New Castle News

July 17, 2013

The Couch Potato: Time spent with parents made ‘Must-See TV’ even more special

The Couch Potato
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — If I’m being honest, I’d have to say that my love of expertly done television comedy was passed down from my mom.

Don’t get me wrong, she is not the funny one in our family, as my dad proudly holds that distinction. But when it came to picking out the comedy classics, my mom always had a nose for such work.

When the Couch Potato was in his spud years, I was able to talk my mom into letting me watch “Cheers” with her on Thursday nights. Sure, I was only about 8 years old and Sam Malone was a womanizing recovering alcoholic, but it was all in good fun. I quickly fell in love with Norm, Cliff, Frasier, Carla, Rebecca (I never liked the Diane episodes) and, of course, Woody from Hanover, Ind., which was (fictionally) Larry Bird’s rival hometown when growing up in French Lick.

Our Thursday night routine consisted of getting my younger sister into bed before 9 p.m. and then settling in for the show. This would last about five minutes until my sister heard the famous theme music, “Everybody Knows Your Name,” and would come running out to perform a ballerina dance to the song. It always ended in the same iconic pose with her on one knee and her arms arched above her head. She’d quickly scurry back to bed once finished and my mom and I would laugh the next half hour away.

Since my dad was usually away working at this time, it was just me and my mom following the weekly exploits of a Boston bar’s regulars. Oddly enough, my mom didn’t watch any other shows, so it was our time to watch together. 

When “Cheers” ended its 11-year run in the spring of 1993, my mom and I weren’t quite sure where we’d turn. Naturally, her instincts (and those of NBC) kicked in and by the following television season, we were engrossed in a little sitcom called “Seinfeld.”

Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer kept us entertained for the next five seasons, still on Thursday nights at 9, with the only difference being that Seinfeld’s bass guitar, jazz fusion intro wasn’t quite as easy for my sister to dance to. She may have been too old for that anyway by 1993, but I honestly can’t remember.

By the time “Friends” was passed the torch from “Seinfeld,” I was in high school and then college and my television time with mom was dwindling. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t watch, just not with her anymore. I am famous (or infamous) with my college friends for spending my 21st birthday watching one of the final episodes of “Friends” and not making it out to the bar.

When college ended, there weren’t a ton of job opportunities available, so I did what most recent graduates do and moved back home with mom and dad. It was 2005 and I was working a low-paying, low-respect job while sleeping in a room filled with posters of Ken Griffey Jr. and Michael Jordan that had never made it down from the Couch Potato’s boyhood days.

I was a little down on my luck and feeling more than a little bit depressed.

That is when something small, yet remarkable began to take place. I caught wind of a new NBC show premiering in the spring for a trial, six-episode run. NBC was doing its marketing in a new way by launching the promotion of the series online and on TV. I figured from all of the video clips and hype that I should check out “The Office,” starring Steve Carrell as Michael Scott.

I watched the first episode and loved the “mockumentary” feel that paralleled one of my other new favorites, “Arrested Development.” I felt that “The Office” had a great chance to be the next big Thursday night at 9 o’clock NBC show based on those first few episodes.

I kept begging my mom to watch with me, but she was hesitant. She was kind of stuck with “The King of Queens” as her new show and, of course, “Seinfeld” reruns every night at 7. I finally convinced my dad to watch some TIVO recorded episodes of “The Office” and he liked what he saw.

In the fall of 2005, I was still living at home and “The Office” barely got picked up for a second season. I think my mom had heard enough of my dad and I laughing without her and she begrudgingly watched the first episode of the season. By week three, she was hooked, as was a growing audience that would make “The Office” one of NBC’s most successful sitcoms of the 2000’s.

As “The Office” progressed, so did my life. I got married, moved out of my parents’ house, finally found a job and welcomed two little French Fries into the Couch Potato world. All along, I would stop over at my parents’ house, usually on the weekend, to catch a recorded episode of “The Office” with them. It was our last show.

In the spring, “The Office” aired its final episode. I hadn’t really watched the final two seasons since Steve Carrell had left the show. To me, it wasn’t really “The Office” without him and my parents felt the same way. I tuned into the final episode and watched it with my wife, knowing that my parents were doing the same at their house. Steve Carrell made a quiet guest appearance and overall it was a nice way to end the sitcom.

In many ways, it was the end for more than just the characters on the show.

For me, it was the end of an era.