Perhaps because TV comes into our home, we form a more intimate relationship with it than with other entertainment mediums. Beloved characters become part of our lives. Shocking plot twists linger in our memory. And the communal nature of watching bonds us with family and friends. It’s an emotional experience a great series like Mad Men managed to capture often, with countless, memorable images of our favorite characters, captivated by the TV.
For this month’s Nostalgia issue, we asked Paste writers to recall their earliest or favorite TV memories. The results are eclectic and poignant, with recollections that will make you laugh, and even get a little teary. Grab some tissue, embrace the nostalgia, and share your own in the comments.
Pepperoni and paranoia; mushrooms and monsters. These were the things my Friday evenings were made of, beginning in 1993, the year that The X-Files first aired on Fox—and in so doing, changed television forever. The impact the show had on my older brother and me was, by contrast, much less game-changing. But for its first three seasons, and the first three episodes of its fourth season, The X-Files was one half of our weekend commencement ritual, the routine by which we honored our two-day reprieve from the Wayland school system. The other half, if you haven’t guessed already, was pizza. Domino’s to be exact, pepperoni and mushroom to be more exact than that.
This, again, was the early 90’s, before the days when people demanded that their fast food be made with “quality ingredients,” and longer still before the great crust revolution of 2010. Kids today are spoiled. Back when I was nine, we ate our bland-ass pizza crusts and we didn’t complain. No sir, mostly because we were kids and we didn’t know any better. We were also too entranced by The X-Files to really care. Grant that everything the series was about—aliens, conspiracy, paranormal tomfoolery, mythology, spirituality—fell squarely in the wheelhouse of the brothers’ Crump. Had we been more egotistical children, we might have believed that somebody made it just for us. That we somehow managed to get the okay from our parents to watch it week in and week out was, and still is, nothing short of miraculous. (Remember: I was nine when The X-Files first aired. Granted, I also got away with watching Tales From the Crypt. It’s probably just as much a miracle that I don’t torture animals for fun as an adult.) Getting a pizza thrown in the deal was just a whole other sort of divine intervention.
In 1996, The X-Files swapped slots on Fox’s line-up and moved to Sunday, family dinner night, and we had to retire our tradition for good. But until then, basking in the glow of the TV set, before the gaze of Mulder and Scully, it was just us, the crusts, the piled on cheese, the mushrooms, the cured meat, and the tomato sauce.—Andy Crump
2. Mystery Science Theater 3000
In the early 1990s, my brother, Drew, and I were in our prime humor gestation years—around 11 and 15, respectively—and we loved Comedy Central. It was our go-to channel, and we watched everything on the lineup. Except for this one show, and it seemed like it was always on. Why were they showing these boring old movies? Who were those silhouettes at the bottom who never talked? Is this show seriously two hours long? Then, one day, right as we flipped to it, we caught a scene of Japanese space explorers reacting to a low-budget buzzing sound coming from a cheap plastic blinking machine. Suddenly one of the silhouettes spoke: “Fries are up!”
Drew and I broke into hysterics. It was Mystery Science Theater 3000, and from that moment, we were hooked. MST3K became our Saturday night ritual. We sent a handwritten postcard to the MST3K Info Club, via the U.S. mail, at the address that would appear periodically onscreen. We received paper membership cards and a printed newsletter. I cut out the first article I saw about the show in Entertainment Weekly. We noted each episode’s encouragement to “Keep circulating the tapes,” the analog way for the show to go viral. MST3K was Internet fandom before there was an Internet.
In 1991, on the show’s first “Turkey Day” Thanksgiving marathon, my brother and I marked the time during dinner when one of us would leave the table to change tapes in the VCR. Now, in the not too distant future, fans will have new episodes available on demand, thanks to the show’s revival on Netflix after a record-setting Kickstarter campaign. And a new generation of 11- and 15-year-olds, sitting on their basement couches, get to discover Mystery Science Theater 3000 for the first time.—Christine Moore
Do you remember the red sphere? I spent nine months of my adolescence, the length of the first season of Alias, wondering what secrets that levitating ball of liquid might contain. Obsessed, as one tends to be at age 14 or 15, with the finer points of a senseless plot. No matter: Whether or not Alias was, in fact, more audacious, more adult, than the series I watched in the ‘90s with my mother (ER, Mad About You), it was—because no one else in the house had much interest in spies—mine and mine alone. In the fall of 2001, the world was sunk in chaos and I was besieged by the alien strictures of high school social life. The suspenseful (if preposterous) narrative of double agent Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner, in what remains her finest performance), became the medium for my burgeoning independence, an escape hatch through which I might move from past to future without stopping off in the difficult present.
