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Glued to the screen

In a perfect world, my wife and I would have welcomed the first days of 2009 rapt in silent awe at the dawn of a new era.

We could have marked the occasion by building a sacred fire, preparing a festive meal or carrying out some annual ritual fraught with personal and cosmic significance.

But this is not a perfect world. So we watched TV.

We don't usually spend a lot of time in front of the TV set in our house. But this past year there have been notable exceptions, particularly during the primaries and the election. Like many of our fellow citizens, we were greatly concerned about the whole process and we followed it closely, moving through the channels to glean whatever each particular network or commentator had to contribute to our growing awareness of how things were developing.

Then there are the Spanish channels which we turn to whenever we want to practice our language skills. Once in a while I'll catch a football game, but the television set gets used mostly as a means to view DVDs or videos. Even then, we don't watch all that much.

But, at the dawning of the New Year, all that changed. It began New Year's Eve when I settled in next to our 4-year-old grandson at our house to watch "Elf" while his parents were at work. My wife and I usually stay home on New Year's Eve, so we were only too happy to oblige.

Turns out there was an "Elf" marathon that night. Which meant that as soon as the movie was over, it started again. And again.

So it was that I saw a great deal of Will Ferrell, Bob Newhart, James Caan, Ed Asner, Mary Steenburgen, Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone as a singing snowman. We watched the improbable but lovable story of a human adopted by Santa's elves who sets off from the North Pole to reconnect with his human family in New York City during Christmastime. In the process he helps Santa and saves Christmas.

It was a cute film, with positive messages, and a happy ending sending my little guy into sleep with visions of delight for his first night of the new year.

During the many commercial breaks interrupting "Elf," (one of the major reasons we don't watch much TV) I learned that the next day, the first day of 2009, there would be another marathon.

The station would be showing old episodes of the TV sitcom/detective show, "Monk," all day. The new season would be starting on Jan. 9, so this presumably would bring viewers like my wife and me up to speed in case we had missed any of the previous shows. Well, this was good news since my wife and I are big fans of "Monk" even though we haven't watched the show in quite a while.

Tony Shalhoub plays the obsessive, compulsive detective Adrian Monk who helps solve crimes for his former boss, Captain Leland Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine), and his assistant, Lieutenant Randall Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) of the San Francisco Police Department. Monk's personal assistant and friend Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard) helps him navigate the many difficulties his long list of phobias cause him. Monk's therapist Dr. Neven Bell (Hector Elizondo) is always there for him.

We love the writing and the directing. There are silly moments and touching ones and Monk always figures out who the bad guy is and how he committed the crime. So, naturally, since we had a bit of catching up to do, my wife and I sat through a string of episodes. We emerged hours later with a big chunk of time missing from our evening, but with smile-inducing memories that made it all worth while.

The weather seemed to say stay home. So we did. After we stopped at the video store. We brought home a movie we had always wanted to see, "A Mighty Wind," and the first season of our favorite show, the Canadian TV series "Slings and Arrows."

"A Mighty Wind" is billed as a mockumentary about the reunion of three 1960s folk groups as they prepare for a show at The Town Hall in honor of their recently deceased concert promoter.

"A Mighty Wind" was written by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy and directed by Guest. The cast was familiar: Levy, Guest, Catherine O'Hara, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Fred Willard, and Bob Balaban, Ed Begley, Jr., Jennifer Coolidge and Parker Posey. Many of them appeared in some of Guest's other comedy films "This Is Spinal Tap," "Waiting for Guffman," and "Best in Show." We laughed and smiled as we fondly recalled the original groups who were being parodied in the movie.

"Slings and Arrows," a clever mix of dark humor and personal drama worthy of the Bard, takes place at the fictional New Burbage Festival, a Shakespearean theater patterned after the Stratford Festival. The program stars Paul Gross, Stephen Ouimette and Martha Burns. The show's writers also appear in it.

The key people involved in the series also were involved in the Stratford Festival. They all love theater deeply and that love is apparent in every episode. "Slings and Arrows" ran for three seasons — six episodes each — and each season was about the production of a different play by Shakespeare.

We watched the first three episodes with friends. They finished the rest of the first season at home a few days later and now are big fans.

New Year's weekend is over, the work week has begun again and our TV feels neglected. But for those few days and hours, it was like a Christmas stocking brimming with holiday goodies.