Friday, December 2, 2016

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much TV?

Last week someone criticized me for having never watched an episode of television's M*A*S*H* and was even more shocked to discover that I have only seen two episodes of Seinfeld and Everyone Loves Raymond. Why? Comedy is not my forté and personally I find most of today's comedies generally consist of insults, not wit. I do not find myself laughing at or with the characters on today's situation comedies.

And yet I proudly boasted that I have watched almost every episode of The Jack Benny Program, George Burns and Gracie Allen and Rocky and Bullwinkle. These latter programs are not as mainstream to a modern day public... but are my viewing habits reflective of a geek? No. I am proud to say that I enjoy watching old black and white movies, listening to old-time radio and reading old novels. And I can decipher the difference between actress Paulette Goddard and Claudette Colbert... whereas the mainstream crowd of today could only guess. Proof that the adage applies here: "Each to their own taste."

All of which brings me to the factoid of the day. The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times and Variety have, over the past two years, reported a growing trend: an alarming number of scripted television programs being produced as a result of additional streaming platforms. The number practically doubled in the past two years and is expected to double again in the next two. I am not referring to "reality programs," just those that are scripted. Netflix has produced some wonderful programs such as Stranger Things and Daredevil (the latter of which I highly recommend). You may have noticed how not only produces The Man in High Castle, but was also the recipient of numerous Emmy Awards. Hulu produced the eerie mini-series, 11.22.63 (Stephen King's story of a man who travels back in time to prevent the assassination of JFK). Showtime gave us Entourage and Dexter; HBO gave us The Newsroom and The Leftovers. 

According to one source, if you were to sit on a sofa and watch every scripted television program produced last year alone, back to back, without bathroom breaks or sleep, it would take you 185 days to watch every episode of every program. Here are a few links for you to take a couple minutes and check out.

Episodic television is nothing new. The cliffhanger began during the silent era. But the power of the cliffhanger certain gives credence to "binge watching." When I have loads of archival materials to scan on a scanner, I multi-task while catching up with the latest episodes of some really great programming.

At a silent film festival last year, where hundreds of film buffs with a strong appreciation for old silent movies (pre-1929 to be exact), we do not spend lunch and dinner breaks discussing the rare gems we watched on the big screen. We chat about the recent chapters in the episodic Walking Dead. I may enjoy watching old movies and old TV shows but I still enjoy The Flash, Daredevil, Game of Thrones,  Lost, The Walking Dead. So if your friends at work are shocked that you have not yet watched Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, because you choose to spend your time reading pulp novels of your favorite detectives, or relax at home with a cup of hot tea and an old black and white Preston Sturges movie, remember that there is no physical way you can watch every TV show ever produced, or watch every old black and white movie ever made, or read every novel ever written.

So enjoy what gives you simple pleasure and do not make the opinions of others personal. You have taste and consider yourself a connoisseur. There is nothing wrong with that.

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