Confessions of a terrible TV watcher
At a recent lunch with a friend, after talk of our families and work and various other endeavors, conversation lulled. What to take up the slack but the inevitable question: "Are you watching any good shows lately?"
She'd finished Downton Abbey and Dexter, had dabbled in The Affair, and was considering a new series but wanted something that had enough episodes so she could binge watch. "I've heard of those shows," I said, shaking my head in sadness that I really could not discuss them at all. "Dexter, that's about a serial killer, right?"
What I didn't tell her was that my last binge-watch happened when America's Next Top Model was still a relatively new show, and I'd spent Saturdays hungover on the couch watching Tyra teach wannabe models to smize. If you, like me, don't watch much TV, you'll still probably understand that this was a very long time ago. I haven't binged since. I don't know why, it just lost its appeal.
This comes up all the time, from friends, family, coworkers: "What are you watching? Any cool new shows on your radar? Did you see Breaking Bad?" (Yes, but only the finale because a friend's cable was out and so she watched it at my house. I got the gist.) "Are you into Game of Thrones?" (No, I heard that someone's head exploded on that show once, and now I'm terrified to flip past it on my way to Law and Order, which I do watch occasionally, usually at the gym but also sometimes in my own home, mostly because I've already seen nearly every episode and they make me feel oddly safe in their reliable structure and the whole combo-deal of law plus order.) But, no, I haven't seen Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or Catastrophe or The Walking Dead or The Americans or The Leftovers or Louie or Better Call Saul. When people on Twitter rev up their engines to tweet about a show, I tune out, because I'm not watching whatever it is. Well, I peek, and then I feel worthless. How do they keep up? Who has time for all this TV watching? Does no one but me sleep? (And do I sleep too much? Probably.)
The last two series I did watch were Girls and Mad Men, but that's in no small part because I got paid to write about them and my editor would have murdered me if I didn't file. Sometimes I watch one of the Real Housewives franchise shows, because I like to know what rich people are buying their husbands for their birthdays (mini ponies!). I DVR all of them, though, which means that the majority wait forever in a neat little list on my TV, always the bridesmaid, never the bride. I like having them there. It's like collecting beach glass.
Having to answer "No. No. No. Not that one, either! Er, nope," to "Have you seen X? What do you think about Y?" over and over again while others discourse thrillingly about the latest program of interest has had a soul-wrenching ramification: I've become insecure about my TV watching habits.
After all, I am supposed to be a culturally savvy individual, a person who can chronicle the (presumably many) differences between The Big Bang Theory and The Americans. All I know is that one show is about nerds (or science? Evolution? The world as we know it?) and one show is about … spies? I did see an episode of Friends recently, which I used to watch back when it was actually on, before we could tweet about it, when binging was for booze, not TV. I tweeted about it with a helpful "Late to this" preface. Oh, and when I viewed several episodes of The People vs. O.J. Simpson, I told everyone I saw about it, from dinner companions to my dry cleaner. "Are you watching O.J.? Have you seen that O.J. show? David Schwimmer is making me like not only Robert Kardashian, but also David Schwimmer!" (Of course, most of my friends had by then moved on to The Americans.)
Luckily, there's someone to blame for all this: married people.
I was visiting a friend who is married and frequently watches television with her husband (she even suggested the three of us do it together!). "Do you watch The Daily Show?" she asked. "No," I said wearily. Then she informed me that a surprisingly large number of couples who watch The Daily Show have sex during the show. The numbers aren't verifiable, but I believe it: Of course, TV is a COUPLES THING! My problem isn't that I'm a TV idiot, it's that I'm not sharing my television life with anyone special right now!
Well, except for the cable guy. After a canny salesman wooed me with promises of even more cable channels I'll never watch for just a dollar more a month, I mistakenly upgraded my cable, which led to an aggressive need to downgrade my cable. So I found myself on the phone with the cable guy.
He tried very hard to find me a package that would meet my needs, but in the end, I just wanted to go back to what I had before. And yet, as with a relationship, once you break up you can't be confident they'll take you back. "Sorry, that package no longer exists," he explained, as my ire grew. "Your best bet is to bundle. Tell me again, what do you like watching?" "Nothing!" I said. "I have too many channels I don't watch! I hate bundling!" There was a brief pause. "Do you watch NCIS?" he asked.
I am clearly a lost cause, but maybe, someday, I can find a pairing that would work for even me.