We are living in the golden age of television. Movie stars have left the big screen to play in high-quality shows. There are an increasing number of television providers, and most of them aren’t even on basic cable. Netflix, HBO, Amazon, Hulu, Showtime, and more are all producing their own shows at a higher rate. Television acting, directing, and writing are all becoming more viable or desirable than the same job in the movie industry. The fan bases are getting bigger and bigger, and it’s almost “cool” to be a part of one. People stare wide-eyed if you don’t catch their reference to Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead (why people like that show escapes me). Television shows are getting better and better, and there are more and more of them.
So why do I find myself watching less and less television? This is something I’ve noticed recently. I think it’s fairly obvious that most of us are watching less actual television. That is to say, television that you get through cable or satellite and has commercials and air times. We have options that allow us to watch our favorite shows without waiting for the exact time slot every week. We can record it with a DVR, we can download the channel’s app and watch it anywhere we want, or, if the show isn’t on basic cable, we can watch it on Netflix or HBO GO or Hulu or Amazon Prime or any other number of places at literally any time of day.
But when I say I watch less television, I mean this. With the increased influx of new shows arriving every month, week, and day, I have found myself watching fewer and fewer shows. I have withdrawn into the comfort of a handful of television shows that I truly enjoy. In fact, at time of writing, there is no show that I am currently waiting for new episodes besides Rick and Morty. Of course, when Game of Thrones comes out, I’ll watch it, but I’m not holding my breath. Gasp! It almost sounds like heresy when I say it, but I don’t really feel very impatient for the new season. I binged the first three seasons of Silicon Valley in the week before the first episode of the fourth season aired, but I haven’t seen the new one yet. I watch new episodes of Archer whenever I remember to check. In fact, the only times I watch television with any sort of frequency are the nightly rewatches of The Office with my girlfriend, and I’ve seen all nine seasons at least four times (and “Dinner Party” about 40).
We’ve become so inundated with weekly updates of what’s hot in television that it’s just so much noise. Every day a new, critically acclaimed show is released in the form of a 13-episode, 20-hour season by Netflix, or the latest season of a gritty, somber drama wraps up on cable. There is so much out there, it’s hard to know what to pick. I find myself sticking to the same old shows I’ve always watched, venturing outside of this little bubble on the rare occasion the fancy strikes me. I keep a list of the television shows I want to watch and this year I’ve added dozens to the list (Mr. Robot, The OA, The Crown, Into the Badlands, Billions, Empire, Atlanta, The People v. OJ Simpson, Veep, The Leftovers, and more), while the new shows I’ve actually started are far fewer in number (Silicon Valley, Ballers, Westworld, Big Little Lies, and The Young Pope are it for this year). I’ve even fallen off with shows I used to watch and love. I watched the first season, loved it, and never found the time or inclination to keep up with it (Fargo, Better Call Saul, Narcos, Black Mirror, True Detective). This doesn’t even factor in all of the old TV shows I keep telling myself I will watch, and yet never do (The Wire, The Sopranos, The X-Files, M.A.S.H.).
There are so many television shows out there, so many that everyone thinks are mind-blowingly amazing, it’s hard to know where to start. It’s tough to justify investing 40 hours into bingeing the first three seasons of whatever show it is, because I might be missing out on something else. I know it isn’t very logical, but when presented with more choices than you can possibly explore, it’s easier to just stick with what you know, especially when what you know already takes up a good deal of your time to stay on top of.
I’ve begun to fall right back into this trap again and I can’t help myself. With summer fast approaching, I’ve begun to build up my Netflix queue and my HBO watchlist with new shows to catch up on or see the new episodes/seasons. I know that, inevitably, I won’t get to all, or even most of the shows I want to. I’ll probably watch the bare minimum of television to stay up to date with the references, but the more this happens, the more I fall behind on my pop-culture literacy.
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