With everyone self-isolating because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I see people posting humorous memes about finishing all of Netflix, or watching every show on every streaming channel. We live in a golden age for television. There have never been so many choices — and so much quality.
Yet, I miss most of it. It’s not that I don’t have time. It’s not that I doubt the quality. It’s just the thought of having to sit and watch 8, 10 or 13 episodes of a show that was just released makes me feel anxious and overwhelmed. I literally dread the thought of shows coming out that I might want to watch.
I’m not so bad with weekly shows. I loved “The Leftovers.” I can make time for “Doctor Who” (which the BBC kindly keeps to 13 weeks and then only every “whenever the hell we get around to making a series”). “Better Call Saul” is magnificent. It is on once a week and I can manage my anxiety that I’m not keeping on top of it with the thought that if I miss this Monday’s episode, I will have a week to catch up before the next one.
That doesn’t always work. Years ago, I watched the first episode of “Breaking Bad.” It was great. I was out for the second episode, so I recorded it. I hadn’t watched part two before part three came on, so I recorded that as well. Eventually, I had eight hours taunting me. If I hadn’t had the time to watch one hour, what was the chance of watching all eight? I got flustered and overwhelmed and scrapped the whole idea.
The year after it ended, I decided I would watch it while I worked on pieces for an art show. I watched two whole seasons in six weeks. Pretty good. A year later I got around to two more seasons. Six months later we scheduled a trip where we would pass through Alburquerque, specifically so we could take a “Breaking Bad” tour. I finally watched the last episode in the hotel on the morning of the tour. People have told me that 18-months to watch a show is hardly binge watching, but I was pretty proud of myself.
“Breaking Bad” is a fantastic show, but the whole experience stressed me out. There are so many shows that I have watched partially. I either missed the first half of a series or a series went ahead without me and I couldn’t keep up.
I know it is my permanent sense of restlessness. This is not one of those pretentious, “Oh, I never have time to watch TV” situations. I’m not always working. I waste more time than I would like (often pacing around being restless about I’m not sure what).
Maybe it’s my obsessive-compulsiveness. I feel constantly overwhelmed by the choices. There is so much good stuff that I can’t even think about TV without getting anxious. And the more streaming services we subscribe to, the more anxious I get about what I should be watching.
I feel like I miss out on lots of good stuff. I actually read or listen to podcasts about shows I know I’m never going to get around to watching — I can listen at work or while I’m working on some project or other — just so I can pretend to have watched a show so I don’t feel guilty that I didn’t.
If I don’t watch about a show, it’s not because I didn’t want to see it, or that it’s not good, or that I’m being a snob (which I am, but that’s not because of your viewing habits).
I long for the days of a couple of channels with no DVR. If I missed it, I missed it, and I was free to be anxious about a million other things that don’t matter.
Now we are self-isolating and I feel like I should be watching all the stuff, which is just making even more jittery than I already am about not getting out and doing things — although I don’t know what I should be doing, but that’s another issue completely (as is wanting to eat but not knowing what I want except it’s nothing I actually have).
So, feel free to tell me about this series, or how I must go and watch all five seasons of that drama. I really like hearing about them. I like hearing people’s passions and discussions.
But I’m not kidding myself, I probably won’t watch it — at least all of it.