Monday, November 14, 2005

"Watch her like a movie"

Real estate is an obsession in the New York/New Jersey area. At every party I attended during my single days, if there were four conversations going on at once, two or three of them would be about square footage, rent hikes, crazy landlords and, as we got older, mortgage rates. A lot of people want to live around here, and there's not enough elbow room for all, so everyone's constantly hustling for a bigger space, a better rent, a parking space, whatever.

Shortly after Marian and I resumed dating after a short and stupid break, she got a tip from a friend about a ginormous two-bedroom in a prime location in Hoboken. She brought me with her to check it out, and it was as great as advertised. Her only problem was that she would need to find a roommate to cover the rent. I offered to move in with her, only half-joking, and it was as much about my love of the place as my interest in taking things to the next level with Marian. She rolled her eyes and said, "Umm... no," and found herself a roommate who we'll call Georgia for legal reasons. When she was interviewing possible roommates, she told all of them that it would be a one-year deal, and at the end of that year, if Marian wanted the place to herself, she'd get it.

By the time that year was coming to a close, we were engaged and we wanted that place. One problem: Georgia claimed to have never had the one-year conversation with Marian, and told us in no uncertain terms that she wasn't leaving. Marian had put both their names on the lease so she'd have legal recourse in case Georgia turned out to be a flake who wouldn't pay rent, but that backfired.

So the plan became for me to move in -- along with all my furniture, books, comic books, electronic equipment, etc. -- and make my presence as big and loud as possible (as any of my friends will tell you, that wasn't much of a challenge) until Georgia decided she'd rather live in a smaller place than deal with me and my stuff. Georgia responded to Operation: Sasquatch with a strategic retreat into her bedroom, gradually removing all of her stuff -- including the TV, the lamp and one of the couches -- from the living room. My friend Jennifer advised us to get a bucket of popcorn and "watch her like a movie" to make sure she didn't start messing with our stuff.

After a few weeks, Georgia surrendered and found another place. But as one final salvo in our little war, she locked her bedroom door (a keyless lock that can only be opened easily from the inside) as she left, so that we were only a few minutes into our celebration of having the place to ourselves before we had to call a locksmith.

Why am I telling you all this? It's a (very) roundabout way of saying that I've lived something close to what happened on "How I Met Your Mother" last night -- minus the dueling part -- and I could relate to the anguish over shared real estate. (This, of course, is TV New York, where a kindergarten teacher can afford to carry the rent on an apartment big enough to be converted into a Chinese restaurant, even though she doesn't live there.) Not as good as the club episode, but pretty funny nonetheless. Barney's Lemon Law subplot was also nice, and featured yet another "Freaks and Geeks" guest appearance, by Martin "Bill Haverchuck" Starr as Robin's nerdy date. (Samm Levine was one of the losers stuck outside the nightclub, and, of course, disco-dancing Jason Segel is in the regular cast.)

I'm still catching up on other things from Sunday and Monday nights (I wasted most of last night watching the ugliest NBA game I have ever seen), but I did see the latest "Simpsons," which opened with what I think is the longest couch gag in the show's history. (My friend Dan suggested the parody of "Contact" as the only other one that came close.) That couch gag was also funnier than the rest of the episode combined. After all my complaining over the years about the writers moving away from the emotional dynamics of the family, I can't get too worked up over a half-hour about Marge and Bart bonding, but it felt like a rough outline of an episode; there was sort of a story, and sort of a few jokes, but they weren't close to finished. And the Homer's dumbbell subplot? I know the show's been around for 8,000 years, but this is at least the third different episode where Homer or Marge gets randomly bulked up (the last time, Homer accomplished it by unleashing the power of apples); if you're going to repeat that joke again, at least make it funny.

I also suffered through another episode of what's shaping up to be the worst "Saturday Night Live" season since Anthony Michael Hall and Randy Quaid roamed the halls. Watching it this year is like that Tom Hanks sketch where everyone in the family has to take a whiff of the rotten milk carton so they know for themselves just how disgusting it is. I love Jason Lee, but even he can't do much when the writing's not there. The closest thing to a good sketch was the HGTV parody, and even that was a rip-off of two older sketches: Schweddy Balls and a Prince Charles/butler sketch that featured the same caulk-in-the-crack joke.

I'd write more, but someone sitting on my lap needs a new diaper. More later after I've watched "Prison Break." In the meantime, links to the two most recent All TV columns: Monday's, featuring Matt on PBS' Las Vegas documentary and me bemoaning the fate of "Arrested Development," and Tuesday's, a mailbag dealing even more with "Arrested Development." (It's my goal to mention the show every day this week if I can get away with it.)

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