Watching "Scottish Porn" With My Parents

Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures.
My parents and I have watched the first five minutes of nearly every new TV series that has come out in the last five years. Five minutes in, a character will propose casual sex, have casual sex, or somehow suggest they would have casual sex if given the chance. The show is vetoed forever and promptly shut off, and we turn on a rerun of an Aaron Sorkin show. It's a predictable rhythm, guaranteeing that orgasmic moans followed by the patriotic swell of The West Wing theme song will emanate from my parents' TV most Saturday nights.

As you might have read on any site covering television in any capacity, we're apparently living in the golden age of TV. So it shouldn't be that hard to find a new(ish) sitcom or drama that my parents would enjoy. Instead we watch Frasier, all 11 seasons on an endless loop, until any one of us might fly into a blind rage at the mere mention of tossed salad and scrambled eggs.

There are some shows I know are lost causes before the credits even finish. Game of Thrones, with at least 10 pairs of naked breasts per episode, was never going to be our family's go-to program. Neither was Girls, a show that would require more visits to Urban Dictionary than any two people with grown children should ever be asked to make. Breaking Bad was axed for general gloom before the first "Yeah, bitch."

I made complex pitches for shows I felt deserved a shot, with arguments meant to preempt any possible parental objections. Weeks before a screening of Community, I began a rundown of why it wasn't mocking community college students, but rather using diverse demographics as a way of bringing together characters from all walks of life. My Transparent push was rivaled only by the actual Amazon ad campaign. Showrunners were making efforts to make a more inclusive writers room! The season 2 opener has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments! Wasn't Judith Light great in Who's the Boss? No luck.

And then, last summer, I watched the pilot of Outlander, a show based on a series of romance novels. I immediately told my mother she had to watch it. Within a week, they had ordered Starz for the express purpose of a weekly viewing of what my mother insisted we call "Scottish porn."

To be clear, my father was never truly on board with this viewing decision. Each Saturday night I'd catch him looking at the clock then back at us, hoping we'd forget and end up watching Martin Sheen speak Latin instead of watching a ruggedly attractive Scottish man speak Gaelic. But we never forgot. We watched as — mild spoilers — the handsome Jamie (Sam Heughan) and crafty time traveler Claire (Caitriona Balfe) fell in love, fought some British solders, and, as all the year-end lists will tell you, enjoyed some particularly steamy sex scenes (which I, for the most part, caught at a later date in a room where my parents were not present). My mom loved Claire's feminist streak and Jamie's sense of humor. My dad liked the themes of honor, and, grudgingly, that the sex was at least within the bonds of marriage.

is on a long, long between-seasons hiatus, which means more labored attempts at a palatable show for my parents. (Amazon's entire pilot season lineup was a bust.) In the meantime, I'll pop in and out for their favorite show, Blue Bloods. It's corny, it's pandering, but, as my mother points out, it's really lovely how they always say grace before Sunday dinner.

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