When I started seeing ads for the new TV series "The Knick" a few weeks ago, my pulse started to race a little: A thinky costume drama about doctors in turn-of-the 20th-century New York City? Yowza.
That hits all of my TV sweet spots. I eat up anything about American history, particularly stories that take place within a few miles of my home (yum yum, AMC’s Revolution-era “Turn”). Stories about the gory, gritty history of medicine? Let me direct you to two of my favorites: “Call the Midwife” and the somewhat more obscure “Bramwell,” starring Gemma Redgrave as a pioneering doctor in Victorian London (it aired in the '90s, but I caught it a couple years ago on Netflix). And "The Knick" stars Clive Owen? Well, hello, handsome.
So you would think I would just dive into a full-on obsession with this series, yes?
Well, no. And here’s why: My capacity to fall in love with TV characters has reached a saturation point. I already spend an extremely unhealthy amount of time worrying whether Peggy Olson is going to be able to balance brilliance at work with happiness at home on "Mad Men," whether Nick and Jess will get back together on "New Girl," and whether Abe and Anna, those star-crossed spies on "Turn," will be able to protect the fledgling new nation while working out their tangled love affair. (Thank goodness the series was renewed so we can find out who wins the war!).
I spend a month each summer riding the jam-packed emotional roller coaster of "Orange Is the New Black." And let’s not even discuss "Sherlock" or "Downton Abbey." Seriously, I can write another entire essay on my entanglement with Tom Branson, the former socialist chauffeur turned bourgeois widowed dad.
At a certain point, I have to ask whether it’s worth it to get involved with another show. I mean, I do need to reserve some of my mental space for my husband and kids, right?
A few years ago, I read a story by Amy Bloom called “Love Is Not a Pie.” The gist of the title is that we don’t have a finite store of love, with each slice getting smaller as we divide it into more pieces. Instead, the more love you give, the more your love grows. This is a lovely sentiment in real life, but when it comes to TV, my love is a pie. If I get involved in "The Knick," how will I devote any time and attention to my budding affair with "Masters of Sex"? (I’m on the fifth episode of season one—don’t tell me what happens!)
My brain has a certain amount of room set aside to work these stories out and fret about the characters as if they’re living, breathing people. If I make room for one more, what will I shift aside? I fear it will spill over into those lobes devoted to work, communicating with my family, helping my kids with homework, making me completely useless at these real-life responsibilities. What if it even shifts over into that tiny section of brain space that was just about to come up with the plot for a best-selling novel or a plan for peace in Ukraine?
In the end, I made the tough decision to take a pass on Clive Owen and "The Knick." But only until next spring. Because that’s when "Mad Men" will end its run. Peggy, Pete, Roger and Don will pack up their bags, move out of my head space, and leave an opening for a new tenant. And, thanks to Netflix, I will allow Clive to move in.