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I miss my wife, Annie. I miss my friends. I miss the kids, but when they think back to this time when they are grown, they’ll understand — though I won’t expect their forgiveness.
There is a lot of TV to see, and I have a responsibility to see it. I have a responsibility to watch not only as an Emmy voter but also as a functioning member of society (read: Hollywood), should someone want to have a lunchtime conversation about the cinematography of Mr. Robot, the simple but crushing performances of Togetherness or the near-perfect craft of The People v. O.J. Simpson. It begins with the phrase, “Are you watching …?” followed by 20 minutes of someone breathlessly describing performances or turns of phrase without any specific details because, of course, they don’t want to spoil anything.
It started simply, as a virus would, and spread quickly. Historically we might remember such firsts as Typhoid Mary, the baby in the Lewis house during the Broad Street Pump cholera outbreak or whoever returned from the Rio Olympics with that antibiotic-resistant superbacterium. In my case it was the UnREAL screener, thrown carelessly on the front steps, discovered when I arrived home after picking up the kids from school. “The first season was great,” I thought. “I’ll get into this tonight.”
The kids strolled by it without a glance, not knowing what it would take from them, not knowing that their family would crumble like a … oh, f— me, I have to watch House of Cards.
Two weeks in, I was still enjoying catching up on all the shows I missed, though I had begun canceling meetings and not seeing friends. I’ve missed one school function — a dance, maybe? The kids are young enough that they won’t remember my not being there. My wife loved watching Broad City with me, but she doesn’t like superhero stories so she started going to bed early while I watched Daredevil; Daredevil led seamlessly into Jessica Jones, which led to Jane the Virgin, which led to a few arguments about my not meeting the responsibilities of our partnership.
Three weeks in, my eyes were hurting — the strain of too much time in front of the TV on too few hours of sleep. I attempted to make an appointment with my doctor, but she recurred on The Big Bang Theory in season one before opening her own practice. She has Emmy voting rights and has stopped taking appointments until after nominations are done. I had put the garbage cans out, but I assumed that the driver on our route needed to catch up on Silicon Valley because there was trash piled up on the block as far as could be seen. I called the Streets and Sanitation Department — no answer, even during business hours … oh, f— me, I have to watch Better Call Saul.
That brings us to now, four weeks in. There are just north of 400 narrative television shows on networks, cable and streaming, so I’ve still got some time in front of me. I’ve made it through The Americans, Game of Thrones and The Leftovers in the last few days. Food is scarce, and when I do manage to eat, it is consumed without joy.
I haven’t heard the sounds of helicopters for a few days. The only noises that disrupt the night are those of backup generators outside the houses of those who were lucky enough to get one.
I remember Annie saying something about how disappointed she was in me. I reminded her of the importance of my involvement in the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. “It’s a science!” I screamed, but the door was already closed. She had a few cans of gas, so I know she made it safely out of town. I’d like to think the kids waved to me as they left, but they aren’t yet taller than the stacks of DVD boxes by the door. I saw the car pull away, and with it my bloodline … oh, f—.
Timothy Simons plays Jonah Ryan on HBO’s Veep. He’ll next appear in Stephen Gaghan’s Gold.
This story first appeared in the July 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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