On Sunday nights, after finishing my homework, I disappeared into the strange contortions of SD-6, the CIA, and a fictional philosopher-prophet named Milo Rambaldi; into Garner’s bright, droll disguises, her skin-tight blue dresses and hot pink wigs; into the square-jawed, All-American handsomeness of Will Tippin (Bradley Cooper) and Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan). I suppose my brief love affair with Alias—which slipped, as it wore on, into the long-lost sister/evil twin tropes of the worst soap operas—might have been but a fluke of timing. But, in retrospect it was as formative as a first dance, or a stolen summer. In more than one sense, I grew up on Alias, and I can still see its imprint on my tastes.
By the by, the “Alias Wiki” tells me that the red sphere is part of the Mueller Device, “one of the main devices associated with Rambaldi’s Endgame.” I have not the faintest clue what this means, and the fact that my grasp of these finer points has long since loosened is a reminder that I no longer wish to skip over the present. The future comes fast enough on its own.—Matthew Brennan
4. The Cosby Show
Today, the name Bill Cosby instantly brings the word “scandal” to mind, and not in the good, Kerry Washington kind of way. However, The Cosby Show was, and is, a television series that shaped our culture, in my opinion, for the better. The character of Claire Huxtable was especially transformative for me as a girl. I would watch the relationship between Cliff and Claire and with wonder, “a full-time working mom and dad, who seem perfectly functional?” It was the dream.
Claire was all things feminine and motherly, without ever being weak. She was not Donna Reed waiting at home for her husband; in fact, he was often waiting for her. She had a powerful job and was her husband’s equal in every way. She was married to a man who was not intimidated by her strong mind, and instead he seemed to honor it. To me, the Cosbys offered up the image of what a marriage could be—an equal partnership. Obviously, no one’s life is as perfect as a 22-minute sitcom. But the possibility of it all stuck with me, and I confess I’m still trying to be like Claire, in real life today.—Keri Lumm
5. Get Smart
I always loved old things, and when I discovered Nick at Night, it was like a portal to the past. The first time I watched Get Smart, I was sitting on my mom’s blue and pink faded, super 1990s couch. I remember vividly my original impression of the intro, where secret agent Maxwell Smart, dressed in a tux, walks down hallways through automated doors, and steps into a phone booth that is really an elevator. The intro was so serious, I was sure I’d be bored. I wanted to flip the channel, but my older brother loved spy shows, and being the older brother, he controlled the remote. The first episode I watched was “KAOS in Control,” where a double agent uses a regression gun to target control agents and make them act childish. It took me a few beats to realize that it was a comedy, but when I did, I was obsessed with the slapstick humor, the stupidity of the devices, the dialogue, and most of all, Agent 86. After that one episode, I was hooked. I would write down the Get Smart schedule to make sure I didn’t miss one episode. To my chagrin, Nick at Nite took it off the air in, I think, 1999. And it was years before I could buy the DVDs and watch it all over again. When I finally found the DVDS in 2008, my brother and I sat on that pink and blue couch, now a bit tattered, shared some cookies and cream Häagen Dazs, and reminisced through our favorite moments. It was just as good as we’d remembered, if not better.—Madina Papadopoulos
I remember watching a lot of TV as a kid, but usually in the manner of just finding whatever appealed to my childish brain at that time of day. But when Nickelodeon premiered its Saturday night block SNICK in 1992, it truly felt like the first time someone had created a block of television specifically for me. SNICK was the only time I felt like I absolutely had to be in front of the TV at a certain time. I remember specifically one time missing SNICK—which was supposed to premiere Kris Kross’ “I Missed the Bus” music video during the commercial—and being furious at my parents for days.
Looking back at past SNICK schedules, it becomes clear to me that the 1996 lineup was formative in making me who I am, still today. The Adventures of Pete & Pete honed my sense of humor, The Secret World of Alex Mack gave me my first celebrity crush in Larisa Oleynik and All That introduced me to the world of sketch comedy for the first time.
