Stage One: The Introduction—You’ve been hearing from friends and TiVo alike for months that you and this show would be a great match. You share the same interests; your lives take place in the same city; and you’re both pretty aggressive about trying to get other people to use the same products you do. You cycle through the usual round of excuses first—I’m trying to focus on my career; I’m still not over the traumatic end of my relationship with Arrested Development; I’ve discovered that spending time with actual human beings is more rewarding than becoming emotionally invested in fake ones—but after a few weeks you’ll inevitably cave. After all, there’s no harm in just checking out a few episodes to see what all the fuss is about. It’s not like this has to turn into a major commitment or anything.
Stage Two: Falling In Love—It’s only been a few weeks, but you can already tell that you and this show were made for each other, and not just because you fall into the correct age and gender demographics of its target audience. The plotlines are riveting; the jokes are always on target; and the characters are just like those real people you used to enjoy hanging out with all the time–you know, before this show came along. You begin the gradual process of completely replacing your everyday speech with quotes from the show as you realize the stuff the writers come up with is more brilliant and meaningful than anything you could ever think of on your own, and when it gets renewed for another season, you feel as though, without your support, that never would have happened. Now if only those Emmy judges would learn to recognize the genius behind its fart humor…
Stage Three: Complacency–Ok, so the show might not excite or dazzle you as much as it used to. And that Bob Saget cameo was totally tacked on. But hey, we’re still talking about a very stable, dependable series here. And you know what? Sometimes it’s nice not to have to deal with bracing plot twists or intriguing new characters that used to be the only things bringing a little excitement into your otherwise mundane life every week. Sometimes it’s nice just to relax and see what happens when the dad’s boss comes over for dinner on the same night his son is working on some wacky science experiment and his wife is too busy to clean the house. And it’s always nice to have something to do every Wednesday night at 8:30.
Stage Four: Bitterness–At this point, you can’t even remember the last time you watched this show in hopes of actually enjoying it and now do so only out of a combination of habit and apathy. The characters have become as shallow and one-dimensional as your friends and coworkers, making it difficult to use the show as an escape, and you swear they’ve gone back to that stupid boss-comes-over-for-dinner-and-chaos-ensues plot at least seven times by now. Your love for the show begins turning into seething resentment, as you start to feel like you’re the only person putting any effort into this relationship anymore. You’re still working to adjust your schedule to make sure you’re available whenever a new episode comes on, but all you get in return is cheap, lazy fart jokes.
Stage Five: Break up–All the warning signs were there— the overreliance on celebrity guest appearances, the addition of a new young character who exists only to look cute and mispronounce words, that episode where one of the main characters water-skied over a shark—but you kept holding out in hopes that, somehow, the show would return to its former glory or the network would at least put it out of its misery. Then they air an episode where that Bob Saget cameo turns into a series regular, and you know your only option is to stop watching. It’s pretty rough at first. You spend your days alone with comfort food and seasons 1-3 on DVD, and every Wednesday at 8:30 you flip idly through the channels, angry and depressed that none of these shows can hold a candle to what your beloved once was. However, you find that if you just persevere through those first few weeks, things get easier, and eventually, you might even be ready to start dating again (other TV shows, not people. Let’s be realistic here). You have heard great things about that hip new cop drama over at ABC, and there wouldn’t be any harm in just checking out a few episodes to see what all the fuss is about. It’s not like this has to turn into a major commitment or anything.
Edward Small has interned at The Onion and is a contributor to CollegeHumor.