... but in this house, touch `Sopranos' at your own risk

April 27, 2001|By Susan Reimer

This is National TV-Turnoff Week and, while I applaud its goal of getting people to read or enjoy the outdoors or play board games with family members, I must confess that I object to its universal application.

Granted, we ought to pull the plug on those chubby couch potato kids and the junior geniuses who claim they can do homework while watching television. We ought to do that every week of the year.

But once again, innocent parties are caught in a well-intended reform movement that would actually do them more harm than good.

I am thinking here of the parents. Actually, I am thinking of my husband and me.

If it were not for TV, I am not sure we would still be married. (Or be able to offer any evidence that we were.)

My husband and I come together twice a week - for "The Sopranos" on Sunday nights and for "The West Wing" on Wednesday nights.

It is the only time all week that we are in the same room, and if we turned the TV off I fear we might not recognize each other if we passed on the sidewalk.

We don't actually talk during these two hours, but in the days that follow, we do e-mail each other "Sopranos" tidbits or news stories about the peyote-popping producer of "The West Wing."

I call that communication. At least we aren't arguing about whose fault it is that our teen-age children do nothing around the house.

Those who promote TV-Turnoff Week report that Americans waste 40 percent of their leisure time watching television. If I recall my high school math, 40 percent of nothing is nothing.

I don't think folding the laundry in front of the TV would meet the definition of leisure time. In fact, most parents could not describe leisure time, let alone waste 40 percent of it.

Marriage experts preach that couples must preserve their relationship against a hostile world by setting aside some time each week to be together.

For us, it is Sunday night at 9 and again Wednesday night at 9. We tell each other that we are trying twice as hard as most couples to preserve our relationship.

Don't laugh, I tell friends. He could just as easily be watching "SportsCenter" on ESPN and I, the Lifetime Network. We work at our marriage.

Where are our children during this two hours of marital communion? I never know where they are in the moments before these shows begin. But they appear out of nowhere at 9:05 p.m. to ask for help with schoolwork. Often, they simply break into a fight.(Let this be a lesson to any parents seeking any kind of privacy. The kids always know.)

This sacred coming together has had a tremendous impact on my husband and me, as you might imagine.

My husband already emerges from bed long after the rest of the family, and he already wears an old bathrobe as he makes his way to the fridge. But now he has taken to wearing brightly colored sweat suits and heavy gold jewelry around his neck. He looks like Paulie Walnuts, Tony Soprano's pal, but my secret wish is that he looked like Sam Seaborn, Rob Lowe's character in "The West Wing."

Me?

Thanks to Tony's wife, Carmela, I would be much more resigned to the news of his having an affair, if there was big-ticket jewelry in it for me. Like Carmela, I tune out the reality of my husband's job, and I only purchase Buffalo mozzarella.

By Wednesday night, I find Martin Sheen's White House a wonderful escape from the reality of the guy we have in the real one. President Josiah Bartlet is so liberal, he makes my palms sweat with desire.

I agree with everything that comes out of the mouths, in rapid delivery, of Sam, Josh and Toby, and I think Josh and Donna should realize they love each other.

But if they want their marriage to work, they are going to have to set aside some time every week to watch television together.

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