Winter before Christmas is delightful. Picturesque snowfalls and brisk temperatures enhance the holidays and traditions of the season. But come January most of us have had enough. Unfortunately, winter never gets that memo, and lingers like an unwanted houseguest for months.
Television becomes a more desirable (or at least, more attainable) entertainment option on cold winter nights. Maybe that’s why I’ve always felt that classic TV viewing, which is hardly a seasonal pastime, somehow feels more satisfying when it’s cold outside.
Of course, no advance preparation is necessary for spending a few hours with the great programs of the past – just pop in a DVD or find a few vintage shows on your streaming service of choice, or on nostalgia networks like MeTV and Cozi, and you’re good to go. But with a little extra effort you can turn this activity into a memorable evening perfect for sharing with family and friends, or even when you’re by yourself.
As someone who spends more time in TV land than the average citizen, I’ve developed a few viewing habits that always accentuate the occasion, which I now humbly share for your consideration.
Let’s start with room preparation. Some prefer to watch TV in the dark, as a way to create a more theatrical experience and to help center everyone’s focus on the program. There is something to be said for this, but watching television is not the same as watching movies, and most of us are more accustomed to normal room lighting. My preference is to split the difference – low light, perhaps from one lamp not too close to the screen, so the room is somewhat darkened but still bright enough that you won’t bang your shin on a coffee table en route to the bathroom.
I like to keep the temperature on the cool side, as this creates an appropriate environment for the incorporation of pillows, quilts and blankets, the ultimate comfort providers for comfort TV viewing. Two options here: drape them over the couch, or toss them into a haphazard pile on the floor in front of the screen. If you grew up with the shows you are watching, that’s the vantage point from where you probably saw them for the first time.
Pajamas are the obvious choice of attire, even if your evening is a communal occasion. Tell those you invite to come prepared. There’s nothing wrong with a slumber party even at your age.
Food and drink are also necessary, and there are no restrictions on your menu options save one – nothing that is served should in any way be considered healthy. Pizza delivery is never a bad idea, served with anything from wine to soft drinks. If snacks are more appropriate there’s chips, popcorn (try a caramel/cheddar mix) or sugar-coated cereal served in bowls on (what else?) TV trays. If you dwell in one of those regions where January isn’t fooling around when it comes to frozen conditions, another option is hot cocoa paired with a bakery item like spice cake.
And now, with everything else in place, all that is left to determine is what to watch.
Even when a small gathering of classic TV fans get together, it may not be easy to reach a consensus. One solution would be to have everyone bring a DVD with a favorite episode of a favorite show. Or choose a theme –perhaps detective shows or family sitcoms, or television from the 1950s (or 60s, 70s. etc.).
Another suggestion is to recreate a network program lineup from decades past, something I’ve often enjoyed doing (as covered in a previous blog). Or build an evening around guest-starring roles from one actor – for instance, check out John Wayne’s appearances on I Love Lucy, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Dean Martin Show and Maude.
Do you have any rituals or comfort TV viewing preferences? Please share them – we could all use some fresh ideas for getting through what’s left of these long, dark winter nights.