The problem with peak TV

Between traditional networks, cable, premium cable, and streaming services, there’s an overwhelming amount of content available at any given time. Which brings us to the problem:

There are great TV shows I know I’m never going to watch. No. There are dozens of great TV shows I know I’m never going to watch.

Peak TV is a very real thing. Or at least I hear it is. Between Twitter, blogs, podcasts, award shows, and people I actually know, I’ve got a steady stream of recommendations for shows I need to watch on an almost weekly basis. And I’ve seen basically none of them.

Breaking Bad. Mad Men. House of Cards. Orange is the New Black. Game of Thrones. Transparent. Veep. The Man in the High Castle. Silicon Valley. Fargo. True DetectiveOrphan BlackColony. The ExpanseLegion.

I’ve seen seventeen episodes between all of these series as of today, all of them belonging to Breaking Bad‘s and Game of Thrones‘ first seasons. And I loved those episodes. But there were already several more seasons and dozens of hours of content awaiting me with those shows alone—not to mention the others on the list and those that aren’t even up there.

And the list goes back, too.

Twin Peaks. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The X-Files. The Wire. Battlestar Galactica.

Basically, I don’t watch much TV. I never have, sitcoms aside. And it’s not for lack of interest. If anything, it might be the opposite. There’s more great TV content than I’d have time to watch even if my entertainment interests didn’t lean heavily toward video games and movies. My solution to the overwhelming amount of content: rewatch my favorite sitcoms over and over instead of trying out something new—something I’ve been told by people whose recommendations I trust that I would love.

It’s comfort food. It’s the familiar. And it’s something that doesn’t require the same attention and dedication that diving into a new show would. If I’m watching The Office for the millionth time, I’m not really watching The Office anymore. I’m working on a blog post or cleaning up the day’s creative writing. I’m catching up on news or scrolling through Twitter. I’m playing iPad games or hanging out with my wife. If I’m watching any one of those shows mentioned above, that’s all I’m doing.

It’s not a bad thing to dedicate 100% of your attention to something. I do it with movies on a weekly basis. I do it with video games as often as I can. But even the biggest games, such as Horizon Zero Dawn‘s 60+ hours of my time, aren’t the investment that some of these shows are.

Even the shows with just a handful of episodes, such as this year’s Legion, would require a couple days’ worth of media consumption. If I can watch season one of Legion, I can watch three or four movies. I can play through a decent chunk of most video games and finish others completely. This is a refinement of a problem I’ve previously discussed here. There’s a finite amount of time I can dedicate to entertainment in any form, and TV rarely breaks through to the top of my to-do list.

That means one of two things: 1) I’ll never see some of the supposed greatest pieces of entertainment ever created, or 2) I need to adapt in order to experience them. Does adapting mean I embrace the modern world and “multi-task” while watching these new shows? Do I just stop watching movies and playing games every now and then? That might be tough to do considering how little I actually do them at this point, but I guess it’s an option.

Realistically, I know that great shows are going to slip through the cracks regardless of what I do. But the sheer number of great shows I know I’m missing out on, whether current or past, is too much to handle. There are shows listed up there I need to watch. There are others I’d really like to watch. I’m not entirely sure which shows are in which category, but some of them have to move to the “shows I’ve watched” category.

Where to start, though? Do I keep going with Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones since I’ve already started those? Do I jump to the likes of Legion and Colony because there’s less for me to watch at the moment and I can (theoretically) get through them more quickly? Or do I subscribe to HBO now and dive into Veep and Silicon Valley since that’s a pretty simple jump to make from rewatching the same sitcoms?

Yeah, I don’t know. But I think there’s a simple plan that could make all of this easier: watch (at least) an episode of something every morning. It could take a long time, but slow progress is better than no progress, right? And who knows, maybe I’ll find my new favorite show.

Where should I start? Which shows, mentioned above or not, are your favorites? Which should I check out? And more importantly, which ones fill your own list of shame? Let me know in the comments.


13 thoughts on “The problem with peak TV

  1. Really great article. You’re right, there’s just too much to watch! Although I think that it’s actually a good thing (although there are many negatives, as you mentioned). There truly is “something for everyone” now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] There are a lot of TV shows I’ve missed, current and past. On paper, Stranger Things was something right up my alley that deserved its jump right to the top of my watch list. In reality, it was (and is) more than that. Stranger Things is a phenomenon—it’s the kind of show that becomes more than just a show from the moment you get into it. Hawkins, Indiana isn’t just a place I’m seeing on my TV. It’s a place I’m transported to with every episode of Stranger Things. […]


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