Tuesday, March 22, 2016

After Television

I can't actually remember the last time I watched regular primetime television programming live.  I think it may have been a random episode of "Person of Interest" a few years ago.  However, as the time available to me to watch television has shrunk, I pretty much stopped watching live television at all.  If a show isn't immediately available during the short time that I have to watch something, I don't watch it.  That means all online content all the time.  Media junkie that I am, I pick new shows based on buzz, and wait for the older ones to amass more episodes so I can watch them all in one go.  I stopped caring about fall premieres and what was on what channel in what time slot.  I stopped reading the television listings and tracking when my favorite shows were coming back.  I let it all go.

Appointment television has all but disappeared.  The only show I'm still watching on anything like a regular schedule is "The Daily Show," and I usually binge a whole week's worth of episodes at the weekend, skipping over the less interesting interviews.  The last season of "Doctor Who" was marathoned with a friend shortly after the finale.  I spent a good chunk of my Christmas break catching up with random odds and ends: the "Star Wars" episode of "The Big Bang Theory," the "Adventure Time" miniseries about Marceline the Vampire Queen's origins, and the last couple of episodes of "Mr. Robot."  I could have watched the "X-files" revival live, but it was so much easier to just wait until the whole thing was finished after five weeks, and watch them according to my own schedule.  I completely missed the big kerfuffle about the football game coverage that screwed up the premiere.

I still watch plenty of television, but I find myself wary of getting into new serialized shows now, even though I have access to a bunch of popular ones on the major streaming services.  I pick shorter, self-contained, easy to finish series, because I'm wary of the time commitment.  I have a group of shows that I'm set on following long term, but I don't feel like there's room for any more.  Frankly, it was a relief when "Mad Men" ended, and I'll be glad to polish off "Person of Interest" soon.  I still feel guilty that I never finished the first season of "House of Cards," or kept going after the first season of "Orange is the New Black."  If something new does pique my interest, a shorter initial season with only thirteen episodes is a big selling point.  Ten is even better. I feel slightly more at ease trying new animated shows, knowing that they have long production times and new seasons often take ages to come out.  "Rick and Morty" is one of my new favorites.

It doesn't feel like I'm missing anything that's going on in pop culture, contrary to what I expected when I stopped watching so much TV.  I read the trades and a lot of media coverage, so I feel I stay well pretty informed of what's happening on the business side.  I know that the big critical favorites of the moment are "The Leftovers," "Master of None," "The Americans," and "Transparent," even though I'm only watching one of those.  And I know I'd probably like "The Affair" more than "Outlander," and "Galavant" more than "Jane the Virgin."  Also, most of the gossip-generating television moments tend to blow up online anyway.  Facebook and Reddit are constantly pointing me toward the highlights of "Saturday Night Live," the late night shows, and the occasional "Simpsons" couch gag worthy of note.  Election season actually feels kind of fun, because I'm only getting the gaffes and the satire, while skipping the attack ads and the debates.  And I feel absolutely no remorse for not watching the debates live, as I once might have - it's a far better use of my time to simply read the summaries the next day.

My one big exception to not watching live television over the last few years has been the award shows.  The Oscars and the Emmys have never reliably been available online, and they're never as much fun to watch after the fact.  At some point over the past year, however, I stopped caring.  I didn't watch the Emmys or the Golden Globes at all.  I did watch the Oscars.  I still don't think I'd be satisfied only watching clips, but I can feel myself getting to that point.  The shine's worn off, and I don't know what it's going to take to get it back.  Maybe it's gone for good, and maybe that's not a bad thing.


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