“… In Sickness and In Health, Even When the Batteries Expire in the Clicker …”

Couple watching TV

Want to find a faithful soulmate? Check and see if they watch HGTV.

Hey, I’m not the one saying that. As a Plugged In reviewer, I’m more likely to tell you to throw holy water at your television than, y’know, counsel you to actually watch the thing. But Cassie Murdoch at Mashable insists that there’s really no better way to find a good husband and/or wife than figuring out whether they like to watch Fixer Upper, Love It or List It or any of the myriad easygoing, relatively clean shows on the let’s-shop-for-a-home-and-then-fix-it-up cable channel.

“If you’re capable of getting invested, even if just for 30 minutes, in the mundane choices that strangers on TV make about their homes, think about how good you’d be at caring about someone IRL,” Murdoch writes. “Find someone who dedicates an entire afternoon to binge-watching House Hunters, and they’re gonna be the best partner ever.”

Now, if I could say one thing to Murdoch, it would be this: “Binge-watch?! BINGE -WATCH?!!? Have you seen the weather outside? Beautiful! That hypothetical couple should intersperse their TV viewing with a walk!”

But then I’d privately admit that she might have a point.

My wife and I have been married for 27 years now, despite the fact that we have almost nothing in common. She’s a chemist, I’m a writer. She’s sunny and peppy. I’m … not. My nightstand is piled high with presidential biographies and Russian novels. Hers is weighted down with fantasy books featuring sallow-faced youth and colorful dragons on the covers. On paper, the two of us should be about as compatible as a saguaro cactus and the Mariana Trench.

What brings us together? HGTV. Well, that and Alton Brown’s Good Eats on the Food Network.

It’s a strange way to bond, I realize. And yet there it is. We watch total strangers quibble over the merits of white granite countertops. We watch Alton Brown weigh brown sugar to throw into his latest soufflé. It’s not exciting. It’s not even, I admit, particularly edifying. And yet there’s something comforting about how these shows reliably wind down to a homey, happy ending—and, most importantly, watching them with my wife.

And while that dynamic says something about HGTV and its stable of mostly inoffensive, curiously addictive shows, it says something about us, too. Maybe all of us.

People—you, me, the guy looking over your shoulder right now—are different from one another. No news flash there, right? And yet, it seems those differences are becoming a bigger deal all the time. We take these differences really, really seriously now—so much so that if we disagree on politics or culture or any number of uppercase Issues, it can feel like a personal affront. We live in an age of outrage. Our technology has increasingly isolated us, and many of us socialize only with people of like minds and viewpoints—until, inevitably, we realize they’re not as much like us as we thought. Our circles grow smaller. Our ability to cope with a heterogeneous culture shrinks.

And yet, entertainment—despite its many weaknesses—can still afford a rare, shared touchstone. A bridge to one another. The person in front of us in the coffee line may dress, talk and vote differently than you. But if you knew that he had well-worn DVDs of your favorite movie? Your favorite show cued up in his Netflix account? Well, maybe he’s not so bad. And maybe that bit o’ entertainment would give you a chance to see that you may have more in common with each other than we thought.

People, even discerning Christians, bond over entertainment. Maybe we always have, but certainly during my lifetime that’s true. I cemented friendships in middle school with after-school reruns. I found lifelong buddies through bad, cheesy movies. Even with my grown kids—kids who, alas, don’t always agree with everything I say or believe—I know we still have points of commonality we can return to via entertainment. Favorite directors. Beloved series. Memories we share of watching The Tick or The Fairly Odd Parents, when they were young and still thought I was oh-so-cool.

Entertainment is, by definition, a trivial thing. And yet, paradoxically, it’s of critical importance. It filters into what we think and feel. It can shape how we view the world, for better or worse. And sometimes, at its best, it can open doors. It can tie us a little closer to the people we love.

I don’t think watching HGTV makes one inherently a better spouse. But there’s something kinda great, maybe even beautiful, about sharing a common interest with the folks you care about.

Even if that interest is as simple as watching Chip and Joanna Gaines remodel a bathroom.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.