TV Time

When Darby Doppler saw that his favorite comedian had a new vehicle premiering in the fall, he knew he would be writing a fan letter. He’d watched the old Grady Myers show from the second season, before it really got popular, and he felt a connection. But this new lineup seemed so far off Darby wanted to quit living his days. The last Grady Myers show had such a good run. Nine Seasons! And that loveable old show gave him a feeling of nostalgia that he wished he better shared with his wife, since he was a fan before he knew her. They watched reruns together, because she knew how he loved it, and she would always agree when he commented, “This show is so well written.” So the new Grady Myers show was too much to hope for. When he saw the preview, it was one of the moments in his life that seemed unreal. Like the time when he was a boy, outside during the eclipse that no one had told him about. And the neighbor came over and told him to play inside. “Go on now,” he said. “You go play inside.” Darby had never known darkness in the middle of the day. Or for the blinding sun to beckon so convincingly. So it was like that, only he knew it was coming now. He knew the date and time to watch, the network made sure of that.

Darby and Susan would watch from the first episode, become fans together, and it would be something they shared. Like their alma mater, their favorite restaurant, their voting habits, and their parish: First Church of Holy Christ. And Darby asked Susan, “Do you think it’s going to be really good?” Or, “I think this new show will be even better than his last, don’t you?”

When the first Sunday finally rolled around, Darby was nonchalant. He was struck with the realization that he had probably seen all the best jokes in the preview, which continued to air and to tantalize him. And so if the show really wasn’t that good, as hard as it would be to admit to himself, he would feel like he had wasted his time, and all his hopefulness would be dashed. Susan brought up Grady Myers a few times at dinner and the last time, Darby snapped at her. He was anxious and beside himself. He resented being reminded of the new Grady Myers show, when it was obvious tonight was the night. So he excused himself after dinner, and spent time alone in their dark bedroom, long enough that he supposed Susan wondered if something was really wrong, or if he might just mope around and miss the premiere. But at twenty to eight, Darby came back downstairs and went into the kitchen, where he took out the cast iron pot, covered the bottom with a layer of cooking oil, and proceeded to make popcorn on the stovetop. No one really did this anymore, and when Susan heard the sound of popping, she came over to him, held his forearm, and said, “I love that you made popcorn.”

The theme music wasn’t as catchy as Grady Myers’s first show, but Darby kind of liked it, and he had a feeling he would surprise himself by humming it later. By the first commercial break, it was clear they’d found a winner. Any premiere is going to be slow going at first, with the situation and the characters being introduced. But the jokes were well-timed, the cast was right for their roles, and here was Darby, so many years later, saying it again, “This show is really well written.”

When it was over, Darby apologized to Susan, explaining what he had been feeling, and she said she had known it was something like that, though she was afraid it might be something more serious, and since the late-night shows didn’t really hold their interest, they activated the DVR and watched again. Then, because the evening seemed complete and the summer seemed to have finally ended, Susan led her husband upstairs with a promise of sex. And while there was nothing unusual or fancy about this particular coupling, when Darby came he had the sensation of being kicked, such a mix of pleasure pain and surprise, that he rolled over and held himself.

“Are you OK?” Susan asked.

“I think I want to do it again,” he said.


“Yes, please,” he said. “Can we do it again?”

At work on Monday, Darby asked anyone he ran into if they’d watched, and he found himself disappointed that no one else shared his passion. So he talked about how good it was, and maybe he was overselling, but if they weren’t watching, they were really missing out. So he made his fellow workers promise to watch, though he got the feeling they were just humoring him, even the people who worked under him, and he felt it was kind of disrespectful.

And so it went for weeks. He and Susan had found this new thing. He would make popcorn and they would watch and watch again, and though she didn’t after that first time, Darby expected to be led up to their bedroom. And then after six or seven shows, Susan didn’t want to watch the episode again after she’d seen it, not that same night, and not even later in the week, not even when there was nothing else on. So Darby would watch alone, and this diminished the pleasure for him, but he still enjoyed his new favorite show, though he resented that Susan made him feel like he was choosing between Grady Myers and her.

And weeks were measured in anticipation of Sunday night, and weeks became months. There were a couple of people at work who had started watching, and Darby felt he had given them something. They would talk about the show together on Mondays, and though these conversations were short, Darby felt he was connecting to his coworkers in ways he never had. Grady Myers addressed the human condition, after all. There were conflicts with his daughter, and with his wife, and these were things anyone could relate to.

The season finale was bittersweet. There was a lot of build-up, with the finale the resolution to a two-part episode with not one, but two A-list celebrities making appearances—so it was maybe the best show Darby had ever seen. Of course, there would be no new Grady Myers for a while, and Susan had grown tired of him always wanting to watch the recorded episodes. So he took up reading. He started playing golf again. Every Sunday he would call his mother and his sister on the phone. And when summer finally ended, and when the previews for the second season of the new Grady Myers show had started to air, he felt older. He had been away from Grady for a little while, and the theme song and Grady’s delivery had lost some luster. He didn’t want to believe it, but he knew it was true. He was becoming someone with less patience for a show like that, and the idea of spending every Sunday night in front of the TV made him feel tired.

But the second season was as good as the first, and in some ways even better. The minor characters had become more developed and Grady’s sidekick had become a real scene-stealer. If the sidekick kept it up for another season or two he could land his own spin-off. And Susan was happy for him, and she enjoyed the show too—she wasn’t just humoring him. And she learned to pop popcorn on the stovetop. And not every Sunday, but often enough, she led him up to their bedroom out of some need of her own. And he was in love with this. With their life together, their habits, and their shared love of the new Grady Myers show. And when the second season ended with an episode that wasn’t the best show he’d ever seen, but certainly a very very very well-written and well-performed show; he wasn’t about to let happen what had happened the summer before. He was armed with two seasons on the DVR, and he didn’t want to lose touch. He wanted to feel connected all summer long, so that when the third season started, it would be like Grady Myers hadn’t left at all.

John Minichillo’s novel, The Snow Whale, was an Independent Publishers Book Awards regional gold medalist for the West-Pacific and an Orion Book Prize notable. His short fiction has appeared widely and he is currently a columnist for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He teaches in Tennessee and lives in Nashville.