My husband and I have shared some of the most precious moments of our marriage with mobsters, terrorists, drug dealers, undertakers, Cylons, alcoholic firefighters, a monster made of smoke, and Ryan Seacrest. You guessed it: Television. Romantic? You bet. The rekindle-the-spark experts might say “don’t ‘just’ watch TV,” but I say – perhaps especially for pooped, penurious parents of young kids – tube, couch: thou are, honestly, pretty much as good as it gets.
My friend Zoe, a Brooklyn mother of two, agrees. “Eric had a maudlin moment last night and said there was nothing he’d rather do than drink two scotches, order Ethiopian and watch Project Runway with me,” she says. “It made me tear up.” I’m not saying we’ve sworn off restaurants, fancy clothes, or fresh air, but still: some of the best date nights are appointment television. Here’s why:
TV is better than the movies
I still remember the 1994 Entertainment Weekly cover story that made that same case (and that was before The Wire). This is even more important when a babysitter hangs in the balance. “TV is in a golden age, perhaps better than it’s ever been, with an array of brilliant options – whereas movies are mostly crappy,” says my friend Marjorie, a mother of two girls. “Yes, a movie gets you out of the house, but if you’re disappointed and you’ve spent a fortune to be disappointed, how does that make a better date than watching something thrilling at home?”
I got my husband into Buffy back in the day; now I’m catching him up on the awesome new Doctor Who. Really, it’s a shared at-home hobby: I love watching him get sucked in, and I love the reasons he loves it, too. (Just last night, he was like, “It’s really thrilling, the way the universe is always saved by people being brave and honest and connected to each other.”) Reader, it reminds me why I married him (even though the guy who plays the Doctor is my boyfriend).
It keeps on giving
We email videos or text choice bits from the night before, such as – well, they’re mostly from Rescue Me and thus unprintable.
You can talk
– during Modern Family, God forbid. And when you hit pause, or zip through the ads, you can rehash, repeat, relate – about matters of epic musical, medical, or political (if fictional) importance, not about chores, bills, and children.
It’s unchallenging (when you need it to be)
“Parenting is exhausting and all-consuming. TV is escapist, and it gives us time every day to do something together,” says Denise McGovern, mother of a three-year-old in Dallas. It doesn’t have to be a fine dinner, handmade cocktails and an arthouse film. Sometimes it’s just Sookie Stackhouse pining over Bill that makes the night complete.”
You can both wear boxers
Sometimes it’s fun to get dressed-dressed; sometimes an elastic waistband is just the thing (especially when everyone on the screen is sausaged into vintage 60s undergarments.)
It helps save for college
“My wife, an ex-dancer with great legs, loves So You Think You Can Dance. After the auditions, the quality is on par with live performance. I figure if two tickets, parking, and a sitter would cost me at least $100, each season saves us $1500,” says David Cyrelson, a father of two in Highmount, NY. “A financial boost, conversation, and a happy wife. Yes, TV is good for my marriage.”
You can also do it apart
My husband actually – gasp – doesn’t watch Mad Men, and I do not share his thing for every Law and Order, ever. And that’s okay, if not healthy. Experts say, of course, that having individual hobbies and inner lives is as important as the things – like the cable bill – that you share.