You can find out a lot about a person based on the kind of TV they watch. For instance, I watch Drag Race because I’m gay and have an attention deficit disorder. Recently, though, I started watching British gardening shows.
I watch gardening shows because my boyfriend watches gardening shows. He’s actually somewhat of an enthusiast. Between the two of us, we have three going right now—Big Dreams, Small Spaces; Gardeners’ World; and Garden Rescue. The first two are hosted by this fellow named Monty Don, who is exactly the kind of person you would imagine as the host of a British gardening show. He wears Crocs, carries a wooden stick as a staff, and owns two magnificent-looking dogs with stupid names. While the Monty shows are generally educational, Garden Rescue is more of a guilty pleasure, borne of frustrated queer fascination. It has more of a competitive, HGTV vibe, and it features a woman named Charlie who competes on projects with a pair of androgynously rugged brothers who work together as landscape designers and share a personal style that I think I would find terribly hot if I were a lesbian.
Up until this point, I’ve responded to the supposed golden age of television with a strategy of attrition. While everyone watches quote-unquote “good content”—critically acclaimed, career-cementing work like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Orange Is the New Black, Black Mirror, Big Little Lies… basically anything with an informed and engaged fanbase, including most movies—I’ve been resolute in my refusal. It started as a combination of inattentiveness and immaturity, but over time, it’s morphed into intentional avoidance in the form of over-reliance on bottom-feeder canned content.
I’ve always liked to imagine myself as relatively well-rounded, but then I started dating someone who speaks three languages and goes to ballet class in the middle of the day on his weekends. Yet, ever the complex adult human being, my boyfriend has inspiringly taken to serialized Housewives drama just as comfortably as he has to ballet and award-bait. A lot of the garbage we’re currently watching was his idea, and I’m eternally grateful for it. On the other hand, however, if left to my own devices I would probably watch nothing but Chopped reruns. Like many other over-educated and prematurely-jaded twenty-somethings, I am incredibly reticent to broadening my horizons, despite being continually pleasantly surprised when I do so.
Variety is said to be the spice of life—thus, exposure to new stuff is scary but, more often than not, rewarding. I picked up Drag Race from a guy I went out with in undergrad, and from there, my world was never the same. My expansion into the world of reality TV was nothing short of life changing; if there’s anything that gays love, it’s manufactured drama enhanced by ridiculous makeup. Hence, Drag Race led to the Kardashians, the Real Housewives, and later, Shahs of Sunset, which is the absolute peak of televised entertainment.
I like to think that my newfound interest in curated and educational gardening shows has the propensity to be symptomatic of something bigger.
I like to think that my newfound interest in curated and educational gardening shows has the propensity to be symptomatic of something bigger. It’s a bit of a fantasy, acting as both motivator and balm for those sort of semi-professional millennial-type moments that keep happening more and more often, where you’re made to be instantly conscious of your own vast inexperience—for instance, writing a cover letter, or buying produce, or any time I’m asked a direct question.
At the moment I’m sort of adult-adjacent. But now that I’m actually learning things from TV, and watching something that is noticeably bereft of wine-throwing, I think I’m in the process of leveling up as a person. Hopefully this has the potential to put me over the edge and send me down the kind of rabbit hole that leads to things like answering emails or learning to play an instrument.
There’s no real excuse to actively limit oneself from enjoying more complex or dramatic television, but comfort zones are so-called for a reason. It’s scary to try new things, even if they come with everyone else’s stamp of approval. This, however, feels like the rumblings of something bigger; I would never be consuming this kind of content if it wasn’t so completely up my boyfriend’s alley. That’s what’s nice about a partnership—it forces you out of your boxes.