But the show I remember best from SNICK is Space Cases, a low-budget sci-fi show about a group of students who get lost in space on an alien ship. It was one of the earliest series I watched with a continual story and actual twists. For example, one character’s “imaginary” friend turned out to actually be invisible, with the two characters switching places at the end of the first series. I was amazed by the different places a story could go and its ability to surprise you, something that remains in place to this day, with some of my favorite shows like The Last Man on Earth, Lost or Mr. Robot.—Ross Bonaime
7. I Love Lucy
I wasn’t even alive during the original reign of I Love Lucy, but when Nick at Nite premiered their Lucy Tuesdays in the mid-90s, Lucille Ball quickly became my queen. I can’t tell you how many times I got caught staying up past midnight to hang out with the Ricardos and the Mertzes. My family moved a lot when I was growing up, making me the perpetual new girl. And while I made friends fairly easily, I always found my friends had older, closer, better friends. It took a long time for me to find a true bestie. In Junior High, it became even harder. No matter how close I was to one friend or another, I knew from watching Lucy and Ethel, that it wasn’t a real best friendship. Sure, they had their issues, like in “Lucy and Ethel buy the same dress.” But, in the end, it all worked out and they remained true to each other, often choosing their bestie over their husbands. Looking back, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a real Ethel, but then, again, maybe watching those gals just made my expectations too high. And without them, I’m not sure I could have survived the mean streets of Okeeheelee Middle School, much less made it through the drunken friend fights of freshman year of college. I had Lucy and Ethel, and those broads defined #SquadGoals.—Deirdre Kaye
8. The Adventures of Pete & Pete
?If you were an oddball growing up in the suburbs, The Adventures of Pete & Pete a show about oddballs growing up in the suburbs, was pretty much perfect for you. It is one of the highest quality shows ever made for kids, the kind of show somebody can revisit as an adult and still enjoy, just as much as they did as a child. It was a weird show with its own rhythms and ideas. Sure, it taught you the occasional lesson, but it was never heavy handed or maudlin. Mostly, it was just trying to make you laugh at all the bizarre things going on. Bus driver Stu Benedict losing his mind, destroying a cake, and shouting, “Carrot top Judas! Thou hast forsaken me!” Michael Stipe as an ice cream man called Captain Scrummy. Iggy Pop as a suburban dad. Then, of course, there was Artie, the Strongest Man in the World. As a child, he was about the funniest character I could think of, and I remember the two-parter when he left the show, because Little Pete had grown up and didn’t need a superhero by his side anymore. I felt wistful, perhaps the first time a show made me feel that way. Of course, in the third season there was an episode where Endless Mike wrestles Big Pete and does so like he’s a pro wrestler, and as a kid who loved wrestling I loved that and forgot all about Artie being gone. The Adventures of Pete & Pete was an idiosyncratic show, but there were, and are, kids desperately in need of something idiosyncratic to watch. It was relatable, in many ways, but in other ways, it was so out there that it was wonderfully, utterly unrelatable. It gave you everything you could want in a show. Also, the music used on the show is amazing, including their in-house band Polaris. If you are of a certain age, and a certain disposition, hearing the opening strains of “Hey Sandy” will give you a real emotional charge. The Adventures of Pete & Pete earned that, by daring to be different, and daring to believe kids would get on their weird wavelength.—Chris Morgan
I used to watch Matlock with my grandma in the den. I could relate to Matlock because he was a grumpy tightwad who loved hot dogs. His whistling esses and wild eyebrows riveted me, and tickled my grandma. I’d never seen hair so silver.
Andy Griffith always felt like a great uncle or family friend, which is partly why Matlock was such a comforting show. The other reason is that the outfits and outcomes never changed. Matlock wore a big light suit and a big dark tie, and he couldn’t lose—not even in a crossover with Perry Mason. You’d never guess from the hangdog face and baggy suits that the man went undefeated in 195 trials.
