One hundred and sixty days ago, I started watching a TV show that won’t let me go. It’s called Family Call, and it’s on the Zoom Network. The characters are my older sister, my older brother, sometimes my two nieces, my little sister, me, and my mother. The show is like Seinfeld — Jewish and about nothing. The episodes get repetitive, especially when the character of my mother, who’s played by my mother, speaks. Perhaps it’s some sort of clever script gag that’s over my head, but every single episode the same lines come out of her mouth:
“When do you think this will end? How long do you think this will go on? I’m so bored. There’s only so much cleaning a person can do. This is surreal. Isn’t this surreal? Did you watch Rachel Maddow last night?”
Now that I’m typing it out, I think it’s supposed to be meta? Like she’s talking about what’s happening in the world in real-time on a television show we’re all watching in real-time? I don’t know. I didn’t study scriptwriting.
The character of my brother Eddie is played by my brother Eddie. I understand his character more. He spends much of every episode texting on his iPhone. He doesn’t even pretend to hide it. Sometimes he takes an actual call. He’ll mute his little square and the rest of us will sit there watching him, trying to read his lips. We never can, though, because he’s a yoga teacher and he talks in Sanskrit.
Kara, who plays my sister and is my sister, lives in Israel with her partner — whom we never see — and her three children whom we sometimes, although rarely, see. It’s a funny campy take on family. Like, we’re always referring to the characters we rarely see, and one we NEVER see, that as viewers, we’re not entirely convinced they even exist. But we all play along, just in case they do.
The most reliably funny character is the baby sister played by Nina, my baby sister. Her character is a cross between Mary Kate Olsen and Tracy Anderson. She’s addicted to working out (Tracy Anderson) and can never stop eating or talking about how much she has eaten. Sometimes her dialogue is just a long list of everything she’s eaten since the last episode aired. On the most recent episode, she alerted us to the number of her daily caloric intake. We only ever see her in the kitchen making smoothies, unpacking groceries, or baking cookies, which she’ll eat and then complain about in the next episode. We’ll sometimes see her boyfriend (played by her real boyfriend John) walking in the background in a tank top. She is not amused by the tank top. Often, she yells and curses about the terrible reception she has in the beautiful upstate cabin they have rented for the summer so they don’t have to deal with wearing masks (which will give her Maskcne, so no thank you.)
And then there is my character, whose name is Amanda, which is my name and also the person I play on this TV show, and in real life. Sometimes I don’t really understand my character. Why does she say and do what she does? Does she even know the difference between responding and reacting, and why does she talk about her therapist so much? My character, on the show and off, is quite moody, which might account for my inability to interpret her through-line and struggle with identifying her narrative arc. Does she ever have an A-HA moment? Will she learn from her mistakes? WHY is she still single, and is that cancer or just a pimple?
In its favor, the show is truly groundbreaking because nothing ever happens. No one enters anyone’s apartment, and no one leaves. Nothing changes. No one changes. You can get up and go to the bathroom and miss nothing. You can read an entire chapter of a book, return to the show, and still follow the plot because there is no plot.
So, this is the show I’ve been watching during the pandemic. I’d recommend it, but it’s hard to pin down when it airs. It’s sort of arbitrary and last minute. And you? What are you watching?