Holly Hunter takes a seat in The Spinoff confessional booth, and shares some harrowing tales of when her humble TV obsession went a little too far.
‘If TV be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.’
Many religions preach that confession cleanses the soul, relieves all burdens and prepares you for entry into heaven.
I carry not one, but several burdens: the static-eyed corpses of TV characters who once meant the world to me, so much that I killed them with my love. I murdered these characters with good intentions, honestly. It’s not until I’ve moved on to my next victim that I look back and realise my obsession went far – way too far.
In the spirit of confession and #cleanliving, let me recount my sins and roll these bodies into their graves once and for all.
1) Pretending I lived down a Lost hatch, 2006
It all started with Lost when I was 13. I watching from behind the couch, up past my bedtime, when Oceanic Flight 815 crashed on an island of hatches and smoke monsters.
The mysteries of Lost occupied my mind at a time when I should’ve been thinking about how to get out of PE. I would sit in my tasteful leopard-print beanbag and stare out the window wondering what Hurley’s lotto numbers and the DHARMA experiments meant, why Ethan Rom’s name was an anagram for ‘other man’, and if Kate would choose Jack or Sawyer?
When my family got an iMac, I downloaded a widget that replicated the experience of the DHARMA Initiative worker Desmond Hume, who was trapped in one of the various hatches around the island. Every 108 minutes, I had to enter the mysterious Lost numbers, or the world’s electromagnetic poles would go cray and the Earth would be done for.
I can still reel them off faster than I can my phone number: 4 8 15 16 23 42.
My Lost love affair needed a soundtrack. Having raided the archives of Lost composer Michael Giacchino, in 2010 I found another answer. Greatest Hits, Vol 1: Music Inspired By Lost, Seasons 1–5, by a band called the Oceanic Six.
The album features bangers I soon learned by heart: ‘Dude’ (Dude, I feel like we might make it home now, so take it slow); ‘Good Morning Charlie’ (Rebuild your life, you’ll kick the heroin. We’ll fall in love, this is where we begin); and ‘Invisible Others’ (Whispering voices, I hear all around. Look through the jungle, nowhere to be found). This is one helluva record.
Now, I like to think Lost is buried in my past. But I can’t deny that when MH370 disappeared, I accidentally referred to it as Flight 815 on more than one occasion, and maybe – I am a terrible person – imagined what island adventures the missing passengers might have been having.
2) Having a bloody good time in the kitchen: the Dexter phase, 2011
Years later there was Dexter, the lovable serial killer. Using my sharpest kitchen knife, I cut vegetables to the Dexter soundtrack. For anyone interested, the best vegetables to cut include, but are not limited to: pumpkin, beetroot, carrot.
I even pleaded for my boyfriend to help me recreate the show’s intro sequence in which Dexter makes an evocatively murderous breakfast. I was fully prepared to crack an egg on my teeth and drop it into my mouth, convinced it would be cinematic and on-brand. Salmonella in the name of a good Dexter parody video didn’t seem like too bad a trade off.
It didn’t work out with the egg (or the boyfriend).
3) Breaking breakfast over Breaking Bad, 2012–2013
When I look back now, it seemed inevitable that another TV-themed photoshoot was ahead of me. I staged a Breaking Bad-themed brinner of Skylar’s birthday bacon and eggs and Gus’s chicken wings a la Los Pollos Hermanos, plus photoshoot.
I maintain that this is a relatively unremarkable celebration of a show. People have done more extreme things in the name of Walter White. Like cook meth.
4) Challenging terrorist stereotypes through political Homeland fanfiction, 2014
My next great affair was with Homeland. Carrie Matthieson is a CIA agent who’s fierce and passionate. She tackles her investigations with almost the same dedication and fervour by which I’m consumed by her show. We really are the same person.
Naturally, there came a point when I wanted to write a fanfic about Homeland. But fanfiction is for nerds and hermits, right? I avoided the problem entirely by writing a fic about a fan. Said fan loves the show so much that she believes her neighbour Roger (who is also her orthodontist) is a terrorist. A thrilling, exclusive excerpt:
5) No immunity idol strong enough for my Survivor obsession, 2016
We’ve arrived at the most disturbing thing I’ve done for a show. The focus of my obsession this time was Neal on Survivor: Brains vs Braun vs Beauty. There was something about him. He was not unattractive and he seemed relatively sane, which is significant on Survivor. But he was also unremarkable; forgettable. So forgettable that it felt like the world was challenging me to be the one to remember him.
And so began the Fortnight of Neal.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. You name it, I was there. I quickly exhausted Neal’s Survivor-specific content and made my merry way down the rabbit hole into his past. I watched every YouTube video about his organic ice cream business, Three Twins, dating back to 2009.
I watched his TEDx talk – not the kind where they ask you to talk, but the one where you volunteer because you think you can change lives. I wondered what would happen if I sent him fan mail and we became pen pals. I imagined how, when he would next be on Survivor in a ‘Favourites’ or ‘Second Chance’ season, I would be his loved-one visit when he reached the final five, and we would meet for the first time on television.
And then it happened. I found a video posted at the bottom of a thread that woke me up from the dark pit my life had become. The worst thing about the discovery of this video was that I knew if this obsession had endured any longer, I could’ve been the one to make it:
It was a shock that sent me running for the hills, equivalent only to the time when, age 13, I googled Ozzy (of Survivor Cook Islands) and was confronted with a scarring screenshot from his pornography debut. Yep. A Survivor penis was the first penis I ever saw.
I don’t pretend to be an arthouse expert who’s memorised the tele-wikis of these programmes, and I get that these are cult shows with massive followings. But it seems that this here sheep is more starry-eyed for a shepherd than others.
So come at me, all ye cults. Who am I kidding? Cults don’t come for me. I come for them. I guess there’s no point confessing my sins in the hope of qualifying for heaven. It’s too late, I’ve been tainted. If I’ve learned anything through these confessions, it’s that it’s not the show. It’s me.
It’s definitely, 100% me.