I'll admit it: I get way too involved in TV people's lives. When Michael Scott left The Office, I was like, I'll cry at that. Hell, when Jim and Pam got married in their crappy Niagara falls romp where it seemed like the only people they knew were from their workplace (which they're ambivalent towards) and Pam had bridesmaids we'd never seen before, and she was pregnant and Dwight, I think, punched one of those bridesmaid in the face by accident? I cried. I won't even pretend I didn't cry, and to make it worse, I totally watched it at the university library, standing up at a kiosk, as other non-internet chumps sighed and shifted from foot to foot. That damned Chris Brown song? Oh, brothers and sisters, I bawled.
I mean, I know what my limits are: I never asked for The Rachel, and I don't follow fictional people on Twitter. That's just weird. But I do overanalyze certain TV shows - The Office, Community, Walking Dead, How I Met Your Mother - because, hell, if I'm going to spend half an hour a week with those people for years, I might as well invest. That's more time than I spend with a lot of my friends.
My mom's the same way: she cried when Michael Scott left the office. My sister? Totally teary when Rachel got off the plane to be all, "I love you, Ross!" at the end of Friends. I am fully aware that if and when Ted Mosby finally ever meets his blasted wife, that show had better recognize that there's a mondo emotional payoff in the works. I'm talking about one of those only on TV, Kardashian-style weddings that totally undercuts Ted's profession as either an architect or a professor (why give your leading man one dorky-yet-sexy job when you can give him two?) when they marry Ted off in a gazebo at the edge of space. Let's face it, by the time young master Mosby actually finds, courts, proposes to, has the inevitable sitcom staple of cold feet regarding, and marries the mother, those kids he's talking to in the episode intros are going to be toddlers. (Actually, how awesome would that be: "Psych! I'm not your real dad! Now go get me a beer." Future Ted might be sort of a jerk.)
In the past, people had to set their VCRs and record their shows if they made real-world plans with their real-world friends. Now, with the invention of the PVR and streaming/downloading online, we can tap into any episode from any season pretty much instantaneously. Classic moments can be revisited, Halloween costumes can be impeccably replicated, and lines can be quoted from here until the end of time. If I want to binge on a particular show, I just buy the DVDs and sloth around my apartment for a few days. After a while, it's not a long shot to say that I'm emotionally invested in those character's lives. After a particularly awful few days in the summer, my boyfriend went out and bought Scrubs - like, a lot of Scrubs - which sort of helped distract and ease the pain.
In the time of the instant, constant access, I sometimes need to remember to see my real friends. Usually, when I don't see a friend for a couple weeks, it's a scheduling thing - folks are busy! We wake up at noon! Sometimes, we don't leave our neighbourhoods for months at a time. But nobody's busy 24/7, and sometimes I want a night in to get caught up with favourite characters - ones that might be called friends if they were real. Studies have shown that watching a favourite TV show often triggers the same neurochemical reaction that hanging out with real friends does: relaxation, good dopamine levels, good cheer. I'm definitely not saying that you should go out and replace your Thursday night knitting circle with a shelf full of DVDs. But the next time someone blows me off to catch up on a show, I'm going to give them a knowing smile.