For some it might be symbolic of an overlarge ego to say I am the best at feelings, but for me it is only an accurate depiction of the Truth. I’d like to share my secret with the world; I’d like everyone to find contentment as I did. My friends, the key to unending satisfaction is sitcoms.
The answer to a lifetime of contentment is not just any daytime sitcom with fat husband and beautiful wife; there are requirements that your shows must meet. Firstly, you’ll need four of them: two you will watch in their entirety every year, and two you will revisit for a biannual break.
Though the time in which you view them will vary, the criteria for each show is the same. Each must have:
- A large cast of characters which are engaging to different facets of your personality. Is there a touch of a Romantic in you, then the wholesome love between Niles and Daphne from Frasier may sate your unmet thirst for affection. Are you personally and socially ambitious to the point of obsession, then Liz Lemon from 30 Rock could be your new, safe outlet to engage with those emotions. Think of yourself as a queen bee and each character one of your workers: you are the master of the hivemind, and each bee is a little piece of you. Without your bees you are nothing.
- Romantic subplots: even if you find romance to be distasteful you must engage with it on a vicarious level. Most people need some degree of romantic affection in their life which is why speed dating and drug-alcohol parties exist. But real affection is unnecessary; you will move beyond it by letting that part of your life happen behind a screen.
- A running time that will take you more than a week to complete; this can be from long seasons, long episodes, anything that makes your new lives mark a significant time investment.
- Instances of sadness or character-specific low points; you need the entire spectrum of emotion to master all feelings. Imagine yourself as Voltron: Defender of the Universe, and each of your emotions are the different limbs of Voltron. You need every emotion fulfilled to be a complete person, you need every piece to be a fully realized giant space robot.
- A satisfying ending that marks development for most of the major characters in the series. The ending of one of your shows is an event like Tom Sawyer watching his own funeral. You experience an ending withouting having to be over yourself. The series finale marks your vicarious demise, and it must show a rich life before it so your characters who are all dying in your stead must be complete people as they meet their end. How I Met Your Mother is the antithesis of conclusory satisfaction because no characters grow, and nothing in the ending provides you with the surrogate relief you crave. Your death must be worth watching.
If you find 4 shows that meet these criteria, then you are ready for the next step; it is the most important and the most difficult. In each of these tv shows, surrender your life. These stories are your surrogate lives, your sole sources of feeling anything at all. When your characters love, you love; when they cry, you cry; when they grow, you may feel as though you have accomplished something. Your life is in the screen. Can you feel the worry seeping out of you like hangover sweat? The stress of being responsible for your happiness, of controlling your rage, of hiding your sadness is no more. You are free.
In this way I have surrendered control of my feelings to the stories I love. Each year I live through The Office and Parks and Recreation, and every other year I watch Cheers and Frasier. I have found inner peace by surrendering myself to Steve Carell, Amy Poehler, Ted Danson, Kelsey Grammer, and the casts that orbit them. No longer am I henpecked by internal questions like “Why am I still single” because Jim and Pam found each other. Anxiety over my career path is a memory because Tom Haverford was ambitious in my stead. And I never need to feel smug again because Frasier was insufferable so I wouldn’t have to be. I am a finished person composed of dozens of different characters who live my life for me.
Though television may save you, it may also waylay you and do you harm. The roles your shows must meet are not options, and any that do not meet every requirement will promise you peace and deliver you pain. Imagine for a moment that you have given yourself to How I Met Your Mother, the falsest of television, the modern Friends. In the characters you expect your surrogate emotions to be delivered, but they never come. The 5 friends, each their own incomplete world, engage in the same unrewarding stories for 208 episodes: Ted whines his way through a tearful horde of women without personalities, Lily is angry and loves Marshall, Marshall is weak-willed and loves Lily, Robin is loud, and Barney is Charlie Sheen. 208 episodes is a significant amount of time to devote to something that starts and ends with the characters being the same people as they were 9 years before. There is no emotional growth for them so there can be no emotional catharsis for you. How I Met Your Mother and shows of equal caliber are a purgatory to trap you from growth, to keep you from peace, they are a waste of your life.
That is all I have for you. The world is yours to ignore now. Do not make the mistake of trying to live every part of your life. Let other people do some of the work for you. Television can be as many vicarious lives as you need to find contentment. There is peace is surrender, and there is opportunity in sitcoms. Open yourself to a cast of characters who may become one with you, and live a surrogate life because finding contentment in your real one is too hard.