Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why I Watch the TV Shows That I Do

I just finished catching up with the last two week's of the AV Club's Reasonable Discussions podcast. Two of the segments got me thinking about how the reasons behind what shows I watch have changed over time.

The two segments were about NBC's comedies (Community, Parks and Recreation) and why they are not watched as much as perhaps they deserve to be, and about the new Steve (Hunger) McQueen film Shame being rated NC-17 and the studio seemingly not caring that the rating will mean that the movie will not be able to play in a number of theatres or be advertised in print in a number of places.

In the segment about NBC the point was made that networks will place shows next to eachother so that there will be carryover in the audience. (Openings with good hooks are great at this, as I disovered watching CSI a few years ago -- after finishing one episode I would watch the beginning of the next episode and get sucked in.) Although I don't doubt that this is a strategy, it has no impact on how I watch television currently. It did when I was a child though and prettymuch defines the pattern of my TV watching on Saturday mornings.

When I was watching Saturday morning television (which was before live action began intruding into animation's domain of Saturday mornings), my goal (if I was conscious of it) was to fill my time by watching cartoons. Although some of the shows I was quite fond of (Muppet Babies, Real Ghostbusters, Looney Toons), for the most part many of the shows were just filler. Before and after school TV watching was similar, filling time between getting home and eating supper. I was quite passionate about not missing episodes (even though everything was episodic at that time, with the notable exception of Robotech, whose storyline I didn't follow closely until much, much later). There was a lot of concern at the time about how much television children consumed, and looking back at myself I can understand why. (Don't get me wrong, I did a lot of other stuff as a child too, but I did watch a lot of TV.)

When I watch TV shows now I don't watch filler shows. Except when I'm at my Dad's for supper, I don't even watch commercials (except good ones on YouTube). In fact, in contrast to my TV watching as a child, now as an adult I find that I don't have enough time to watch what I want to. I don't watch time-wise as much as I did as a child (though the time I spend on the Internet plus the time I watch TV probably gets close to it), but when I do watch TV it is much more focused. I watch shows that I want to watch and I usually choose ahead of time what I will watch.

In addition to the obvious technological changes that have happened since the mid-1980s that makes my current television watching behaviour possible, there is a lot more available to watch now than there was then. At the beginning of one of the 20xx novels, Arthur C Clarke begins with a quote about how the numbers of the dead outnumber the living. It seems the same way with what is available to watch. Although there is a never-ending stream of new programs to watch, there is also a growing amount of older shows waiting to be caught up on. And even being discerning in what I decide to watch, the number of shows on my to-watch list is enormous.

So makes me decide to watch the shows that I do watch (or at least intend to watch)? I am a review junkie. I listen to and read reviews every week. I keep track of what's being released and what's being said about it. Although the to-watch list is ever-growing, I usually focus on a few titles at a time. For example here is a list of the shows that I am currently watching on a regular basis:

Mawaru Penguindrum
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
Lost Girl

And on a semi-regular basis:

Space Battleship Yamato

I wonder what my ten-year-old self would have thought of that lineup.

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