Why am I not watching TV?

Nikita02 I'm a TV geek. I love TV. I write about TV, I read about TV, and I work in TV. So why have I watched so little of it this season?

For example, I never missed an episode of LAW & ORDER:SVU. Until now. This season, I've seen one episode (the horrendous "soft drinks are evil" episode)…and I haven't been back. (Of course, last season may go down as their worst ever and that may have turned me off to the show).

I loved MODERN FAMILY last season, I watched every, single episode. This season, I've watched three. I liked them all. But haven't been back.

I've seen about half of the CASTLEs this season. Have a bunch on my Tivo. Haven't watched them.

I've seen two episodes each of NIKITA, DETROIT 187, BLUE BLOODS, THE WALKING DEAD, BOARDWALK EMPIRE…I liked them, enough to get season passes on my Tivo, but so far, I haven't gone back to see any of them.

Last season, I watched four episodes of THE GOOD WIFE. Liked it. Tivo'd every episode, and still do. Haven't watched any of'em yet. I used to be an avid viewer of HOUSE, BONES, and CSI …and haven't watched them now for a couple of years.

I've seen three LAW & ORDER: LA's and that was enough. I saw two DEFENDERS, also enough. I saw one episode of each of CHASE, NO ORDINARY FAMILY, and THE GOOD GUYS. I saw one SHIT MY DAD SAYS and one MIKE & MOLLY, and I want that hour of my life back.

The only shows I haven't missed an episode of this season are DEXTER, JUSTIFIED, and LEVERAGE…and HAWAII FIVE-O (which is astonishing, since 5-o is so disappointing on so many levels. Why the hell do I keep going back?). I have watched a few UK shows… SHERLOCK, LUTHOR, LEWIS, etc…but those are only three to six episodes each.

And I, a life-long TV geek, have never seen a single episode of the Emmy-winning and wildly acclaimed series MAD MEN or BREAKING BAD. I've also never seen a single episode of  BROTHERS & SISTERS, IN TREATMENT, THE EVENT, LIFE UNEXPECTED, VAMPIRE DIARIES, THE HUMAN TARGET and most of the new sitcoms.

I used to watch everything. I used to make sure I saw at least one episode of every new series. 

What I can't figure out is… why have I stopped watching TV? What's happened to me?  William-shatner-bleep-my-dad-says-trailer

Part of it may be there is so much more TV than ever before…ABC, CBS, FOX, CW, USA, TNT, TBS,Showtime, HBO, Starz, AMC…that it's impossible to keep up.

Part of it may be that I have been writing a lot…and watching TV feels like cheating on my deadlines.

Or maybe it's because so much of what I'm seeing feels rehashed and cliche-ridden…and I'm tired of being 20 steps ahead, plot wise, of the shows that I am watching. 

Or maybe I've just watched too much for too long and need a sabbatical. 

I have no clue. And yet, I feel guilty for "falling behind" in my TV viewing, like it's some sort of obligation.

But, and here's the really strange thing, I don't miss it.

21 thoughts on “Why am I not watching TV?”

  1. I actually started cutting back on my TV watching. Still feels like I’m watching too much, but at least it is all stuff I really enjoy.
    Next year I’ll cut back. Really!

  2. If you figure out why you are watching Hawaii 5-0 still, let me know. It may explain why I’m watching too even though there are serious problems with it. I think it may be because I like the way they’ve written Dano, but I’m not sure.
    In general, though, I find myself in the same position you are. I watched several shows before I had a DVR. Never missed an episode. Now I just let them stack up. I think it may have something to do with not HAVING to watch them immediately. In the past you could tape everything and let an episode or two stack up, but eventually you had to watch them because you were almost out of tape. Now, with the hard drive for storage, you don’t have to watch so immediately. And the longer you let something sit the easier it is to just never go back. I’ve done that with a couple of shows I enjoyed. Let them sit long enough that I eventually lost interest.

  3. I know I never watch “new” tv anymore. Part of the reason is that with Netflix streaming and DVDs, every current show competes not only with every other current show, but with every show ever made.
    Why should I watch some current, though low grade, show when I can watch really great stuff from the past. For example, I am just now watching the first season of Veronica Mars. I’d heard it was good and it is. Why should I take time away from that to watch Mike & Molly?
    Dean Abbott

  4. I dropped out four or five years ago because 1) the content is getting worse and worse, 2) the commercials are overwhelming and 3) there are too many other choices. My “destination” tv list includes Burn Notice, White Collar, and occasionally Two and a Half Men. Oh, there’s the occasional college football game, or even Psych (when I can put up with the lame plots). I sure miss Monk… Hey, where’s the Monk Movies????

  5. I feel the same way, and likewise never miss an episode of Hawaii Five-O. And while I don’t regret tuning out most of today’s new programs, I do miss good TV. I still remember the excitement of picking up the Fall Preview Issues of TV Guide in the ’70s and ’80s and being entranced for hours. And then eagerly awaiting the newest shows by Stephen Cannell and Glen Larson. That’s what I miss.

