A few days ago I put together a list of all the films of 2014 that I wanted to catch up on for awards season. With my free time severely reduced, it's going to keep me busy for a while. I thought about doing the same thing for television, figuring that even if I didn't bother with most of them, I could still use a handy reference of acclaimed 2014 shows: "The Affair," "Transparent," "The Leftovers," and "Fargo" would be at the top. But as I paged through critics' lists and "Best of" pieces, I realized I was completely out of my depth.
Being behind on movies is one thing. Movies are easily quantified, easily consumed. It's easy to decide to commit to a movie because it rarely demands more than three hours of your time. Television is another matter entirely. Three hours into most shows, the major characters have hardly been introduced. A television show is long-form entertainment that requires the kind of time and effort that I don't have much of these days. And as I was trying to fill a TV list for 2014, I realized that many of the highlights were shows that were in media res. "The Americans," "Downton Abbey," "The Good Wife," and "Boardwalk Empire," and "Shameless" kept coming up, shows that were in their second, third, or even sixth seasons.
And I thought to myself that I was going to have a hard enough time catching up with shows I'd already committed to, like "Mad Men," "Orange is the New Black" and "Person of Interest." When am I ever going to find the time to start "The Americans"? After all, I never did get around to "The West Wing" or "Blackadder" or "Deadwood," or dozens of other highly acclaimed series that I always told myself that I'd watch some day. I never even finished the first season of "House of Cards." Why bother trying to remind myself that I had a passing interest in "Rectify," "Silicon Valley," "The Knick," and "Mozart in the Jungle," when I'll probably never get that far down these imaginary lists?
And there are so many new shows coming in 2015 that sound great, but realistically I'll probably only be able to add one or two to my rotation. Good grief, the January midseason premieres alone are enough to keep me busy for the rest of the year: "Agent Carter" adding to the Marvel Universe, "Empire" providing an opportunity for Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson to strut their stuff together again, "Galavant" looks like ridiculous fun, and Asian solidarity requires that I have an opinion about "Fresh Off the Boat," whether I like it or not. And these are just the network shows!
If I watch "Better Call Saul" and HBO's "Westworld," currently at the top of my list of anticipated 2015 shows, and keep watching "The Daily Show," "Mad Men," "Game of Thrones," "Hannibal," "Doctor Who," and "Orphan Black," will there be time for anything else? Will I have time to check out "The Nightly Show" with Larry Wilmore on top of "The Daily Show," where I'm already skipping the interviews with guests who look boring and feeling guilty about it? Will I ever be able to justify vegging out with "Project Runway" or "The Big Bang Theory" again? It's enough to make a media junkie want to quit television altogether.
Don't get me wrong. I love that television has become a flourishing artistic medium. I love that I'm spoiled for choice when it comes to programming. However, lately it feels like I'm trying to eat an elaborate nine course meal with a wooden dixie cup spoon that's about to snap at any moment. Maybe I should take a break for a while, until I can get my hands on more cutlery.