When they’re home, with notable exceptions, they watch the show. They’ve seen each episode before, at least once. Either they forget the specifics of each episode (there’s quite a few), or when they do remember the particular episode, new details reveal themselves upon reviewing. They do not watch the show to see what happens.

They can come into an episode of the show in medias res and enjoy it. They can turn the show off in the middle and never think about it again, until that episode comes back up in the rotation again.

Viewing the show sequentially lends nothing to the experience. Since production of the show began, the television market changed somewhat and now rewarded long narrative arcs, but the modularity of the show still provided some appeal.

The show is an offshoot of another show that had been off the air for decades. They have not seen an entire episode of their show’s antecedent, which had been a show about police detectives. This show is quite similar to its predecessor. This was by design, as it was a proven brand and format that could reliably attract advertisers. The tone, music, setting, thesis, structure, and format are identical. The only unique aspects of this iteration are (most of) the cast, and that the detectives on this show deal exclusively with sex crimes. The show was set in a city most of its audience wouldn’t visit in their lifetimes, either because of circumstance or disinclination, and they did not question the disproportionately dense amount of ritualistic sex killers that lived and killed there.

They had not been to the city where the show was set. They never ended up going, either.

Neither of them experienced sexual violence as either perpetrator or victim. Neither of them performed any introspection, either together or separately, about why this was the show they had both become fixated upon.

Due to constraints of budget and what the government allowed to be broadcast over public stations, the physical realities of the various crimes were omitted. Neither the actual perpetration of the crimes nor the consequences therefrom were depicted. Instead, the actors who portrayed the victims were given lengthy scenes where they could walk through their emotional experience of the crime in front of the audience and their proxy: compassionate and professional police officers. These scenes are written in such a way that the actor can showcase their ability to achieve emotional verisimilitude while maintaining a saintly grace. Several times a year, these victim roles were assigned to actors who were commonly perceived to be above this kind of material, and these performances were submitted to the academy for awards consideration. An uncomfortable number of these special guest stars had since been revealed to be actual sex criminals.

The show followed a rote structure, every episode. A victim is discovered in the wake of their violation, and then the theme song would play. Then, the scene where we get the victim’s testimony, as mentioned earlier. Over the next two commercial breaks, the police did policework, interviewing witnesses and persons of interest, tracking down leads and clues. They would find a likely culprit, but that person would turn out to be innocent. A second culprit is found, and then the show shifts gears and settings to the judicial system. Righteous, clear-eyed and competent public defenders prosecuted the law to the best of their abilities. A sentence is rendered, and the credits roll, cataloguing the many union employees who worked day in day out to bring the show to the audience.

The police on this show are played by an ethnically diverse group of actors who had come to prominence in the theater. They are tough on the criminals, but never exceed the limits of due process. They are thorough, hardworking, honest people. They are rigorously respectful and kind to the victims, regardless of circumstance. For believability and maybe just to lighten the mood, honestly, they are given foibles, though ones that the audience can find acceptable given the stresses of such a career, like alcoholism or irregular infidelity. These defects are trotted out only when thematically appropriate.

It is important for the show to have its audience understand that there is no single type of sex criminal. No, any given person could pose a credible threat, at any time. They come from all ethnic and class backgrounds. The pedophiles were generally depicted to be moneyed.

The show was not completely unrealistic. The limitations of the judicial system were depicted. Some clearly guilty criminals, though never the worst of the worst, evaded conviction for various legitimate reasons, though the implication was always that they would be captured eventually. They couldn’t help it. Their crimes were the product of a deep, inexorable sickness, they were helpless to control their impulses.

When they watched the show, they had two parallel experiences: he would think about how, if one of these horrible scenarios were visited upon someone they knew, he would take the law into his own hands, about the punishment he would mete out, and how no jury would convict him for his revenge. She would experience a sort of vicarious thrill, speculating about what being violated would be like, and it was reassuring to see the victims validated by the police.

The streaming rights to the show transfer from one streaming platform to another on the whims of media conglomerates, and they follow the show from one platform to another and back.

Since the contagion descended, their jobs moved home. And because they were home more, they watched more of the show. Periodically, the streaming service would prompt them, asking if they were still there, still watching the show. They would both start rummaging for wherever the remote had gone, grumbling that of course they were still there.

Their bedroom only had room for the bed, so they spent their waking hours on the couch, with a parade of the varying types of sex crimes playing.

In the interest of precision, it is perhaps incorrect to say that they “watch” the show. The show in itself is no longer sufficient stimulus, not even new episodes. Even prior to the contagion, their social lives had become increasingly atomized and mediated. They would pay enough attention to the show to be able to follow the broad strokes of the plot while they alternated their attention between various devices, waiting for notifications alerting them to an interaction.

Often, they will fall asleep on the couch and the show will keep going. Sometimes, they’ll wake up and the streaming service had ceased playback due to inaction. But other times, the show would still be playing.