Television Sets of the Dinh Household

1980-1985; living room

Saturday mornings, here’s where I worship.  I keep the volume low and move 10 inches from the screen so that I can hear what’s happening on The Mighty Orbots.  My parents have warned me not to sit so close, that I’ll ruin my eyesight, but if I’m very quiet and don’t wake them, who’s to know?  I realize that The Mighty Orbots are a variation of the “robots-that-are-something-else” genre, that most other kids at school prefer Transformers, and that I have thrown in my lot with the more numerous (and more affordable) Gobots, but there is so much to want, and if I can get closer to the screen, maybe I can have them all.

1985-present; my mother’s bedroom

Perched on the corner of my mother’s waterbed, I watched what my mother wanted to watch.  This mostly involved Dynasty, which we picked up right during the Moldavian Massacre.  With each subsequent season finale (hotel fire!  Alexis driving off a bridge!  Krystle missing!), my mother and I scoured issues of Star and the National Enquirer to figure out who survived and who didn’t.  We even tuned into The Colbys, the spin-off, right to the bitter end when Fallon was abducted by aliens.  At 10, we watched the nightly news, followed by re-runs of M*A*S*H* at 10:35.  Sometimes I stayed up the extra half-hour for Nightline, but usually by that time, my mother was already asleep.

1987-present; the basement

My father, because of his snorning, had been banished to the basement years before, and, there, he erected his home theater.  He bought a huge set for the time, speakers trailing silvery wires, and two VCRs for direct tape-to-tape duplication.  Everywhere we went offered rentals:  strip-mall storefronts; Blockbuster Videos; a Vietnamese shop specializing in Chinese serial melodramas.  Even our local King Soopers had a small cordoned-off section of videotapes.  My father laminated his membership cards, and once a week, he’d flip through them, deciding which to visit that evening.  “It’s best to see movies big,” he said, proud of his set-up.  True; but at the time all I wanted to see was The Mutilator.

2000-present; the kitchen

One character in Good Morning mentions how small talk is a social lubricant, how it keeps the wheels of society turning smoothly.  This may be true amongst strangers and neighbors, but what about with your spouse, to whom you may feel as though you’ve said everything?  Since their retirement, my mother monopolizes the phone line in her room, chatting with friends, and my father retreats to the basement where he mans a DVD duplication service for his friends.  But, in the afternoon, they convene before the small TV on the dining table to watch various afternoon judge shows, Wheel of Fortune during dinner, and Dancing with the Stars in the evening. They debate the merits of so-and-so’s pasodoble. They discuss whose judicial sensibilities the most admire (Judge Judy, yes; Judge Greg Brown, no).  And when they eat, instead of silence, they test their knowledge of American idioms, shouting out answers, trying to solve the puzzle before Vanna turns over the next letter.