Teleparty and “Twin Peaks”

Thursday, December 3, 2020 - 3:44pm

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Photo by Andrew Warrick

We’re all sick of being online. 

It’s a cliché at this point— the phrase “Zoom fatigue” makes me want to hurl my computer out the nearest window. Online class. Online work. Online shopping. Online therapy. Online Happy Hour. Online Thanksgiving.

After eight months of living online, is it any wonder that we’re tired of our computer screens? 

Yet think back, for just a moment, to the before-times.

It’s December 2019, exactly a year ago. You sink into a cushioned red seat with an armful of buttery popcorn and fizzing soda, next to a friend. You both stretch your feet out onto the opposite row’s empty chairs, and lean back. The screen erupts with light. “Little Women” begins. 

Remember when we stared into screens to escape the real world, not enter it? Remember when “screen-sharing” used to be fun?

Maybe it’s just me. As long as I can remember, I’ve connected with people facing endless permutations of flickering light. One of my earliest memories is seeing “Finding Nemo” with my parents, the screen towering over me like some monolithic deity of sound and color. I remember sitting with my elementary school class, absolutely electrified, watching “March of the Penguins.” I remember the thrill of going on my first movie date, thinking I’d finally “grown up.” I remember both my times seeing “Little Women” with my best friends, enveloped by the warmth of the most comforting movie ever made.

That all seems like a dream now. 

Cinemas are (or should be) off limits, as are gatherings with people without physical or virtual distance. So on top of everything else, the virus has taken away my favorite way to connect with people. 

Around October, this all came to a head. I desperately missed going to the movies with those closest to me, but knew that wasn’t an option. I’d gone to see “Tenet” wearing a face shield, N95 mask, gloves and a poncho, and had hated every second of it. The next best thing, having a home movie night, was also clearly impossible. 

Sure, I’d heard of this Chrome-extension called “Teleparty,” but it sounded like blasphemy. 

I’m a movie critic, you see. A real connoisseur. I was the guy who, even in a 9:00 pm showing of “The Crimes of Grindelwald” on Thanksgiving Day 2018 which I dragged my brother and sister to only as a desperate measure to escape our extended familywas absolutely enraged that someone dared to whip out their phone and fire off a text. 

Movies are sacred to me. O.K., yes. I get it. I was (and am) a film snob. I suffered for it, spending the first seven months of this pandemic watching movies alone, mostly on the computer screen that I’d already grown sick of. 

Any movie I watched, however, was doomed to disappoint no matter its quality, as the medium in which I watched them lacked what made the silver screen such a powerful refuge. 

As one friend put it: “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE FRIENDS YOU MEET ALONG THE WAY ISN'T IT?”

So, tired of staring into the void of my laptop alone, I decided to try this “Teleparty” thing.      

My first attempt had mixed results. 

I watched “Trial of The Chicago Seven” with an old friend. While it was fun, the experience stressed me out, because I had to review the film. So I found myself desperately looking from the movie to the chat box to give both their due attention, and have the shared experience I’d desperately been missing. 

I knew that “Teleparty” wasn’t a total bust, though. I decided to try watching something I’d already seen, “Twin Peaks,” with another friend. 

It was an absolute blast.  

Probably because I’d already seen the show, and wasn’t going to write an article about it (or at least hadn’t planned to), I didn’t feel the pressure to give “Twin Peaks” my 100% percent attention. Also, “Twin Peaks” being a TV show also probably put my film snob brain a little more at ease with watching it on a smaller screen. 

Anyway, I could chat with my friend about how iconic Audrey Horne’s dancing is, about how Agent Dale Cooper is the perfect man and how we’re both currently feeling a bit too much like Nadine

Having a Teleparty in Twin Peaks, a “place both wonderful and strange,” was the perfect way to find joy in communal cinema again. The show, a murder mystery with cosmic shades, takes place in a Pacific Northwest town where the residents are quirky and fun (when they aren’t murdering one another) and seem to live off cherry pie, donuts and coffee.

It doesn’t get more comforting than that, and the show’s wonderfully over-the-top twists made it perfect to watch with my friend, who called it “relentlessly entertaining … serving us drama left and right.” 

My recommendation to both film snobs and non-film snobs alike is to give “Teleparty” a try, and to choose a comfort-watch. 

While texting during a movie isn’t ideal, these aren’t ideal times. If we’re destined (or cursed) to live online, we’ll have to make the most of it. 

I just hope, come December 2021, I can sit next to a friend again, put my feet up, have some popcorn and watch a film as good as “Little Women.” 

Until then, I’ll be having a Teleparty in Twin Peaks, which is the next best thing. 

Daily Arts Writer Andrew Warrick can be reached at warricka@umich.edu.


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