something like that. And that works just fine for me!

    • Lol! In my son’s young years, I did see a fair amount of children’s tv, all Thomas the Tank Engine and Beatrix Potter and Arnold and so on. Cormac is still a bit young for all that. But I did gain a healthy respect for a fair amount of children’s tv, which is often more nuanced and thoughtful than a lot offered to grown-ups!

  10. Good wife gets a bit more ridiculous in terms of the court stuff the further you get with the series. I can’t imagine the legal system is anything as argumentative as they portray or that cases get to court as fast.

    • Does it really? Ach! I guess that imperative to go a bit further, make things a bit more sensational to keep up audience attention ruins it in the end. I’m sure there’s a lot of poetic licence being used!

  11. I don’t want to hang around in a coma for 20 years, either, but Bob, like Mr. Litlove, doesn’t mind that idea at all. I haven’t watched The Good Wife, haven’t watched much of anything, really. I keep trying things and discovering I don’t like them enough to keep going (Portlandia, Mad Men spring to mind). I did watch the first season of Downton Abbey and really liked it, but that was ages ago, and I never seem to be motivated enough to watch more if it rather than reading a book.

    • Well I would always have said the same about tv but this winter we’ve watched a programme a night with our dinner and I’ve really enjoyed it. Thanks to SNB I have SO MANY books to read that taking a break from them has actually been rather pleasurable. But I haven’t watched either of the two series you mention (though Mr L has watched Mad Men). What is it with men and comas? They really don’t seem to mind, do they?

  12. I was so so about The Good Wife after watching series 1 and 2, skipped series 3 and 4, and went on to 5 (you can easily catch up) and I think the critics are right: it gets much better as it goes on. And, after Broadchurch 2, it’s nice to have some accurate courtroom scenes.

    • Ye-es… I daresay there is. I cannot bear the thought of having someone have to look after me in every way – too infantilising, too upsetting. Perhaps that seems a reasonable price to pay for the men. Maybe a male reader will come along and express a different opinion?

      • I do know some male writers who are supported by their wives. I think they are just grateful for the time they have (although they do feel they need to make good use of it).

  13. I wouldn’t want to kept alive as a vegetable, if they were sure I was brain dead. I’ve watched The Good Wife from seasons 1 through 3. I think it’s a pretty good show. I don’t read Alicia’s reaction at the end of season 2 the same way, because the new revelation of a wrong that Peter did was especially devastating to her because of who else was involved. (Trying not to be spoilery in the comments.)

  14. How long did he want to be kept alive for? Did he say? That feels like important information.

    If it matters, I loved the first two seasons of The Good Wife, felt a little less high on the third season, much MUCH less high on the fourth, and then the fifth was as good as anything the show’s ever done. I’m waiting to watch the sixth until the whole thing is out, though — I like to binge-watch. So if you circle back to it later, just bear in mind that the fourth season is the weakest link. You could even skip it, really.

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