It’s nearly the end of the year, there are only about five weeks left until the calendar rolls over to 2018, but I’ve barely scratched the surface on some of this year’s best movies, games and TV. It seems like every year there’s more and more stuff to watch and play. This wouldn’t be a problem if a lot of that content was terrible, or at the very least average. No, instead, we’re inundated with fantastic content at every turn. It’s an embarrassment of riches that is felt most acutely on television. We live in the era of “Peak TV”, which means that almost every network and streaming service has a show that is a “must watch”. This year alone I’ve already watched, or am in the process of watching over 25 different series. I’ve been to the theatre over 15 different times with plans to go a handful more before the year is over, and that’s not even counting the movies I’ve watched streaming. Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day, and I do still have to work and sleep, so something has to give. Right now, that’s been gaming, as I’ve only had the chance to jump into a handful of new titles this year. The point being, how does one decide where to spend their time when there are so many great choices?
Maybe unsurprisingly, it turns out some people are choosing not to chose at all. With so much to watch these days, people become paralysed by choice. Instead of picking between the hundreds of amazing shows available across the plethora of cable channels and streaming services they decide to not watch anything at all or stick with what they’re comfortable with. This has probably happened to everyone at least once. You’re browsing through Netflix, they’re throwing recommendations at you left, and right but no one thing seems any more or less awesome than the last. So instead, you scroll back to the old, go-to, choice of INSERT 90’S SITCOM and veg out on that instead of risking being let down, or worse yet, hooked by a new series that you now have to watch all 21 episodes of. Best to just play it safe. The problem is, this choice, or lack thereof, actually exacerbates the problem. Instead of diving into something new and potentially awesome that you’ve been hearing about for weeks, you’ve now, just pushed the issue down the road. In the back of your head you know you know you want to watch that new hot show but the every week more new stuff comes out, making it even harder to go back to the one you put off. It’s anxiety inducing just thinking about it.
As someone who tries to watch as much of the best entertainment possible, this is a daily problem. There are days where I can’t decide whether to watch a movie off my backlog, jump into a new Netflix series or turn on the Playstation, so I choose none of the above and take a nap instead. Unfortunately there’s no easy answer to this problem, and deciding between three different mediums can make that choice even more complicated, which might be something worth tackling in another blog post, but for now let’s concentrate on the core issue; Peak TV. This is the strategy I’ve been workshopping:
Step 1: Make a List
It can sometimes be difficult decide where to commit your time when it feels like you already have a lot on the go. But do you? Make a note in your phone and write down all the shows you’re currently watching and keep it up to date with anything new you jump into. This does two things: gives you an idea of exactly how much stuff you’ve been consuming and lets you easily prioritise what is most important to you. That last part is key, and that takes me to…
Step 2: Trim the Fat
I guarantee there’s something in your watch list that you only watch out of habit. Maybe you aren’t even staying current with it, and it’s just filling your DVR. Whether it’s because the show’s quality has fallen off or because it was never that engaging to begin these are the first shows you need to STOP WATCHING. It can be tough; they are the comfort food I mentioned earlier. They are usually the shows I’ve heard people talk about “turning your brain off to” and I admit I have some of these shows too, but if I’m honest with myself, I could be spending that time watching better, more engaging television. Why watch it if I’m not actually watching it?
Step 3: Dabble
Now that you’ve made some room, you can slot in a new series or two. But as we talked about, there are so many, how do you choose? The game plan here, much like modern dating apparently, is to not commit to anything unless it convinces you that it’s worth your time. But again, like modern dating, you need to put yourself out there. I’m sure you’ve heard about a couple of different series that your friends are telling you that you “have to watch”. Here’s your chance, set aside a certain amount of time in your TV schedule where you are going to try something new. That might be once a week if you are adventurous, or maybe it’s only once a month, but regardless it’s important that you are meeting new shows (That dating analogy is getting out of hand).
Step 4: The Best of the Best
While you are trying new stuff you’ll probably find shows that don’t click for you. I like to give shows 3 or 4 episodes before moving on but sometimes a full season might be warranted if it’s not too much of a time commitment. Either way, it’s alright if a show doesn’t work for you, keep going. There’s a satisfaction all of its own knowing that some of the “hot” shows aren’t your style and kicking them to the curb. However, eventually you’ll find your new favourite comedy, or maybe a compelling mystery has you hooked, here’s where you go back to your watchlist and slot it in with the rest of your ongoing series. If you’re lucky the new thing will be a short miniseries giving you room to add something else once it’s done, but maybe you accidentally stumbled onto the first season of Game of Thrones, and now you’re in it for the long haul, that’s alright too. If you find that your watch list is becoming unruly, return to step two and trim the fat again.
Give that a try and let me know if it helps you find an awesome new show. Or if you have a different strategy that works for you I’d love to hear it, but regardless of how we choose to tackle the problem of “Peak TV” it remains just that; a problem. We only have to remember it’s a good problem to have. There’s so much awesome TV out there just waiting to be watched, and we just need to find it.
P.S. If you need a suggestion to get you started I will point you towards HBO’s The Deuce. It’s from the mind of David Simon, who made The Wire, and it’s not a big time commitment with this first season being only eight episodes. I’ve been championing this series since early this year, and I can’t speak more highly of it. Fair warning though, it’s not a family show.