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Scott D. Pierce: Gov. Spencer Cox’s taste in TV ... really isn’t bad at all

The governor is a fan of ‘Cobra Kai’ and the Jazz, but not Fox News.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at a news conference in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021.

Spencer Cox doesn’t watch a whole lot of TV these days, and I’m OK with that. He is, after all, the governor of Utah, and I’m glad he’s making that his priority.

He does follow the Utah Jazz, but he isn’t interested in dramas and he doesn’t watch cable news — including the Fox News Channel. Good for him. When he does have time to relax, here are some of his favorite TV shows.

Favorite show • Cox recently finished watching Season 3 of “Cobra Kai,” and he’s a big fan. Just like he loves “The Karate Kid,” the 1984 film on which it’s based. “I’ve probably seen it 50 times.”

(Photo courtesy of Curtis Bonds/Netflix) Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso and Martin Kove as John Kreese in "Cobra Kai."

In “Cobra Kai,” the governor likes “the continued rivalries and the way they put the script into making Johnny (William Zabka) into more of the hero, or anti-hero. I just think it’s been brilliantly well done. The second season was a little slow at times, but the third one was great again. And bringing back my first crush, Ali with an I.”

That would be Elisabeth Shue, that is, who’s appeared as Ali in three episodes.

What Cox really likes about “Cobra Kai” is that his 14-year-old daughter watches it with him. And that’s great.

No cable news • The governor doesn’t watch news on cable TV. No CNN. No MSNBC. No Fox News.

“Never,” Cox said. “In fact, we have not watched cable news in eight years, and it’s something I’m very proud of. I feel very strongly about it. We had Fox News on and just decided that it was unhealthy and bad for our brains and bad for our country, and we stopped watching all cable news.”

That’s the single most surprising thing Cox told me. And I applaud him for it.

In this Nov. 27, 2017 photo, actors James Roday, left, and Dule Hill pose for a portrait in New York to promote their TV film, “Psych: The Movie,” debuting Thursday on USA. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision/AP)

Other favorites • Cox and his daughter like the 2006-14 comedy/mystery “Psych,” which ran for 119 episodes. “We’ve watched it three times all the way through — twice during the pandemic,” Cox said.

“Psych” was an underrated show — although I can’t say I’d watch it three times, let alone twice in a year.

The 2009-15 sitcom “Community” is one of his “favorites of all time. It’s a show I love and I’ll jump back into on occasion.”

Also a good show, although it struggled in its later seasons.

“And we love ‘Phineas and Ferb,’” the 2007-15 animated series. “It’s another one I get to watch with my daughter and keeps us entertained, and we don’t have to invest too much into it.”

I kind of miss watching animated shows with my kids, now that they’re all grown up ...

Autumn DeWilde | FOX Damon Wayans, Jr., Jake Johnson, Zooey Deschanel, Max Greenfield, Hannah Simone and Lamorne Morris star in "New Girl."

“I probably shouldn’t admit this. My guilty pleasure from a long time ago — ‘New Girl’ was one that we had a lot of fun with.”

He really doesn’t need to feel guilty about that. “New Girl” was fun and engaging.

And one more suddenly dawned on him. “How’d I miss this? ‘Arrested Development’ is on Mount Rushmore for me. That’s one that I will return to on occasion, especially the original three seasons. That’s probably my go-to.”

An excellent choice! And the governor is 100% right — the first three seasons that aired on Fox (2003-2006) were way better than the 2013 and 2018-19 revivals on Netflix.

No drama Cox • “I’ve just never really been able to get into prestige TV at all,” said the governor. “Life’s dramatic enough. I don’t need drama in my life. And so I gravitate toward comedy.”

I certainly understand the sentiment, but I think he’s missing out. There are are so many great dramas.

Television influences • “Growing up, I was a Seinfeld guy,” Cox said. “And even before that, it was probably ‘Cheers.’”

These days, he’s an inadvertent Food Network viewer — because his wife is a fan. “So I see more episodes of ‘Chopped’ and ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ than I care to admit,” Cox said.

(AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File) In this April 14, 2009, file photo, cast members, from left, Jenna Fischer, Angela Kinsey, Craig Robinson and Steve Carell are seen after cutting a cake celebrating the 100th episode of the television show "The Office" in Malibu, Calif.

The one that got away • Cox never watched “The Office,” and he wishes he had. “I watched a couple of the first episodes and never got into it,” he said. “And then everybody said it’s one of the best of all time and I’ve just never gotten back around to it. And I will at some point, maybe after I’m done with this governor thing.”

The truth is the six-episode first season of “The Office” wasn’t good. That’s not just my opinion — for which I caught a lot of flak. Showrunner Greg Daniels admitted that was true.

“I’m in good company then,” Cox said with a laugh.

Sports on TV • The Cox family “kind of revolves around” sports on TV — the Jazz, college football and the NFL. When he was growing up, Cox was not allowed to watch TV on Sunday. So he’d have to “sneak to my friends’ to try to watch NFL football.” Although the Super Bowl was the exception to that rule.

“But my wife’s family couldn’t watch TV any day of the week except for Sundays. Football was the only thing they could watch as a family, which is hilarious,” Cox said. “And so being the good married couple we are, we decided to compromise and allow our kids to watch TV every day of the week.”

The Big Event at the Cox home — now the governor’s mansion — is Utah Jazz games. “Even when I’m not home, my family will religiously watch the Jazz games together,” the governor said. “Again, I don’t have as much time to do that as I used to. But we still try to prioritize those Jazz games.”

These days, he’ll answer emails and texts while he’s watching. But does that leave him time to yell at the TV during games?

“Not as much as I used to, but my wife — she’s taken on that responsibility,” Cox said.

Wired in • The Cox family is wired for cable — which isn’t surprising, given that they own the local cable company in Fairview. They also subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Disney+.

Disney+ is a big deal, he said, because “we had kind of a weekly ‘Mandalorian’ [viewing], and that’s moved into ‘Wanda-vision’ now.”

They did sign up for the free monthlong trial of HBO Max “to watch ‘Wonder Woman 1984.’ That one’s being canceled.”

There’s a lot of good stuff on HBO Max, but how many streaming services do you need?

In case you were wondering • It was my idea to write about what Cox watches on TV. We both know there are about a million more important things happening in the world, but sometimes you’ve just got to take a step back. “It’s nice to be able to to think about something else and to have a little fun,” Cox said.

I promised the governor we’d only talk about TV, and I promised not to mock him ... much. Just maybe tease him a bit about his choices. But, except for watching “Psych” twice in a year — which is a little nuts — there wasn’t a whole lot to tease him about.

“I think there are a lot of people that think that a governor should never enjoy himself or herself. Or do anything that is relaxing. Or spend time with their family,” Cox said. “But it’s important to find those moments. And during a pandemic, when we can’t do some of the things we would normally do, TV has filled that void in a way that, at least for our family, has been really positive and allowed us to connect in important ways.”

Listen to the governor! TV can be fun. TV can bring families together.

And Fox News is bad for our brains and bad for our country.

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