Grandma’s 91 now and we still watch TV in the den. These days it’s mostly football. The clothes are much tighter, and the good guys lose all the time.—Evan Allgood
10. The Ren & Stimpy Show
I spent my teen years in Holland, where something rather magical tended to happen to my TV on a regular basis: a channel would suddenly disappear only to be replaced by another. When I came home one stoned night, I was excited to find the latest addition to the host of channels occupying my TV was none other than Nickelodeon. It was around 11 PM and the first ever episode of The Angry Beavers was on, the one where Norbert (voiced by Mitchell Whitfield/Nick Bakay) and Daggett (voiced by Rich Horvitz) stay up all night. This episode was followed by a show I had heard of from the older kids at school, but never actually seen before: The Ren & Stimpy Show. The episode in question that night was “Ren’s Toothache”—probably one of the most absurdly vile episodes on the show. Sure, it was gross and peculiar, but I was immediately taken by the underground artwork (by the amazing Bob Camp), the disgustingly beautiful detail and the overall farcicality of the show and its characters. It was unlike anything else on TV. Needless to say, it only took that one episode for me to become a die-hard fan. There are countless memorable episodes — “vën Höek,” “Man’s Best Friend,” “The Great Outdoors,” “Nurse Stimpy,” but the one that will stick with me for years to come is, without a doubt, “Son of Stimpy.” Leave it to me to write about “the fart” episode, but what can I say? It was the first thing I’d ever seen that sparked so many mixed emotions. I was kind of weirded out by myself—I mean, how can you get teary-eyed over a goofy cat that farts and believes its gas-bubble to be its child? This is exactly what writer/creator John Kricfalusi was going for in writing this episode: he wanted to demonstrate how audio-visual cues and dramatic music can manipulate an audience into experiencing profound emotions for something as silly as a cat “birthing” a fart and going through extreme lengths to reunite with it. Mission accomplished.—Roxanne Sancto
11. South Park
blew my tiny young mind wide open back in elementary school. It was just so damn funny, and so vividly, life-alteringly obscene. My parents, for all their progressive laidbackness, refused to let me watch it. I so clearly remember sneaking out of my bedroom a few minutes before 10 p.m. each Wednesday night, tiptoeing into our darkened living room and stealthily switching on the TV, like a cat burglar cracking a safe. Standing right beside the screen with my face bathed in its glow, the volume on one, I tried to laugh as quietly as I could. South Park taught me a couple of curse words, and it certainly helped to shape my nothing-is-sacred sense of humor, but most importantly, it taught me just how powerful TV could be.—Scott Russell
12. The Frugal Gourmet
I have no idea why a four-year-old would have any interest in watching PBS cooking shows, but I definitely recall watching The Frugal Gourmet regularly as a child, and being oddly transfixed by its entertaining host, chef Jeff Smith. Perhaps it’s because the show may have tail-ended Sesame Street or some other PBS programming, but I often watched The Frugal Gourmet and fondly remember an introduction with Vivaldi’s famous “Spring” movement from “The Four Seasons” as background music. It’s certainly one of the earliest exposures I had to the idea of “gourmet cookery,” which has become a hobby in my adult years. Distressingly, I found out years later that Smith left the air after numerous counts of sexual abuse allegations, although no charges were ever formally filed. Like so many formative childhood memories, then, it’s now tainted by the specter of implications one couldn’t possible understand at the time. Sorry for going dark, guys! But enough of that, let’s watch this guy make some quiche.—Jim Vorel
13. Twin Peaks
The Killer Bob reveal on Twin Peaks (Season 2, Episode 7) coincided with the closing night of my college play. I barely had time to get out of my costume before I was sprinting back to the dorms to catch it. I remember watching the episode terrified, shaky. And, at the moment we finally learn who killed Laura Palmer… realizing that I was still wearing my stage makeup. Which had the effect of being an all-too-real Lynchian moment in my life: who had I become… what had I done? Memories of the cast party that night are blurry, though I do remember staring hard into bathroom mirrors for the next several weeks… looking for Bob.— Chris White
14. The Simpsons
It was through The X-Files that I found my way into The Simpsons. In 1997, having been a devoted follower of the paranoid supernatural exploits of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully for about two-and-a-half years, I couldn’t help but find myself intrigued when I saw a commercial for an upcoming episode of the Matt Groening animated series that would feature the voices of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson themselves. It didn’t matter to me that I had not seen a single episode featuring Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie Simpson before. Duchovny and Anderson spoofing themselves? How could I resist?