  6. I’ve picked up the phone to cancel my cable on more than one occasion but have hung up before punching in the last number. Not sure why I haven’t just pulled the plug.
    Oh yeah, Food Network and HGTV. But, they are getting old, too. I think I’m on electronic overload and just tired of all things digital.

  7. You are right. Too many cliches. I think everything is being dumbed down. Dexter was good this season (but not as good as last season) and Leverage has it’s ups and downs. I really enjoyed Rubicon (RIP cancelled). If the show is too smart, it doesn’t make it. BBC is still the best. Too bad they don’t show more shows on their American channel.

  8. Mr Goldberg,
    There’s a new detective show on BBC1 on Sunday nights called Zen.
    It’s set in Italy, but most of the actors are British (though not with cod Italian accents)!
    Rufus Sewell stars as Zen and the opening credits are quite stylish. I quite liked the first episode.
    Hope you get to see it at some point.

  9. I bowed out a decade ago, and I used to watch TV religiously. The new season TV Guide was my Bible, and I remember reading it all the way, down to the list of cast changes at the end.
    That ended when my first child was capable of spending several hours in front of the TV without moving. Rather than fight, we cut the cord.
    Now, when we visit the grandparents and get a dose of cable TV, with its long commercials and short narrations (I pity the writers who have to break down an hour-long show into eight-minute segments), it reminds us why.
    So we buy or rent the DVD sets instead. We just started Sherlock and will move on to the first season of Mad Men.
    Now, I look at the box sets of old series I loved, but I can’t spend the time with them anymore.

  10. Lee, I can’t imagine having enough time on my hands to watch 99% of the shows you listed here, but also can’t imagine missing a single episode of BREAKING BAD or MAD MEN. Maybe that’s why you’ve soured on TV (finally!). You’ve got the channels tuned wrong.
    (Except for JUSTIFIED which is outstanding.)

  11. I can guess the reason for watching HAWAII 5-0 in two words: Grace Park.
    What about MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE? It’s a nice mix of comedy and drama, while the chemistry between the three guys is great.

  12. I haven’t watch tv, actually sat and saw a season, in almost 10 years. I seen shows off & on, but nothing really consistent (there are exceptions).
    Watched Burn notice: lost interest. He got too soft from when he was pursuing getting his spy life back, then they threw in his family & I just got bored.
    Watched monk actually pretty consistently up until the last 2 seasons I’d say.
    Watched L&O: SVU (mariska hargitay sooo sex-say!) but haven’t seen anything new of it.
    Now I buy boxsets of show I liked when I was young: BRISCO COUNTY JR., AMAN CALLED HAWK, STREET HAWK TEK WARS, PARKER LEWIS CAN’T LOSE, SPENCER: FOR HIRE, MIKE HAMMER (80’s version first season), THE DAVE CHAPELLE SHOW, TIME TRAXX, THE VANISING SON, old animated shows like BATMAN TAS & most of the Japanese series based off the Kamen Rider series from 1971.
    Modern Tv…is just boring.

  13. But most of the shows you are listing (SPENSER FOR HIRE, TIME TRAX, etc) *aren’t* available as DVD boxed sets yet…so I’m assuming you’re buying poor-quality bootlegs. Aren’t you spending a fortune on them?

  14. I got ahold of someone years ago that had them recorded off the tv back when a&e & lifetime had played them (hammer & spencer) & hawk was the series they recorded off of Abc. Time traxx must have been recorded when it was played in chicago during its’ time
    The quality of them all is 8.5 to 10.
    Not too expensive (spencer was the most at $70 on ebay many, many years ago). There’s an online underground (for lack of a better term) where shows that you’re likely not to see on dvd for whatever reason, are being transferred to dvd by individuals. The legality is…something, but even they point you to official releases instead of having you buy from them.
    I’d love to find Murphy’s Law on dvd.

