Mindy Greenstein Ph.D.

The Flip Side

ChemoWorthy TV 2013

What's so terrible about TV, anyway?

Posted Mar 21, 2011

I love television. There was a time when I would have been embarrassed to admit that to my more intellectual friends, or to mothers or colleagues who'd be horrified at my relaxed attitude towards my children's watching habits. But not anymore.

I learned to speak English from watching television. Literally. My parents are holocaust refugees, and my mother had just come to this country when I was born. The language of our house was Yiddish, and so I learned English from TV, especially newscasts. It's why I sound more like Roger Grimsby than like the kids down the block. Later, I would even get my first taste of Shakespeare when Channel 7 ran Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Taming of the Shrew. And in a home that was often chaotic-my parents were compulsive gamblers - the words "same bat time, same bat channel" meant more than "stay tuned for the next episode of Batman." They meant that some things in life could be counted on. All I had to do was follow the rules and turn on the television dial at the right time.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, my husband Rob and I indulged our television habit as never before -- if there was ever a time for unapologetic distraction and entertainment, that was it. 

My attachment became even clearer when I visited my oncologist just before my first chemotherapy infusion. He asked if I was nervous. To my surprise, I realized that not only was I not nervous, I was itching to get started already. Rob and I had brought our portable DVD player, and were waiting to watch the next episode of The Shield; I had to find out if that bastard Shane was finally going to get what was coming to him. The only problem I had with that first infusion, in fact, was that it ended before our episode did! The nurse was kind enough to keep pumping fluids into my IV, so that we could stay in the room until we finished it (unfortunately, Shane was still at large). We were so hooked, in fact, that we couldn't ration our watching between infusions, and the DVD's lasted only through the first half of my chemo treatments.

We frantically searched for a successor and took a chance on a comedy, knowing how much harder it was for a show to make us laugh during cancer treatments than to make us feel outraged. Our "gamble" paid off, as Arrested Development had us laughing through the next two months of chemo. Nurses would find excuses to come by my room, craning their heads to see what could possibly be so funny that it beat out the horrors of a chemo drip.

And so, the idea of chemo-worthy television was born. Thinking of the famous Seinfeld episode that had introduced the concept of "sponge-worthy" dates, I started a list of television shows so good I could have enjoyed them even during chemo.

To celebrate the start of The Flip Side, my new blog discussing topics both serious and funny, below is a partial (and highly subjective) list of chemo-worthy TV. If you've seen all of them, you can find more on my web site mindygreenstein.com.


Next week:
The Adjustable Bed - the story of adjusting to life after a bilateral mastectomy


ChemoWorthy Comedy

Arrested Development

Blackadder Series (especially 2 and 3)

The IT Crowd

Freaks and Geeks 

New Girl 

The Office (both British and American versions)

The Neighbors 


Nurse Jackie

30 Rock 

Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog


Coupling (British version)

The Larry Sanders Show

Modern Family

The Middle



Raising Hope 



The Wire


The Shield  


Life on Mars (British version)

Downton Abbey

24 (especially the first 2 seasons)

The Returned



True Detective

Battlestar Galactica (reimagined version 2004-2009)

The Sopranos (especially the first season)

Firefly  (story concludes in the movie Serenity)

Lost (first season)

Six Feet Under (about a family of undertakers)

Prime Suspect 1 - 7 

Homicide: Life on the Streets

Law and Order 

Friday Night Lights 

Veronica Mars (could be under comedy too)