I go to my therapist twice a week and often we just talk about television. You'd think I wouldn't need to pay someone to analyze why Lost works when nothing else will, and yet that's exactly what I do.
My therapist is Swiss German and a Freudian as well as a psychooncologist and an art therapist. When she watches Sarah Connor she doesn't see robots and Skynet and John Connor, she sees cancer dreams and death fetishes and the psychological damage done by the absent and perfect father (not that my father is either of those things). My therapist quotes freely from Einstein's biography and has attended the latest Marlene Dumas exhibit but has never seen an episode of Firefly and only nods and smiles when I tell her one of my greatest fears is somebody spoiling the last two seasons of Battlestar for me. (Seriously. Don't even think about it.) But she is one of the only people who cares that the Sarah Connor pilot episode originally had a completely different voice over to open the series and that the first lines we ever hear Sarah speak were supposed to be:
"I will die. I will die and so will you. Death gives no man a pass."
Which some people in the focus groups found a little bit of a bummer.
I used to feel slightly slippery talking to my therapist about television, like it's really just a way to avoid digging deep and having a breakthrough and all that other bullshit that we've been taught (mostly by television) is what happens when you go to therapy. There are few Perry Mason moments in court and there are few Eureka moments in therapy (did Tony Soprano have any? I can't remember right now) but I'll be goddamned if I don't walk out of my shrink's office every Monday and Wednesday feeling a little let down that I couldn't think of a great button for that fifty-minute scene. I want each session to be a close-ended episode of CSI and in truth it's much closer to a badly written soap that's been stripped of the sex and the betrayals and the evil twins and replaced with a meandering, repetitive monologue about why the main character eats too much Chinese food and won't go to the gym.
Recently a sober accounting of my feelings about my son starting kindergarten quickly morphed into me summarizing the entire five hours of Torchwood: Children of Earth and how the finale had my wife curled up in a ball sobbing and cursing Russell T. Davies. In a valiant attempt to earn her fee, my therapist pointed out that all parents are addicted to the warm fuzzy feelings they get from their children and it's not just the 456 who would mainline a youngster if they could get away with it.
Ever since my show was cancelled I tell her new stories; we talk about demon possession and alien abduction and different theories of time and space travel. She now knows the plot to China Mieville's The City&The City and we both wonder what it is that makes me obsessed with being in two places at once, and things hidden inside other things, and worlds where death cannot reach us so easily. We talk about whether science fiction can reach larger audiences and why I only like serialized storytelling and whether or not Deadwood is as good as Shakespeare and if The Wire is the Crime and Punishment of my generation. We talk about fanboys and chatrooms and being loved and hated and cancelled and what that dream episode was really about and whether it's appropriate for a five year old to have a huge poster of a gun-toting Summer Glau in skin-tight leather pinned over his bed.
We wonder if my life writing Sci Fi TV isn't just a blatant land-grab for the undeclared territory that is my subconscious.
At least we would wonder that. But the bitch is out of town this week. So I guess it's just you and me.
Josh Friedman was the showrunner on Sarah Connor Chronicles.