How the strike set me free
The waning weeks of 2007 were filled with epiphanies for me. I learned that my 6-year-old son has a heck of a throwing arm. I learned that my 4-year-old daughter has an imaginary friend named Star Girl who — and I’m quoting her now — ”can only survive as long as she wishes on a star.” I learned other things, too, evidence of a rich existence that apparently I’ve taken for granted, and I owe it all to the Hollywood writers’ strike. 2007 was the year that I started to get a real life.
My disengagement from pop culture — and from the TV scene in particular — actually began several weeks prior to the decision by the Writers Guild of America on Nov. 5 to picket the Man. My ”job” being what it is, I became aware earlier than most that the new TV season was likely to come to a grinding halt due to a protracted work stoppage. This prospect effectively chilled my TV passion. Hardest hit: my curiosity about new shows like Reaper and Life. Imagine starting a relationship when you know for a fact that in a few weeks, your would-be love interest is going to say, ”I think we need to take a break.” No! How about we just forget the whole thing until you know you’re ready to commit, you flaky tease!
With the prime-time TV viewing hours of my day suddenly liberated from actual TV viewing, my eyes were opened to an array of pleasurable and even meaningful opportunities that apparently have always been available. Before the strike, the 7:30 – 8 p.m. half hour used to be a stressful scramble to get the kids ready for bed so the missus and I could be snacked and ready for Ugly Betty. Now TV’s so-called family hour really is a family hour. An extended period of indoor baseball with Ben, a prolonged debriefing from Lauren about the imaginary world she’s cultivated, an extra bedtime story or two for both of them. (We’re currently working our way through Jeff Smith’s Bone graphic novels.) When we finally put the kids to bed, my wife Amy and I have used the time previously committed to the likes of Desperate Housewives and Heroes to plan a bedroom remodel, catch up on reading (may I recommend The Road and The Invention of Hugo Cabret?), and play fetch with the cat. (That’s right: My cat plays fetch. Jealous?) I even started a family blog. Okay, so the strike has turned me into a New Media cliché — but at least I’m a happy one.
To be clear, I want the strike to be over ASAP. I’m bummed for the Hollywood rank and file hurting amid this war over paid words. And I’m certain my newfound TV ambivalence will be severely challenged once Lost, my mind-sucking obsessive love, returns in January. But truth is, I’m enjoying this respite from escapist recreation. For the first time in years, I feel sort of…normal. I just hope it doesn’t get me fired.