By: Anne T. Donahue
On Sunday night we’ll inch closer to the season finale of Succession, and on Monday I will bask in the glow of memes and jokes and whatever versions of ourselves we morph into on Twitter after every episode. Last week, Kendall rapped a song he wrote about his father, and as a result, we all reaped the benefit of having watched the worst-best thing in the world, and knowing we had profoundly been changed as a people because of it.
And pals, it is giving me life.
In the wake of literally every part of everything (our lives, the world, society) falling apart, it’s easy to forget that when a show is good, we all watch TV together like a bunch of nerds. Sure, some of you banded together to watch Game of Thrones, but as someone who avoided that series at all costs, it doesn’t matter to me and I care not for anybody’s thoughts or feelings about it. But whether binging or watching at the right time and on the right day, our collective act of watching a thing and then talking incessantly about that thing can provide just enough levity to not just escape reality for 60-ish minutes, but remind ourselves that people, while largely the worst, can also be funny and thoughtful and incredibly gifted at making A Star Is Born–Succession mash-ups. We get a temporary break from thinking about anything that isn’t Logan Roy’s expression upon hearing “L to the OG.” And I need that.
For a little while, I fell out of love with TV. I was trying to watch everything I possibly could, trying to pitch pieces hinged to what I’d just watched, and began treating every series like an assignment by studying the story, the acting, and whatever-the-fuck-else I thought I needed to study up on. And unsurprisingly, it was a buzzkill. So I began to dip out of shows, and eventually stopped watching anything aside from Great British Bake-Off because my brain needed a break. And it was so easy: the more shows that came out, the more pressure I put on myself, and the more excuses I made up to justify not diving headfirst into that show on HBO where everybody’s a robot. TV seemed like work because there was so much being offered and I “wanted to keep up,” and before long I was convinced that if I didn’t consume each show made in the history of time, I would let everybody down — as if anybody was paying attention. (No one was, no one is, and no one ever will. I can tell you right now: not a blessed soul gives a shit about who’s watching what. Particularly because most people have lives.)
But then winter 2019 happened, and everybody seemed to feel sadder than we already were, and to imagine a time in which believing television was a thing to have real feelings for was strange and cute. So to my good friend television (via Russian Doll and Mrs. Maisel) I returned, and fell in love with it again. Which is easy when you watch it like a person instead of an entity that must think piece every plot development to death. Or, a person who forgets that watching TV’s supposed to be fun.
Or at least knowing that you’re not the only person watching something is fun. It’s fun to hop on the internet and share your thoughts/feelings/feedback about a doomed hero. It’s fun to talk about it to excess at work with people you only have television in common with. It’s fun to yell things at the screen as if you have any say in anything that’s going on, and it’s fun to hide behind your hands because, and I cannot possibly mention it enough, Kendall is performing a fucking rap. It’s fun to escape it something somebody has worked very hard to make, but it’s all the more so to treat that experience as something collective. It’s a little reminder, even when you’re watching it by yourself, that you’re not totally solo and not navigating this section of world all alone.
Which, to be honest, is something I need. I like to feel like I’m part of something (without having to join a group or committee). I like to feel like I’m in on a joke that only me and several other million people know. I like to make assumptions about plots I haven’t let unfold completely yet, and liken myself to characters that are likely devoid of empathy. And I like going on Twitter and being reminded of the Sunday nights we spent watching Mad Men and Breaking Bad. I don’t pine for the past (it was terrible too), but damn it, I love tweeting a screencap of shocked Gerri and knowing I’m not the only one who knows what it means. And, perhaps completely ironically, I love mentally writing off anyone who doesn’t because if they don’t get Succession, they will never, ever get me.
Or more specifically, why I prefer to end all meetings in a strong, “Fuck off.”