Can I tell you a secret? For me, one of the saddest moments of 2015 was when I finally finished watching every episode of Mad Men.
There. I SAID IT. Sure, there have been harder, more stressful and actually-serious events to contend with as well, but I’d be lying to everyone if I said that coming to the end of those seven seasons wasn’t tough. The second the final set of credits began to roll, I wanted to roll, too. INTO A BALL OF DENIAL.
Usually, when the halfway point passes on a show, I can’t help but feel glum. I think back to the past few weeks spent curled up in the living room, engrossed, and I wonder what the hell I even did with my evenings before this programme. And when it actually comes to an end, I’m a wreck. Finishing a good TV show is like finishing a good book – you’re temporarily invited into another world, which is usually quite a bit more exciting than the one you inhabit, and then all of a sudden, BAM. It’s over. You have to switch the TV off and put your mug in the dishwasher and go to bed and all of a sudden you realise you’re not a high-flyer living in New York, you’re an alright-er living in Birmingham and you have a toothache. Oh.
When Breaking Bad came to a close, a Facebook contact posted to say he genuinely felt like a good friend had just passed away. Dramatic? Yes, but I got the gist of what he meant and was privately SO glad that it isn’t just me who goes through these post-show withdrawals. For days after a programme finishes I feel listless, a bit like the Beast when Belle leaves and he just sits there for ages and lets Gaston shoot him in the back. American television shows are my Belle, I guess. I struggle to cope without their presence in my life. Why bother protecting the West Wing anymore? I don’t even care what happens to sodding Lumiere and the talking wardrobe. What is my life’s purpose now Don Draper and co. are no longer around?
That was hyperbolic; of course I have a purpose in life. Life is great. But most people’s days can be repetitive and mundane in a way that TV isn’t. My favourite characters don’t go to Tesco on a Sunday morning. They don’t have the time to clean their respective bathrooms. They don’t forget to make their sandwiches on a Tuesday and end up eating a bag of soggy prawn cocktail crisps for lunch. They’re off having fun, fighting crime, excelling at everything, and I wish I could join them.
If your imagination is anything like mine (unaltered since the age of six when I decided Peter Pan was ABSOLUTELY going to come and take me to Neverland) you’ll know how easy it is to get sucked into a show and start to ignore the tiny voice in the back of your head that reminds you of reality. By the time I was truly engrossed in True Blood, halfway through season one, I had already bought a t-shirt from the official HBO website, was googling “Are vampires real?” and had found it quite interesting that a girl on Instagram had purchased her own plastic fangs for poorly-lit selfies. WTF is wrong with me? I could now tell you all about Highgate Cemetery and its vampire-related folklore history. I mean it. I would probably play Bela Lugosi’s Dead in the background, too, just for effect.
Do you remember that quote from Boyhood, when Mason asks his dad if elves exist and he says: “What makes you think that elves are any more magical than something like… like a whale? What if I told you a story about how underneath the ocean, there was this giant sea mammal that used sonar and sang songs and it was so big that its heart was the size of a car and you could crawl through the arteries? I mean, you’d think that was pretty magical, right?” I got a bit tearful at this part. I could understand his dad’s point entirely – it sounded like something my mum would say – yet there was a little part of my heart that burned when Mason listened but still said: “But, like… right this second, there’s no elves in the world, right?” NO, MASON. NO ELVES. NO VAMPIRES! FAWKES THE PHOENIX ISN’T REAL! THE AVENGERS WON’T SAVE US! THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS UNICORNS!
Why are we so bothered about these sorts of things? A unicorn is essentially a white horse with a little spike sticking out of its head. A whale is pretty magical, if you think about it. A small vampire population probably wouldn’t be the best thing for us, nor would living through a Game of Thrones scenario or being married to Don Draper. But when life gets scary, there’s something to be said for closing the curtains and picking up from where you left off with a show that’s so far removed from your daily experiences that you forget about terror threat levels and all the work you have to do and the fact you haven’t vacuumed for three months. And I guess for us to feel that kind of magic in the way we do means these programmes are doing their jobs. So is it really such a surprise that we pine for them when they’re over?