And thus, on the evening of January 12, 1997, I tuned into my first-ever episode of The Simpsons, “The Springfield Files”… and for me, the laughs came quickly and furiously. A bus featuring members of an orchestra playing Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho theme as they pass by a panicked Homer? Mulder and Scully finding themselves hypnotized by the jiggle of Homer’s fat stomach? Leonard Nimoy running off-screen and away from a studio set, just before the end of the episode’s second act? Somehow, all of these gags and more managed to inspire in me a curiosity about the lives of the Simpsons and the rest of the Springfield denizen that led me to devour as much as I could via syndicated reruns and VHS tapes. Eventually, I would became a card-carrying fanboy (at least, up until sometime during Season 15, when I finally fell off the wagon). There may be better episodes of The Simpsons than “The Springfield Files” (monorail, anyone?), but, as with many first experiences in art and in life, this initial close encounter will always have a special place in my heart.—Kenji Fujishima
15. The Office
I can’t pinpoint my earliest TV memory, but I know the exact day I fell in love with the medium. It was May 11, 2006 and I was holed up in my living room watching the second season finale of The Office. The U.S. version of the beloved U.K. sitcom was in hot waters from the beginning, simply for having the audacity to exist, but all I knew as an unaware high school kid was that I loved the weirdos of Dunder Mifflin.
In the early years, Steve Carell’s Michael Scott was the clear star of the program, but the heart was a blossoming relationship between two kindred spirits that sat diagonal from one another. Jim and Pam’s journey from friends to lovers made me adore TV couples and always root for the will they/won’t they tandems to emphatically land on will.
Written by star Steve Carell and directed by Ken Kwapis, who guided some of the best early episodes of the show, “Casino Night” is The Office at the height of its powers; smart, hilarious, increasingly awkward and not afraid to be serious. There are many great moments in the half-hour running time, but none greater than when Jim finally (read: FINALLY) tells Pam he loves her.
Watching it live, I was ready to combust. The fact that it was actually happening was unfathomable after the near misses of “Booze Cruise” and “Christmas Party” but it was actually happening, and it was perfect.
Though he likely had a wealth of input, I like to pretend Carell, after more than a year of watching John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer breathe life into their characters, knew exactly how Jim should unveil his true feelings. It’s not a fairy tale moment, it’s not perfect. It’s a mess of emotion, highlighted by Jim’s exasperation. When he finally says the words, there is no grand build-up, only release. He just needed her to know. Once.
After the parking lot scene, Carell offers one more dagger when the two meet again. This time it’s in the office and this time there are less words and this time it happens. The kiss.
And then, black.
“Casino Night” was the first time I felt the pain of a summer break. The idea of having to wait months to find out what happened after that kiss crushed me. September would never come, my heart said. But I had given so much time to this story that I wouldn’t give up easily. The beauty of television is the connection it builds over hours and hours, and I knew that, if Jim wasn’t going to give up on Pam, I couldn’t dare give up on The Office for hanging me off a cliff. Eventually, the fall and Season Three came, and then “The Job” and Jim and Pam’s perfect union. And my love affair with television was cemented forever.—Eric Walters
16. Power Rangers
As a TV fanatic, there are moments that have permanently embedded themselves in my mind, whether it’s the distant memory of seeing The Simpsons’ opening credits for the first time or, more recently, watching Justin Theroux tearfully warble his way through a karaoke-version of “Homeward Bound” on The Leftovers. That said, one cannot nor should not deny the impact of their earlier, less prestige-worthy TV memories. For me, and I imagine millions of other kids of a certain age, one of these formative experiences was Power Rangers. Having barely turned five when the series first premiered, I don’t remember a time in my life before the show. Looking at it today, the flaws are cartoonishly obvious—the acting oscillates between cheesy and wooden, the production values are nearly non-existent and each episode adheres to a comically predictable plot formula. Yet, its mix of fantasy, martial arts and science fiction inevitably drew me into its orbit.
