Literally days after the accident happened, the Tivo recorder I won from their website came in the mail. Out of a lack of anything better to occupy my suddenly ample free time, I hooked it up in the basement and promptly became addicted to it.
For those uninitiated in the cult of Tivo, it primarily functions as a glorified VCR, with better picture quality and automatic programming. First, You hook it up to a phone line, and it calls and gets the cable listings for your area. Next, you tell it what you like. Then, it records your favorite shows every single time they air. My original list consisted of MST3K, Seinfeld, the Simpsons, and Jeopardy! (Which got taken off pretty quickly because it’s on twice a day and you can only watch so much Jeopardy! before it starts to get old. Well, maybe not old, but annoying.).
At any rate, before the advent of the Tivo machine, I watched very little television. If I remembered, I might tune in to South Park or the Real World, but that was about it. Sitting in the basement half-drunk and watching sitcoms for about two weeks straight opened my eyes to something I never really noticed before: that death is a huge element in sitcom comedy, and in addition to the frequent references that pop up in an average thirty minutes, almost every single sitcom has a token ‘death’ episode. For some reason, I just happened to catch every single one of these over the course of that two week period. They didn’t have nearly as much of an effect on me as I would have thought, though. The sitcom atmosphere seemed to pretty well kept me from getting too upset.
After picking up the bad habit of watching all this TV, I started looking for something to occupy myself with while I did it. I had always wanted to try building a mosaic of something out of legos, but had never tried it because of the cost and the overt dorkiness such an endeavor would involve. I ended up spending about $120.00 to build my mosaic, using roughly five tubs of legos that each contained 1200 pieces.
One of the shows that I ended up adding to my ‘favorites’ list after removing Jeopardy! was Newsradio, a sitcom starring Dave Foley of Kids in the Hall fame, which somehow ended up with a daytime slot on A&E. I had never really seen the show before, and I only added it based on the merit of Dave Foley. Now, having around two months-worth of episodes under my belt, I can heartily recommend it as ‘pretty fucking good.’
The reason I bring this show up is that it also starred Phil Hartman, and the first month or so I was watching, I was totally oblivious to the fact that Hartman died somewhere during the run of the show. It was the token ‘death’ episode of this sitcom that really got to me, because not only were the characters on-screen mourning the loss of a friend, but so were the actors.
The episode aired on a day in late January that I had completely off, and everyone else in the house was at work. I had been working on the lego mosaic as I watched it, and so it took awhile for it to dawn on me that this wasn’t a gimmicky plot device. As the last shot of Phil Hartman’s empty chair faded to black, I sat alone in the basement where my brother and I would often watch DVDs together, and I broke down again, for the first time in what had been a relatively bearable few weeks.