Thursday, June 2, 2016

Story 137: Hate-Watchers Anonymous

            The members of the group sat in a shame circle; the moderator spoke first.
          “I know we were relegated to the bingo hall’s sub-basement because we don’t represent a quote-unquote ‘legitimate addiction,’ but I want you all to be proud of yourselves for recognizing that your obsession is just as destructive as any condition recognized by the American Psychological Association.  Now, let’s begin by introducing ourselves: my name is Zack, and I am a recovering hate-watcher of that old classic, Space Opera Grit.”
            “Hi, Zack.”
            “Hi, everyone.  Thank you for coming here tonight.  As you may already know but I’m going to tell you anyway, the reason why I formed this group is because I wanted to help others who feel just as trapped as I once did: trapped, in a neverending cycle of seasonal television, despairing as your favorite show’s quality declines exponentially as the years drag on, yet always coming back for more each week.  I would literally pray for the show’s cancellation, knowing full well that that would put those on it out of work, but I was comforted in the knowledge that they too were hoping for cancellation – it’s clear as day when they make public appearances that by Season 8 their hearts were no longer in it.  The show’s still on the air, but I was finally released from my all-encompassing burden when the season finale of its fifteenth year ended in disaster.  As I sat in my living room staring at the credits of lost souls scroll by at the speed of light, I suddenly realized: no one is actually making me watch this garbage.  So I just never watched it again.  I wished I’d had a group like this seven years ago – would’ve saved me a lot of time and angst – so let’s get started.  Who’d like to go first?  You?  OK, what’s your name?”
            “Martha, and I’m a hate-watcher of Psychopathic Family of 10.”
            “Hi, Martha.”
            “And why do you consider yourself a hate-watcher, Martha?”
            “Well, the premise is rubbish and I only started watching it because I like the lead actress – ”
            “And it was funny.  In the beginning.”
            “Go on.”
            “You know how it is: the lead is also one of the producers, and they always turn evil at some point if they weren’t already.  By Season 3, the magic had died.”
            “And that’s usually the point where the magic starts for a lot of shows.”
            “In this case, it just got unfunnier, and uncomfortably frantic, and it treats its audience like idiots.”
            “Yes!  I feel so ashamed in paying those people’s salaries in any way!”
            “There, there, Martha – you’re among friends now.  So who’s next?”
            “I’ll go.  My name’s Josh, and I’m a hate-watcher of Sword Slash.”
            “Hi, Josh – what?!”
            “We do not judge here, people!  But seriously, Josh, how can you hate-watch Sword Slash?  If you’re even watching it to begin with, you have to like it at least a little.”
            “Yeah, I did for a while, but the gratuitous violence and unnecessary nudity do nothing for the plot or for me anymore.”  There were rumblings in the group.  “I’m sorry, but it feels like they’re trying way too hard to get my 18- to 34-year-old straight male demographic attention, and all I want is a well-developed story and realistic characters!”
            “You make some excellent points there, Josh.  If I may ask: how come you keep watching it, then?”
            “Gotta find out how it ends.”
            “OK, who’s next?”
            “Hello, my name is Jessica, and I’m a hate-watcher of Retroville.”
            Everyone else murmured in sympathy.
            “That show’s still on?”  Zack asked.
            “Unfortunately, yes.  For 17 years.”
            “Wow, you have endurance.  I had started watching it but I couldn’t get past the first half of Season 2.”
            “Most people couldn’t.”
            “Do you know why you’re still watching it?”
            “Because I’m no quitter!”
            “Well, Jessica, quitting can be a good thing when the item in question is destroying you.  Maybe there’s still something decent about the show?”
            “No, it’s absolute tripe!  The writing is disgusting, the acting is somnambulatory, the scenery is horrendous, the camera angles are atrocious, and the music is banal!”
            “…I see.  Maybe you should trying replacing it with Sword Slash instead?”
            “No!”  Josh screamed and had to be restrained by other group members.  “Don’t let it claim another victim!  I won’t let it win!”
            “Why don’t they just cancel PFO10 already?”  Martha wailed.  “They must be losing money by now – what devil is renewing it year after year after year?!”
            A man stood.  “My name is Hamish, and I’m a hate-watcher of Comic Book Adaptation – I thought coming here would help me get over it, but all I know is that the new episode starts in five minutes so I’m going home to watch it and cry!”
            The rest of the group left in a flurry of overturned chairs; Zack remained, slumped in his.
            “They’ll be back,” he said to the empty room.  “Now that they started this, they can’t resist seeing how it will end.”

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