  15. Why are you not watching tv? The answer might be connected to a psychological theory of human development–or not, it’s just a theory.
    The idea is that our lives develop in 13-year cycles. So from 0 to 13, the child learns to fit into the world, in order to survive. But from 13 to 26, the person develops their own identity through a rebellion against society.
    Having established a personal identity, the person from 26 to 39 tries to achieve everything society says is good to achieve: the person climbs the corporate ladder, marries, has kids, buys a house, buys furniture, takes foreign vacations, builds up an investment portfolio–he’s made it!
    However, from 36 to 49, your own age bracket, the person asks himself, “Why am I doing what society says? Why don’t I follow my own path? This society sh– doesn’t fulfill me! I want to be myself. I want to authentically fulfill my destiny!”
    So what happens in this age bracket is that you grow. Your have inconceivable growth spurts, and they give so many new feelings, and you don’t know what they mean because you’ve never had them before. “Tv? You’ve always watched Tv. Now you don’t. What’s going on with me?”
    This is a question only you can answer. But the idea to figuring it out is, what are you moving away from, and what are you moving towards. At about age 49, you figure this out, and from 49 to 62, you go at it full tilt boogie, finding fulfillment and significance in this topsy-turvey world.
    What I see, and I may be completely wrong, is that you are moving towards producing, directing and writing your own films. You did it with “Fast Track” and you did it with “Remaindered.” I think you should produce your own feature-documentary on “The Fate of Publishing in our Time,” as I think you are the only one who can do it, since you understand both the creative end and the business end. Stop dithering! Start shooting interviews with those in the loop!
    In my view, there are many things we outgrow as we get older. When I was 14, I loved “Get Smart.” At 56, not so much. I loved tv from age 19 to age 50. Now? Well, tv hasn’t anything to say me anymore. What has Josh Whedon on “Buffy” have to say to me at age 56? It`s a young person show. What I want now in my 50`s is something real and nourishing, something like“this company succeeded in China but doing this.“
    So I think you are passing through a stage of passage. Tv no longer fully satisfies you. But the Tv you might create maybe would. At this stage in your development you are figuring out what you really want to say to the audience. According to this theory of psychological development you are reaching the stage of self-actualization, the stage of becoming the real you. Only you can know what that means.
    For me, I went through a number of situations where I was criticized severely. What I learned from 39 to 52 was that I was actually a pretty good guy after all. Believe it or not, this was something of a surprise. You will find the real you, and it will be something of a surprise, and then you`ll know your future direction.

  16. Dan — I found your comment fascinating. What happens after 62? I just turned 63, and once had the prime time schedules of all three networks memorized. Yes, all THREE.
    My dream was to actually own my favorite movies to watch anytime, and the somehow preserve the TV shows I loved. Today, those dreams are a reality. I own the movies I loved as a youngster, and I can pop an episode of Maverick or The Saint into they player anytime I want…but how often do I want? The first season of MAD MEN, and the second season — didn’t miss an episode. Same with BREAKING BAD (Lee — get this on DVD and be rewarded for your time)
    Now, when it comes to network TV, all I watch with fierce dedication is Undercover Boss.
    Here is my theory: non-musicians process music through the right side of the brain, and experience it is a “song.” Musicians process music through the left side of the brain and experience it as the interaction of the diverse elements in a manner similar to experiential mathematics. It’s the same with TV. When we watch it, we experience “shows.” When we write for TV or films, we process them differently. Perhaps if one loves magic, one should not become a magician? Then again, Orson Welles said (quoting someone else) “A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician.”
    I’m becoming confused. I’m gonna go watch “Shady Deal at Sunny Acres.” If you can’t trust a TV writer, who can you trust?

  17. Thanks, Burl, I learned the theory in university psych class and it’s been helpful. Some psych theorists go so far as to divide the individual 13-year cycles up into 4 mini-stages each: a 2-year stage, a 5-year stage, a 4-year stage and a final 2-year stage, following the work of Piaget. I’ve looked for patterns in my life for decades, trying to understand why I had to go through what I did, and it helps to view my experiences in this 13-year pattern. I found it difficult to go through some of the changes in my life.
    During the cycle from 63 to 75, after the self-actualization phase from 52 to 63, they say the person is now able and interested in looking at politics and world situations, and can now make real contributions to the on-going debates in the various issues. I guess that when a person now thoroughly knows themselves, the strengths and the limitations, the lessons learned and the victories achieved, it’s rewarding to make the world a better place for others, and to try to assist younger generations in navigating the maze of life. They also say that we tend to make our mistakes in the odd-numbered decades: the teens, the 30’s, the 50’s and the 70’s; we tend to do well in the even-numbered decades: the first decade, the 20’s, the 40’s, the 60’s, the 80’s. That’s been true for me.
    I think you must be right about the right-brain and left-brain processing of books and songs and tv shows. I very often read a book several times. The first time it’s always just as a story, and the second time it’s always as an analysis of the writer’s plot and craft. Believe it or not, it’s the second reading that I enjoy far better!
    It’s interesting to me that your dream of having movies and tv series available to play at home any time turned into a reality. As a writer you’re probably very tuned into the zeitgeist and probably were atuned to what a lot of persons also wanted at that time. For me, I longed for a screen I could type into and then easily make corrections as I make a lot of typos and correcting them on a typewriter wasn’t fun. When I got my first word processor, I felt it was a miracle!
    It seems to me that Lee has a terrific on-screen persona. Lots of energy, very entertaining, very well-informed, lots of confidence, lots of detailed information—more interesting than, for me, Michael Moore. So I’m pushing the documentary-feature idea, which is something that somebody will succeed with in the future. Maybe Lee’s self-actualization surprise is to realize he’s even better on-screen than behind the typewriter, and can make lot more money at it and do it for much less work!


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