We’re on a major Psych kick in my household. Yes, I understand that the show is seven seasons old, but we’ve just discovered it and are now watching to the point of obsession. It doesn’t help that all it takes is a few clicks and we can stream episodes on Netflix until our eyes glaze over.
The show comforts me. That same narrative arc, over and over, is just so soothing: Shawn and Gus stumble on a murder case, they bicker with each other and make stupid jokes (that whole veterinarian bit in “Forget Me Not” — hysterical) and Shawn uses his awesome observation skills to gather clues and formulate a theory and he and Gus and Lassie and Juliet always, always get the bad guys. At the end of the 40 minutes, order has been restored.
It’s a perfect example of why stories are so satisfying, why we tell each other stories again and again. They begin with some kind of disruption to the status quo, move to a dramatic peak, then coast down the other side to renewed equilibrium. It’s a pleasing structure, especially because we all expect it, and when a writer or filmmaker of musician messes with that arc it’s noticeable — and often uncomfortable. The happy ending is gratifying because in real life it’s not guaranteed. Real life is often murky and circular and repetitive and disappointing and violent and scary — hopefully punctuated with moments of ease and the kind of laughter that makes you spit your milk.
Speaking of murky, I’m currently in the midst of a long investigation into a bunch of baffling physical symptoms. The process has involved many, many healthcare professionals and every time it seems like things have gotten clearer, some other piece of information pops up that requires more research. (“You know that show Car Talk?” one of my doctors asked me recently. “Stump the Chumps? That’s what this case is like.” I appreciate his sense of humor.) I think the fact that I can’t figure out what’s going on and just get over it is a big reason I’m so into Psych right now. My fervor reminds me of when, after my first child was born and my husband and I were dealing with all the attendant chaos, we developed a serious Seinfeld habit that refused to die. Every evening we watched as Jerry, Kramer, Elaine, and George muddled their way through some dumb problem and it completely distracted us from the intensity of having a newborn. (And when we had two kids under five, it was Friends that scratched the itch.)
When I’m feeling unsure about something, I don’t want to add more uncertainty. And that’s why TV can be so relaxing. Opiate of the masses? Perhaps. It’s certainly possible that my Psych obsession could get in the way of my real life if I let it. But then again, maybe it’s a fairly harmless way to lighten up — to remember that anxiety about all that’s unresolved in my life doesn’t have to “get in the way” either.
So tell me: What shows are you hooked on these days, dear readers?
*This blog has actually nothing to do with Robert Pirsig‘s 1974 novel. I just thought adding his title made my title much better.