Just like any true addiction, the obsession with a TV show starts small. First, you hear smatterings of “how great the show is” and “how nothing is like it on TV” from your friends and coworkers. People recite lines from the show to you without context and you’re supposed to find them funny. They play you “Best of…” videos on YouTube — a mashup of 10-second clips from an entire season of the show featuring one specific character — and expect you to laugh like you understand what the hell is going on. If you have a group of friends who all watch the same show and talk about it incessantly, this experience can be far worse (I’m looking at you, NBC’s Heroes.)
Then, like any peer-pressured courtship, someone close to you gives you your first taste of the show. This can come in the form of them forcing you to watch an episode with them, giving you a DVD box set of the show (a truly perilous scenario), or simply sending you a link to a streaming site for the series. Whatever the method, this is the person who is introducing you to your “gateway episode” to the show. This person is not your friend. This person is sucking your soul into the vortex that is TV show addiction.
But, like the good friend you are, you give the pilot episode a chance. You hop in bed, power up your laptop, and stay up late to make it through the show. There are three scenarios for watching the first episode of a friend-recommended show:
1. If you’re lucky, after six minutes of watching, you already hate the show and all of its characters. Yes, consider yourself lucky. Turn off your computer, go to bed, and continue living your responsible, adult life.
2. You make it through the first episode, but barely. It’s not quite your cup of tea and it was a struggle for you to make it, but you did. If, at this point, you turn off your computer and go to bed, you’re in the clear. If you decide to give it one more episode, you’re doomed.
3. You’re instantly hooked: You love the town the show is set in, you love the main character’s witty banter, and more importantly, you’re not sure how you lived your life before this show was a part of it.
If you fall into either of the two latter categories, you have yourself the beginnings of a TV show addiction. It’s not too serious yet. You can live your daily life, going to school or work with relative ease. Not much has changed. Your eating habits are still fairly routine, and you enjoy hanging out with friends. You use the lights in your apartment and clean up after yourself. Still, at the end of the day, you return to the show to watch “just one more episode before bed.” And this is where it all spirals out of control.
After watching the first couple episodes, you are so into the characters and plot that you carry with them around you on a daily basis. You say things like, “That’s such a Samantha thing to say,” or you refer to Kiefer Sutherland as a father figure. You begin to drift toward people you’d never hang out with solely because they watch the show and converse in your new language. You rush home to your computer and feel giddy at the thought of the next episode. Slowly but surely, your life is being consumed and you don’t even realize it.
Once season one has been logged on your Netflix account, you are in the throws of a full-fledged TV addiction. You can’t make it through the day without your fix, watching 20 minutes of an episode during your lunch break and skipping out on your friends to sit in your dark apartment (oh yeah, you don’t feel the need to use the lights anymore) to finish off the next season. Pretty soon, weekends are spent consuming episodes at such exorbitant rates — 9-hour marathon sprees — your reality starts to become ingrained in the show.
You now consider these fictional people to be your actual friends and daydream about breaking the metaphysical barrier and entering the show yourself. How would Tim Riggins like your parents? Is Carrie Mathison too crazy to be girlfriend material? You relish the thought of being put in prison with Wentworth Miller.
These fantasies spiral to the breaking point, until… wait, that’s it? The show’s over? There are no more episodes? How is this possible? There were six seasons and it’s only been a week! There’s no way you could have finished the whole thing off that fast. You scour the internet for behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with the cast and crew — anything to make the relationship with your show last.
You can’t deny, however, that something inside you has died a little bit. That feeling you got of looking forward to the next episode is gone. You still like all the characters, but they seem faded — distant. Then one day when you’re watching a video of the second grip explaining his lighting scheme for episode 42, you realize you have nothing left to give.
You get out from under your covers, take a shower, finally put on a pair of pants, and go to your kitchen and make yourself something to eat. You can’t believe the strain you’ve put on yourself during this addiction. You decide tomorrow you will call your best friend and hang out, possibly read a book, and go for a leisurely stroll outside. You look at yourself in the mirror and smile, you’re fine — nothing is wrong with you. The show seems like a distant memory. You smile. Tim Riggins would totally love your parents.