by Jim Harris

You may have heard that an epidemic of the “binge-watching” addiction has been spreading all across the country. Cable and “on-demand” TV stations have been offering viewers the chance to watch all the episodes of certain shows uninterrupted, start to finish. I thought I was safe from the dangers of bingeing since I don’t have cable or on-demand TV. I was so wrong.

Last week, I had just finished a couple of projects and wanted to chill for a day or two. It was pretty icy outside, so I just plopped on the couch and started scanning the channels. I came across an “I Love Lucy” marathon. Now, back when this show was originally on, I didn’t watch it because I was too busy trying (unsuccessfully) to be cool and meet girls. I decided to check it out. I found it very funny.

Over the next few days, I tuned in occasionally and was surprised to find the marathon still going on. There must have been hundreds of episodes. I loved Ricky’s overblown fits of rage and Lucy’s insane antics. And I do mean insane — capers like stealing John Wayne’s footprints from outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

At this point in my binge, my wife and son were still watching with me, and they were incredulous. “She’s crazy!” my wife would yell. “Who DOES that?” “That’s illegal!” shouted my son, and I had to agree. I was aware that Lucy had been known for being a zany comedienne, but now I was seeing that this lady was seriously unhinged. I loved it.

I started watching more and more. I would get up in the middle of the night just to see if it really was on 24 hours a day. It was. I would find myself in the kitchen at 3 a.m., watching and laughing so hard I could barely breathe. “What’s going on down there?” my wife would yell. “Nothing,” I’d say. “Just getting a glass of water.” Eventually, it got so bad that I couldn’t do anything else. Even when the marathon moved into the later years and the shows weren’t as funny anymore, I didn’t stop watching. I couldn’t get enough.

I started Googling everything about the show that I could find— the cast, writers, guest stars, audience members. I even found out who that lady in the audience was who yelled “Uh-oh” every time Lucy did something stupid. I found it kind of depressing that they are all dead now, but still I watched, not sleeping, spiraling out of control, show after show.

Finally, my family had to ask our parish priest, Father Flanagan, to come over and talk to me. “Jim,” he said, “you’ve got to quit this marathon thing. “But it’s a marathon, Father,” I argued. “You don’t just quit a marathon. You have to see it through to the end.”

“Look at yourself,” he shot back. “You’re watching a woman running around with a bucket stuck on her head. Is that how you want to spend your life? Is that more important than your family? “Yes,” I cried. “I LOVE Lucy; OK? Now get out!” Then I passed out on the floor.

I remember the exact time when I awoke. It was 10:39 p.m. on a Wednesday. The TV was still on, but it WASN’T Lucy! It was a “Car 54, Where Are You” marathon. I threw the remote against the wall. “Nooo,” I cried, “I don’t WANT Car 54. Lucy, where ARE you?” My son heard me ranting. He ran downstairs and put a blanket over my shaking body. “It’s okay, pop,” he said. “You’re gonna be all right.”

After the shaking stopped and I started living in the real world again, I hated myself for what I had become. And I hated Lucy, too, for her part in the whole sordid affair. I went through all the classic stages of grief and regret, but I recovered, one day at a time. Today, I’m eating solid food and bathing again, and I’ve come to terms with my feelings for Lucy.

I share this story as a warning to those of you who, like myself, felt they were safe from the perils of the binge-watching addiction. It could happen to you. Never say never. You know, this “Car 54” show is really not half bad.