To-Do List Television
There are some shows, like Coupling or The Office, that come very highly recommended. So I cheerfully acquiesce to popular opinion and instruct my TiVo to grab the next available episodes, but when it's time to watch them, it feels like a chore. And once I watch them, although I recognize that they're funny, it's in a sort of detached way. I don't laugh; I just nod and say "that's funny."
And it's not just shows that people recommend to me. She Spies, which I recently claimed to be the funniest, smartest show on television, languishes unwatched on my TiVo hard drive. It's getting to the point where even Simpsons reruns, which practically define "comfort television," seem like a lot of effort.
I don't know what the problem is. Part of it is TiVo's fault. TiVo is a wonderful invention that makes life better in any number of ways, but if you fall behind on your television-watching, you quickly face many, many hours of unwatched television. Television is basically a disposable medium, and it doesn't really mix well with an enormous to-do list. I understand the occasional Television Appointment, where people make it clear that no one's allowed to call them during the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but having to clear up fourteen hours to get caught up on CSI: Miami is an entirely different kettle of fish.
The other thing that's probably causing my apathy is the nonstop hype that is sweeps month. Every other show is a Very Special Powerful Event. There are kidnappings, fires, tornadoes, alien abductions, and always, always, always dramatic voice-over guys warning me not to miss the first five minutes or the last five minutes or something. I guess they're trying to make me afraid to miss the next episode, but the effect is that they're making it all seem so ponderous and important that it's just depressing. Who wants to see a Powerful New Episode of Friends? I want my crime shows to have twisty plots that get resolved in the last ten minutes thanks to dramatic new evidence. I want my sitcoms to have clever jokes. What I do not want is the threat that this is the episode that changes everything and if I miss it, I'll be like the 6% of people who were watching General Hospital instead of the moon landing.
I still watch television. Some of it. But not as much as I used to. Frankly, I'm looking forward to rerun season, when there's less to watch and keep up with.
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