To this day, Power Rangers continues to hold a special place in my heart— beyond mere nostalgia—because it was the show that first planted the idea in my head that a series could actively evolve and change. This realization quite traumatically wormed its way into my consciousness with the third season finale, “Hogday Afternoon,” which concluded with the Command Center—the Rangers’ base of operations, the home of their blue-faced mentor Zordon and the show’s most iconic bit of set design— being blown sky high. It was the ultimate cliffhanger and one that sent my six-year-old self spiraling into a quasi-existential crisis. Sure, the show had gone in different creative directions before, but this was a whole other level. Rangers could come and go, outfits could change and megazords could be upgraded or exchanged, but the Command Center had remained a constant for three seasons and 150-plus episodes—a relative eternity in kid years. Yes, it would be rebuilt and revamped, but this event nevertheless left an indelible impression on me. I suddenly saw television as not merely a series of fun, if interchangeable half-hour installments, but something that could pull the rug out from under its audience at a moment’s notice and send its narrative spinning out into an entirely new direction. I went from hating whoever was responsible for this plot twist, to craving the strong feelings of uncertainty and confusion it inspired. As the Rangers looked on in horror over the charred remnants of their former headquarters, I knew nothing would ever be quite the same again. And, whether I was cognizant of it or not, it was a thrilling epiphany.—Mark Rozeman
17. All My Children
My parents were very strict about how much TV I could watch as a child. So I’m still not sure how, in the summer of 1982, I was allowed to watch All My Children. But somehow I stumbled upon the wonderful star-crossed love of Jenny (Kim Delaney) and Greg (Laurence Lau). You see Jenny was poor and Greg was rich. Greg’s mother didn’t approve of Jenny because she was from the wrong side of the tracks. Through circumstances too complicated to explain here, Jenny and her best friend Jesse (Darnell Williams) had to run away to New York City and live on their own. They were just teenagers! To my pre-adolescent heart it was all very dramatic.
I know that between camp, swim lessons, riding my bike, playing with my sister and all sorts of summer activities, I probably wasn’t home to watch All My Children every day. But the storyline is still so vivid in my memory. It’s the first time I cared so deeply about fictional characters. It’s a through line I find in the shows I’ve loved as an adult, from Buffy Summers, to Carrie Bradshaw, to Alicia Florrick. And it made me a life-long fan of Delaney. I was thrilled when she joined the cast of NYPD Blue and watched Army Wives because of her. She appeared on an episode of Murder in the First this summer and I clapped and screamed out loud, “It’s Jenny!” I made my best friend in high school because on the first day of school we realized we both loved the residents of Pine Valley. By college I had stopped watching, and hadn’t watched All My Children in years by the time ABC canceled it in 2011. But I still tuned in for that final episode because that TV summer of 1982 remains a significant part of my childhood.—Amy Amatangelo
18. Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
It’s fitting that the girl who didn’t grow up with cable, the one whose mother allowed her to watch so little TV, would grow up to become TV Editor of Paste Magazine. Still today, there are old music videos I stumble across that I can’t believe I’d never seen, until I remember that MTV and BET were but a dream to my pre-teen and teenage self—glorious channels I’d turn on, immediately upon entering any home that wasn’t my own. But there was one show that even my mother, a historian and professor at Boston University and UMass Dartmouth, couldn’t resist, and we watched it every Saturday night without fail. What captivated my mother, in part, was that Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman was far more historically accurate than she expected a fictional show to be. Set in the mid-1800s, the story followed Dr. Michaela Quinn (Jane Seymour), a wealthy, prim and proper Bostonian doctor who moves out west to Colorado and suddenly finds herself in a new world and responsible for her two nephews and niece, after her sister dies from a rattlesnake bite. The resulting series was a powerful, sweeping narrative, with heavy themes of feminism, race (the Cheyenne characters consistently played a key role in the plots) and class. But for me, it was the first time I realized that my mom, with her constant reading and writing and paper-grading, could become a normal person for one hour a week, and become engrossed in a TV show.
I only have a few memories of my mother, the academic, seeming “normal,” and even fewer of her being silly or ridiculous. And here’s one of them: the Season Three finale was a week away and it was going to be the wedding episode. Finally, after three excruciating seasons of more sexual tension than I could even understand, Dr. Quinn was going to marry her true love, Byron Sully (Joe Lando), in “For Better or Worse.” My mom announced we were going to have a wedding feast on the night it aired. I thought she was kidding. She wanted to do something… fun and ridiculous... and kind of romantic? Not possible. But lo and behold, that Saturday night when the two-hour episode began, there was more food on our table than made sense for two human beings. She had become a superfan, and she was so damn excited about this fictional wedding. My mother, who insisted at every opportunity that she could, that I get a PhD before I even think about having kids (whoops) and getting married, was throwing a wedding feast for two people who didn’t exist. Sixteen years after her death, the memory of all that food, and the two of us sitting, eating and watching TV together, remains one of my fondest.—Shannon M. Houston