DOMESTIC PROCEDURAL: Last week in Slate, Michael Kinsley revealed a fascinating discovery: Around the country, high-achieving women are tuning in to Law & Order reruns, at times watching them back-to-back, despite the sometimes substantial derision of their mates. I just described this as "fascinating," but a better word might be "reassuring": it tells me that my household is not unique. Apparently, R.'s strange fondness for this show, an affection which allows her to spend time unwinding even in front of episodes she's seen before, is not unique to her; and neither, apparently, is my general distaste for the series. At last I understand that I'm-not-alone feeling that other people must join 12-step programs or alt.sex.sockpuppets to enjoy.
Not that I hate the show, you understand. Indeed, having been forced to watch so many more episodes than I ever would have viewed on my own, I've been forced to concede that it has some things going for it. Oh, sure: the plots are formulaic (quarter past the hour -- time to arrest the red herring), Jerry Orbach's wisecracks are invariably dumb, the acting is somehow both too flat and too mannered, and the Ripped From The Headlines! conceit apparently derives from the belief that all it takes to explore the events of the day is to plagiarize them. But Fred Thompson is amusing as the new district attorney, Jesse Martin is occasionally allowed to shine in his sidekick role, and every now and then an episode will dispense with the formula and actually engage in some creative plotting. In the meantime, we've both grown fond of one of the L&O spinoffs, Special Victims Unit, which boasts both better writing and better acting, though it still has those annoying scenes in which every member of the cast crowds onto the screen and takes turns hyper-competently explaining the state of the investigation to their superior officer, who then chimes in with his own brief paragraph of information, leaving one to wonder just who was getting briefed.
But at bottom, I don't care for Law & Order, and she does. Each Wednesday night, we debate what to watch at 10, Sam Waterston or South Park, before returning to domestic comity when it comes time for The Daily Show. Until now, I thought this disagreement was unusual (unlike most of our recurring debates, such as the proper placement of used bathroom towels or the proper apportionment of blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which I assume are rehearsed by couples everywhere). Now I learn that we're part of a social trend.
Footnote: R. asks me to add that she likes the show "because it engages you for an hour, and then you don't have to think about it anymore. Why are you blogging now, anyway? Law & Order is on."