Why I Don’t Watch Television

No, not because it rots your brain. The rotting is caused by bad television and is a similar effect caused by bad movies and bad books. My lack of television watching comes from a difference source.

I am surrounded by television lovers. My siblings are all devoted television watchers. As are my friends. Even my wife consumes a huge array of TV. But with a few rare exceptions (which are mostly non-fiction like Mythbusters), there really aren’t many current television shows I get excited about. This post is an exploration of why I think that is.

Originally, I thought it was a focus of genres. I don’t really like sitcoms, crime or medical dramas, or “reality television. As these make up a huge amount of current television programing, it would be easy to see why not much appeals to me. But there is more I think than that.

The first is format. By its nature, most television shows are created with the goal of lasting forever. Most shows are scripted with a treadmill design. Every episode is a constant running forward in order to stay in the same place. Changes are generally superficial or entirely driven by real life concerns. There is almost never an overarching plot or an end goal to work towards.

Television also suffers from its rigid timeframe. All shows must fit into either 30 or 60 slots minutes. This means shows must follow a very specific rhythm. Take your average episode of House M.D. as an example. You know that any solution they try in the first ten minutes will fail; the mystery illness must stretch out until the last ten minutes. Not all shows are that formulaic, but all are forced to adjust to that time restriction in some way. This not to say a show can’t do great within this structure; it is just harder to be great than in other more flexible mediums.

Finally, there is the simple nature of an ongoing series. The first problem is the constant chase, always trying to stay on top of something. That anticipation of a new episode airing? I don’t get that. I like knowing how long something is when I start; I dislike the constant shifting goalposts. Similarly, watching a show before it is completed means you do not know if you’ll get a good resolution. Of the few shows that have an end goal in mind, few of those get to survive long enough to reach it. I want that resolution and generally won’t start a series without it.

Nor do I want to start a series and not finish it myself. The idea of the producers not finishing the show is one thing; I not taking the time to finish it is another. I hate leaving things half-done. I have finished movies, books, video games, everything even when they turn sour, because I finish things to the end. Television series, due to their length, are far less easy to push through, especially if they are terrible. They are far more likely to be abandoned on the way side, and I prefer not to leave things undone like that.

These requirements mean that there is little television designed for me. Even worse, my methods of enjoying television also severely limits my ability to influence it. I don’t participate when shows are on television, where the decisions are actually made. Rarely do Netflix viewing or DVD sales make any real difference (though that is changing).

But I am okay with this. As I have said, I am never worried about being bored. I think I will do just fine without much television to eat up my time.

-That is all.


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