“I just don’t have time to watch another show.”
That’s something I myself have said multiple times in the past year. Gone are the days of linear TV viewing, where the only way to watch an episode was on a specific day at a specific time. Now we have networks, cable channels, streaming outlets, and even Playstation producing original content! According to FX CEO John Landgraf, 409 scripted series aired in the last year. There are now more original shows on air and more ways to watch them than ever before. So the question is; how does someone keep up in this era of “Peak TV?”
To put it simply, you don’t. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with this many TV shows. The vast number of streaming outlets adds another factor to an already complex situation. Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu have all changed the ways in which we consume television shows. No longer do we just have the networks and cable channels airing original series. Now we have shows that debut exclusively on a streaming platform, where the entire season is made available at once. No more do you have to wait a week between episodes if you so choose. So what do we do about this? How do you decide what is and isn’t worth watching?
I personally do not have the time nor the desire to watch all the TV shows out there. Even shows that I know are critically acclaimed (take for example Amazon’s Transparent) because I just can’t balance my personal life with the commitment to yet another show. When I start watching a show, I’m going to want to keep watching it and that just isn’t sustainable. Instead, I select my shows based on a variety of factors.
Those factors include personal interest in the subject of the show, critical acclaim, and whether I’ve watched something similar before. Let’s look at yet another show from Amazon, Bosch. Bosch is a cop show based on a series of novels by Michael Connelly. The show has received modest critical acclaim, mostly for its cast and singular focus on the character of Bosch. I’m a sucker for a few things; one of those being adaptations, the other being serialized shows (which most TV nowadays is). So right away Bosch has my personal interest right there. But, I’ve seen a ton of serialized television before and even more cop shows. Add on to that the show’s tepid reception and I’ve got my reasons not to watch Bosch. Despite my interest in it, it just isn’t a show I need to prioritize. Maybe one day, right?
Now let’s look at a show I decided was worth fitting in. FX is home to my favorite drama of last year, the anthology crime drama Fargo. The show, based off the Coen Brother’s movie from the 90s, tells a separate story each season with some small connections to the previous one. I was a late adopter to the greatness of Fargo mostly because I didn’t want to add yet another show to my list, and I was unsure of the show’s quality or longevity. So after the airing of the first season, hearing rave reviews from every critic I follow, and the announcement of a second season, I dived into Fargo. Here was a show that was clearly being discussed in the TV world, and was telling a familiar story in a new way, with a kind of voice that I had never seen from a TV show. Fargo offered me something unique and specific that I deemed worth watching.
Now the above are just two examples of the criteria I used to decide if I was going to watch a new show. They’re going to be different for everyone. Some people take the recommendations of friends, others will only watch a show if it is available on a specific streaming service. It could be anything. But, my challenge to you dear reader, is to decide what criteria you will use to determine what shows you begin watching and why you watch them. Never watch a show “just because.” That is truly a waste given the breadth of content available to us today.
So to conclude. Find your criteria for what makes a show “must watch TV.” Then use that to evaluate each new show that you watch. If at first a show meets your criteria and later on it doesn’t (for me, Sleepy Hollow and Arrow got the boot this year) then don’t watch it. Finally, don’t juggle too many not airing shows at once. Jumping back and forth between multiple shows that have a huge backlog of episodes is not advisable. For example, I just finished working my way through Veep on HBOGo and that is all I watched aside from programs that are airing current episodes once a week. This way you don’t get overwhelmed with trying to binge on too many shows.
There is so much TV out there and so much of it is worth watching. Yet so much of it is geared toward a very specific type of viewer. So don’t feel like you have to watch a show because someone declares it “great.” It may not be for you and that is ok. I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I won’t ever be able to watch every great show out there but, I can do my best to see as much of it as I can.
Editor’s Note (March 2018): I’ve since made time to watch Bosch and was pleasantly surprised by it. It still works for the sake of the example though.