Now, as they near the first anniversary of all that togetherness, they say that except for desperately missing their older son, Isaac, who lives in Colorado and recently got married, they feel lucky to be together. “There’s no question,” Patinkin said. “Being with my family holed up for 11 months has been one of the true gifts of my life.”
As this phase of the pandemic nears its end, do they plan to turn their unlikely social-media fame into a family sitcom or reality TV show? No, says Gideon, although they have gotten endless inquiries. For one thing, his parents can barely operate the video functions on their phones, and eventually he will again have to leave them to their own devices. “Once the world is vaccinated and living life is back in vogue, I might have to teach them how to do selfie videos,” he said. “That should be something.”
After the first few videos last spring, Grody exhorted Gideon not to portray them simply as an “adorable older couple,” she said. “You have to get some of our annoyance in there,” she told him.
What annoyance? In dueling interviews, the couple outlined the many ways they irritate each other. Patinkin hates the way his wife amasses old newspapers, like a hoarder. Grody hates how, when she fails to answer her husband’s calls, he redials incessantly — three, four, five times — until she picks up. She likes podcasts; he likes rewiring the house. She is a “social maniac,” Patinkin said; he “likes humanity in general, but very few specific people,” Grody said.
In one video, they tell Gideon how they celebrated their anniversary the day before.
“It began lovely, and turned into an absolute fight,” Patinkin says. “Both of us lost.”
“I apologized and that made dad cry,” Grody says. “We’ve always connected through weeping.”
The response was so positive, with people posting that the couple reminded them of themselves or their parents or just brought joy at a dark time, that Gideon now advises other young adults confined at home to embark on similar projects. “I became astonished at how much I could get out of them,” he said.
Their efforts expanded this summer and through the election. Patinkin has long volunteered for the International Rescue Committee, a nonprofit humanitarian organization, and Gideon encouraged his parents to use their growing social media base — now 250,000-plus on Twitter, 155,000-plus on Instagram, 940,000-plus on TikTok — to work for Democratic candidates in the presidential and Senate elections.
The couple took part in virtual fund-raisers; did endless phone banking; danced, sang, cooked and goofed around. Enlisting the services of the writer and director Ewen Wright, they recorded TikTok campaign spots, like one in which Patinkin tells young people to get their parents and grandparents to vote, and then twerks to a remix of the song “Stand By Me.”
Mystifyingly to them, some of their videos have been viewed more than a million times.