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Ask Dalton: On telling your partner to nix the hate-watching, and other queries

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Downton Abbey
Nick Briggs

Should a wisecracking spouse be allowed to ruin your favorite TV show? Dalton Ross, EW editor-at-large and resident pop-culture referee, weighs in on that and other urgent matters of national importance. Like DVRs.

Is it permissible to ban your spouse from hate-watching a show with you that you enjoy?

—JOY (@JOYVROBERTS)

This one hits close to home, as I once attempted to check out Downton Abbey with my upstairs-downstairs-loving spouse. That was my first mistake. My second mistake was live-tweeting the experience, unbeknownst to her. (Sample tweet: “Your stupid questions are making me want to stab you!” —My wife, nearing the end of our first/last #DowntonAbbey coviewing.)

As a result of my insolence, I have been banned from further viewing of the British soap opera. And that’s not all: I was also banned from watching Nashville sometime around the point I said, “You realize this show is beyond terrible and makes Kidd Video seem realistic by comparison, right?” (By the way, pretty sure she had no idea who or what Kidd Video was.)

So as someone who has been on the wrong side of this, allow me to say…YES! It is totally permissible to ban your significant other from hate-watching a show you enjoy. Truth be told, I am a terrible person to watch anything with—constantly making annoying predictions and needlessly pointing out plot holes, even on stuff I actually like. It’s a wonder my wife lets me near the TV at all.

How long should you keep a series in your DVR if you have never seen an episode (but mean to sometime)? Asking for a friend.

—KAREN (@KAREN_E_MAGEE)

A “friend,” you say. Okay, well, for the sake of clarity let’s just call this friend “Karen.”

You are not alone, however. We all have those recorded shows we just can’t seem to find the time to view. NEWSFLASH: It’s a charade! We do have the time. We just can’t bring ourselves to admit that we’re never going to bother checking them out. How else to explain me watching a dude named Red making something called “Hillbilly Wine” with a condom on Utopia while a five-month-old episode of The Blacklist just sits there collecting virtual dust?

I want to make that absolutely clear: I watched multiple episodes of Utopia over a DVR’d episode of The Blacklist. I’m not proud of that, but it woke me up to the reality of the situation. Now I try to maintain a strict one-month limit on DVR occupancy. Any more, and that’s just kidding yourself—not to mention your “friend.”

Is it acceptable or unacceptable to check email during previews? Fondly, recently chewed out by a stranger.

—STEPHANIE (@SMUSTEFFYLOU)

First off, I’m disappointed in you, Stephanie. And more than that, you should be disappointed in yourself.

I am definitely 100 percent Team Stranger on this one. Sure, go ahead and use and abuse your device as much as your thumbs desire while they are still showing those ads imploring you to head out to the lobby to buy a 184-ounce Mountain Dew with a bottomless carton of popcorn—hell, crank up the brightness levels to max for all I care—but once the previews start, you need to power that sucker down. The last thing I want to see while watching the new Star Wars trailer is someone perusing all the latest Snapchat selfies.

Actually, that’s not true. The last thing I want to see while watching the new Star Wars trailer is Jar Jar Binks or even the slightest hint of an Ewok, but the point stands nonetheless.

The only situation where it is acceptable to take out your screen is if said preview is for a film in which nobody with any taste whatsoever could possibly be interested. This controversial amendment is known in most parts as…the Nicolas Cage Exemption.

Tweet your own pop culture queries to @DaltonRoss. This article appears in Entertainment Weekly‘s Dec. 26/Jan. 2 issue.