September 1st, 2011
03:10 PM ET
I am in the middle of a crisis. As I’m typing these very words, there is literally nothing for me to watch on TV. By which I mean, there is nothing on the DVR.
I was initially elated when I hit that TV junkie nirvana of having watched every program I’d recorded. And yes, I realize this says quite a bit about me.
But that joy was followed by a much darker fear: What do I do now?
(Don’t say go outside. Have you been outside? It’s hot out there. Plus, this is a blog about pop culture. Can we agree to work under the assumption that a good chunk of my life revolves around it? Cool. Let’s get back to it.)
In a simpler time, I would have just gone channel surfing, stumbled across a rerun I’d seen dozens of times and chuckled out of nostalgia. But I think I’ve been robbed of the ability to watch TV casually. (I realize I’ve created the box I'm trapped in.)
We live in an on-demand culture when it comes to our entertainment. We don’t have to watch shows when networks tell us to. And we certainly don’t have to watch them HOW networks want us to.
Getting sucked into a programming slate - watching show B just because it exists between shows A and C - is a thing of the past.
DVRs have given us tremendous freedom as TV consumers. They let us watch what we want when we want.
But what happens when we run out of things we want to watch?
It’s nearly impossible to just “drop in” on a show now.
Part of the reason is the storytelling. Procedurals aside, so many shows are told with such intricate detail and layered plots that running across them casually makes me itch to run out and get every past season on DVD to catch up. I’d prefer not to fall down that particular wormhole, thank you very much.
I accidentally slipped into a mini-version of that over the weekend. Casting about the channels, I ran into “American Ninja Warrior.” (Which, side note: those guys are awesome. You might start off making jokes, but eventually their athletic ability overwhelms you and you’re forced to watch in unironic appreciation.)
But this wasn’t just AN episode of “American Ninja Warrior.” It was an entire season marathon! Hello, 10 hours of programming. Goodbye, weekend.
Another issue is finding things to watch casually. I know “American Ninja Warrior” airs on G4. I still can’t tell you what actual channel number that is. If I want to watch a show (read: record a show), I search for the title, set up the recording, and maybe pay attention to the network.
This is not the cranky old man “there’s too many darn channels these days” argument. Increased channels means increased programming and more possibilities of people finding shows that they like. But there’s no way anyone can be expected to know what every channel is and where it’s located on the dial (or whatever the modern equivalent of the dial is).
Soon, this crisis will be over. The new fall season will begin, and my DVR will become overloaded with the new shows I’m planning to watch. I’ll find myself engaged in a defensive holding pattern, desperately trying to watch as much as I can as quickly as I can to stay current.
But I’ll try to remember this time as well, and remind myself that, once upon a time, it didn’t matter if I missed the first minute of an episode. That I didn’t start watching every show I’ve loved from the first episode. That I used to be able to channel surf and watch TV without fear or compulsion.
And I’ll feel a tinge of regret over the fact that, while I love TV, sometimes I miss that we can’t go back to being in a casual relationship. (Single tear)
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