Patricia O’Dell: The TV doesn’t have to be an eyesore

Winter makes me want to burrow. Even with our warmer temperatures, I find that as the days get shorter I am constantly hungry and eating as if I fear food will never come my way again. While I’m not much of a television watcher, if I binge, I binge in the winter.

Winter—well, post-holiday winter—makes it so easy to stay in. It’s practically dark by the time the work whistle blows and nothing seems better than just going home. No one likes a party or a cocktail or an opening or adventure more than I do, but I find that by Jan. 2, all I want to do is curl up in an old quilt and binge documentaries and old episodes of Friends. (My children have cautioned me about using the phrase “Netflix and chill.” Who knew something seemingly so benign had hidden meaning?)

My television room has dark green walls and a tall black bookcase. The carpet is a tweedy-looking grey, black and white. Black caned armchairs with deep seats have vintage floral cushions at the back and the daybed is piled with oversized down pillows. The room’s windows are on the east wall and due to the nearness of our neighbor, very little sunlight comes our way. This is especially true as the shades are always drawn.

All this to say, it’s a cave. It is sometimes a man cave, sometimes a room of my own, but occasionally it is co-ed. Especially during the winter breaks, I can coax the boys to watch an old movie with me. The room is small so the smartest and fastest claims the daybed, at least one of us is in a chair and the other one or two are very likely on the floor. This could not make the dogs any happier.

Each year we have at least one double feature and I use it to further the boys’ cultural literacy. Last year we watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Jaws in one day. Jaws was the clear winner. “Who wants to watch two guys riding through the desert for twenty minutes?” someone asked about the long scenes with trippy background music. “It was the ‘70s,” I feebly replied. Jaws was a big hit, though I was shocked how violent it was.

“Did you forget?” asked my middle son.

“I never saw it,” I told him. “My mother wouldn’t let me.”

“How old were you when it came out?”


He nodded knowingly, though I wasn’t sure if it was because he agreed that ten was too young to watch humans being eaten by a giant shark or because he finally understood why he’d been unable to see so many movies his friends had seen when he was younger.

Regardless, I tell myself in these moments that even though we are all watching a screen, we are watching the same screen. It’s a common experience, even if the experience entails a fast past down the road of sloth. I never regret it. We’ll go outside and move our bodies eventually…in March.

In Praise of the Media Room

At my house, my children and I are often listening to music or watching TV on our own devices. (Am I the only one who can remember my parents’ television console was the second largest piece of furniture in the family room besides the sofa?) It still feels good to me to have us all in one place watching the same thing. Deciding what that one thing will be may take longer than the movie itself, but it’s still worth it. Make television viewing easy and comfortable for a group.

Put Your Feet Up Whether you’ve taken over your whole basement, converted a home office or carved a niche out of your living room, being able to relax is key. In fact, being able to recline is wonderful. You don’t have to go down the road of pleather recliners with cup holders, but hard, straight-backed chairs are the enemy of relaxation.

Keep Me in the Dark Having the ability to keep the room on the spectrum from dim to full-on dark does lead to a better watching experience. Sunlight on the screen is distracting. (At my house it also may illuminate the need for dusting, which is never relaxing.) I like to have dimmers on all my switches, but it’s really necessary here.

Plump it Up I swore I’d never have a sectional, but in my last house I gave in to the hounding of teenagers and put one in the basement. I have to admit, it was visually “blech,” but movie-watching bliss. Even if you don’t have the space, a comfortable sofa, a good number of pillows (down always has a nice feel) and a throw or two to fight the chill will keep everyone feeling cozy and indulged.