I rarely watch TV, really only for sports or when I'm folding laundry. I don't have, have never had, will never have cable TV. I have WAY too little self-control for that one. And for now, anyway, my husband and I own a video store, so we have plenty of good stuff to watch at our finger tips.
Despite my self-imposed boycott of cable, I have watched a few TV series on DVD. Somehow this feels different than watching actual TV, maybe because I don't have cable so I never have had the chance to watch any of these better series while they were being aired. Any time I watch TV it is network crap.
I don't know what I'd do if I was watching these series on an episode-per-week basis; part of the experience of enjoying these series on DVD is that my husband and I get totally cracked-out on them, watching multiple episodes in a row. If TV is a drug, then a TV series on DVD is a drug with a built-in dealer and ATM card. (Not sure what that makes us, the video store that hands out this drug with accessories . . .)
In any event, the shows I've enjoyed so far are: The Sopranos (the classic HBO drama, just great), Dae Jang Geum (awesome Korean historical drama), and Spaced (adorable and creative two season British series with and by Simon Pegg). And the John Adams mini-series, though that doesn't entirely count.
Now we are watching Six Feet Under, about a family of undertakers. It is great, getting greater as we become more involved with the developing characters. One fabulous thing about the show is that each episode starts with the death of a person who is, usually, later brought into the family mortuary. What is fabulous about death? Well, nothing in and of itself. But I love the reliability of the plot device, the way it connects me to the "client" whose death and service become a backdrop for, or participant in, that episode's plot. And I love that I am not spending each episode stressed-out, waiting for someone to die. The deaths are rarely portrayed in a gory or suspenseful way, even when the death itself is violent.
When you think about it, we media consumers see such misrepresentative deaths. There is plenty of opportunity on TV or in the movies to see someone get shot, or blown up, or otherwise violently killed. Less common is the portrayal of the day in and day out of more ordinary deaths - the elderly man waking up next to his wife who has died in her sleep, the terminally ill patient passing away calmly in his hospital bed. But, just as most of us are born without drama and heroics (aside from the stunning drama of a healthy live birth, which is nothing short of miraculous), most of us will die in these fairly unexceptional ways.
Not surprisingly, I find myself thinking about my own work quite a lot as I follow the lives of these characters who also are working with their clients around death.
It is an incredible honor to be invited into this most intimate experience - death in particular, but also family and money - and I am often astounded by the trust that people place in me. I know I deserve this trust, that I am kind and will treat my clients and their families with care and respect. But I also know that many humans have a strong and understandable self-defensive impulse in times of pain and loss. The impulse that causes people to lash out, be hurtful, be suspicious and, in general, behave unpredictably.
When I see people rise above these impulses - and I do see this, every day - I am reminded of the enormity of effort it takes to be kind and thoughtful in times of pain, to not give in to that desire to punish anyone else who is not suffering. Kudos to all of you.