By the beginning of this summer, I had developed a long list of television shows I enjoyed. I did not have a reliable enough schedule to watch them on their first showing, but thanks to things like OnDemand I could turn them on whenever I had time – really nice for when I’m doing something like kneading bread or brushing a rabbit. Just click the TV show on and enjoy it while I’m doing other things. I enjoyed shows like CSI, Bones, CSI:SVU, and similar detailed, semi-technical dramas. On the list was also Pawn Stars, Toddlers and Tiaras, and Hell’s Kitchen.
But then I accompanied my husband to the Philippines, and we didn’t have access to television. The family had one, but I only ever saw it on once or twice in five weeks. So for us, we went cold-turkey off of all the television programs we normally would have watched. At the end of the five weeks, the only thing we regretted missing was the Olympics. The rest – meh. No loss. In our small amounts of down time we would watch a short YouTube episode of something like WipeOut just to take a mental break from the poverty we were studying day after day. Other than that, no television programs at all. Instead we read the news online when internet was available, talked to people, read books, and played card games with each other.
When we returned to the States, I guess I thought I would just pick up and start doing things the same way I had before. One day I had a lot of vegetables to chop, so I turned on one of my typical programs and saw someone tied to a chair be punched. No-o-o, not what I wanted to see. I switched to another, and saw a crying woman in a courtroom telling the details of her recent rape. No, not the choice for me. I switched again and saw a dead body in a tank of water surrounded by scientists staring at it. Nope.
I realized that I had come to think of scenes like that as “entertainment”. Of course I understand the marketing of it, that the detailed technical parts that make the show unique are not considered enough of a draw to keep someone watching through to the end. Marketers think I won’t be as “invested” in the outcome of a show if I don’t get emotionally involved with the characters, and therefore I have to see their emotional distress in order to stay riveted to the screen (including commercials) to see what happens to them. I get that. They mix what we turn the show on to see with what they believe will keep us watching each episode.
But after two months of no television, I can objectively ask – do I really want to see that? Do I really want to hear that? Crimes happen. I’m interested in the technicalities of solving them. But it’s television, people. I get to pick and choose what parts of the solution I watch. And I no longer care to watch the emotionally-wrangling ones showing people in pain, so I won’t. Drama between people happens. I’m interested in the point of the television show, and don’t need the distraction of people saying bad things about each other. I now skip those shows as well.
It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. Most of the shows I used to enjoy I no longer watch. They simply are not pleasant to me anymore. I have replaced some with a couple new ones (for instance, MasterChef has replaced Hell’s Kitchen. Just as much cooking, much less screaming and drama.) Others I simply haven’t replaced, preferring to read a book instead. I’ve gone back to find some of the YouTube shows I used to follow, like Victorian Farm. I want to try some new recipies, and that takes more attention to detail than something I’ve cooked a dozen times.
It’s easy to get accustomed to something, even something you don’t actually like. Taking that “fast” from television made me able to step back and see that. Once seen in their true light, my viewing choices could be re-evaluated. And they have been.
I hope you’re listening, marketers. I want what I want. If the show is intelligent and detailed enough, it will keep me watching even without all the blood, gore, heart-wrenching emotions, and drama. Good, clean shows are what I want, and I won’t settle any more.