Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I’m CT, and I’m a TV-aholic

testPattern Step 1: Admit you have a problem.  The average American watches about 20 hours of television each week*, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent data.  I watch more than this.  A lot more.  The overarching theme of this blog is about breaking my bad habits, so it’s time I confront this elephant in the room and ‘fess up in the hopes of significantly reducing how much TV I watch. 

Why should you read this post?  You probably shouldn’t, but there are two possible reasons: 1) to rationalize your own excessive television-watching, which won’t seem so bad in comparison, or 2) schadenfreude.

The basic procedure:

  1. Get a clear picture of the size of the problem and identify its parts.
  2. Systematically evaluate the types of television I watch and the reasons why I watch specific shows.
  3. Resolve to adopt measurable changes.

Current Schedule.  My television habit falls into three broad categories. 

  1. The TV I watch deliberately and routinely. (~16 hours a week)
  2. The TV I watch “when there’s nothing on,” like cable news, Lifetime movies, Jeopardy, Daily Show, etc. (???? >20 hours?  The TV is on pretty much all the time, so it doesn’t get full attention or anything but it’s always there when I am.)
  3. Movies. (~8 hours? )

The necessity of one broad goal is already apparent: Be more deliberate about what I watch and cut out the incidental viewing (category #2).  Just eliminate that and I’m already close to the average!  And movies I’m going to deal with in another post maybe, but I might make a rule that if I watch a movie, I have to make a blog post about it, to justify the time spent.

But what follows is the specific in-season (so not counting Mad Men or Big Brother, I’ll deal with them when they return) that I routinely and deliberately watch:







The Simpsons

Matt Groening’s once-revolutionary animated comedy has seen better days, and I rarely get a laugh out of it, much less a new thought.  I shouldn’t look forward to this except that it’s on when I’m likely to be eating and we watch TV during dinner in the household.  Hmm.  Maybe that’s something that needs adjustment.



Family Guy

I guess I still find this funny, but it’s definitely on the bubble.


A tentative Yes.



Chuck used to be about two things: the balance between Chuck’s amateur bumbling and the dangerous situations he found himself in, and the romantic tension between him and Sarah.  Even then it wasn’t great but now I find it pretty intolerable.  I started watching this because I was bored.  I liked when Scott Bakula was Chuck’s dad, but I should be embarrassed to watch it.


Definitely not.

How I Met Your Mother

Hard to believe this CBS sitcom is already in its 6th season.  There are a bunch of early episodes I still never saw, but that’s ok because I don’t think Robin’s character ever started working until she was clearly being placed in the “Not Your Mother” category.  Barney (NPH) is a great character.  I laugh good laughs frequently during this show, but I think each character is running out (if not already run out) of ways to develop, and I’d like the writers to start moving towards closure.


OK for now.

The Event

Crap.  This sci-fi, conspiracy drama just returned and I think I’m done with it.  The Event tried to capitalize on the popularity of Lost by imitating its structuring ambiguity as well as the popularity of 24 with political back rooms and terrorist threats.  But it lacks the strong characters of Lost and there’s nothing similar to the guilty pleasure we get out of watching righteous Jack Bauer punish the wicked of 24’s simplistic moral universe.



Being Human

Based on a UK series, Being Human is premised on a vampire and a werewolf moving into a Boston house that’s already inhabited by a ghost.  They want to live normally, but they have issues.  Given my interest in the ways we represent humanity, I’m bound to give this show a fair amount of leeway.  I like the characters, I guess.  I wish it were cleverer though.


Tentative Yes.

Hawaii Five-O

Awful.  I began watching this out of respect for the original, but Alex O’Laughlin is no McGarrett.  Like McGarrett, his people respect him and he makes every case personal, but there’s something missing: Lord’s sense of propriety? His Hamlet-like graveness?  Only one character on TV today possesses the missing je ne sais quoi, and that is Horatio from CSI: Miami.  Also, Scott Caan as Danno is intolerably one-dimensional.  And he’s playing Danno, so that’s really saying something.





Ah, this alien invasion remake I’m a little torn on.  It’s better than The Event, for sure, and stars Morena Baccarin from Firefly and Elisabeth Mitchell from Lost, but it’s like the writer’s have no plan.  The show is thematically incoherent.  Is it about human souls? Emotions? Is it about media and propaganda?  Is it about justice and revenge? 


Yes, for now.


American Idol

Although I’ve really been enjoying this season: there’s a lot of talent on the stage and Steven Tyler and J-Lo are fantastic replacements for Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, I could easily stop watching this show if it weren’t that it’s a household show.  I would never watch it by myself, but I have fun watching it with others.  I really wish it were just an hour, and not three hours spread over two days each week.




Survivor is like Big Brother, but where as Big Brother is primarily mentally punishing and paranoid, Survivor is much more physically punishing.  Also, the set is frequently breath-taking. 



Modern Family

A great ensemble sitcom that always promises lots of laughs.  I’m hard-pressed to identify any weak players.  Maybe the Dunphy kids.




American Idol

See above.



Big Bang Theory

Now that Two and a Half Men is finished, this will be my only source of Chuck Lorre jokes, but maybe I should outgrow them.  I don’t care about the characters and can’t count on belly laughs, so this one is nixed.




The funniest show on TV right now, I’d say.  They’ve really taken off with the second season (similar to Parks and Rec) with more and more outrageous plots.  I’m glad that television has a place for Chevy Chase.



The Office

I’m ready for this to be over, ever since Pam and Jim got married.  Steve Carell has signaled that he’s leaving, so hopefully the show will end with him.  Still reliably funny, though.  I’m seeing this series through to the end.



Parks and Recreation

Another great ensemble sitcom operating on all cylinders. 



30 Rock

I guess Alec Baldwin is who makes this show for me, but now that I think of it, 30 Rock is probably on the downslope along with The Office.  Those two shows were the original anchors of NBC’s comedy line-up, and one of the main reasons why Thursday’s are/were “TV Night” for me (despite every night being TV Night).  But I’m not so committed to this show that they won’t be due for a reevaluation at the end of the season.



The Mentalist

Hmm.  This investigative procedural has a gimmick like they all do.  Simon Baker’s Patrick Jane isn’t a crime novelist (Castle), a math genius (Numbers), a psychic (Medium), or a pretend psychic (Psych).  He used to be a pretend psychic, but then his wife and daughter were murdered by a serial killer, Red John, and now he’s one of the most cynical, nihilistic, vengeful, calculating characters in all of TV.  On the other hand, Robin Tunney is awful, and the rest of the CBI team are pretty non-essential as well, with the exception of the internal affairs investigator LaRoche, who operates as a foil to Jane, calculating, intelligent, and solitary.  Eventually he and Jane will be teaming up against Red John, and I can’t wait.





Probably my favorite show of all.  I avoided this show until its 3rd season based on my initial reaction to the first 30 minutes of the pilot episode.  I hated Dawson’s Creek and I hated Pacey, so I took it out on Joshua Jackson, who plays Peter Bishop in this X-files-y, family drama, parallel universe sci-fi series.  Like those other show I loved and then were cancelled, Dollhouse and Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles, FOX has moved Fringe to the Friday night slot, where it’s already low ratings will continue to drop.  The world is not long for Fringe, unfortunately.



Well, that was exhausting, but I’ve whittled down 15.5 hours down to 11.5 (provided I muster the force of Will to carry out my plan).  For several of the shows which I’ve decided to keep watching, I’m going to force myself to justify those decisions even more deliberately by writing blog posts about several of them.

Bureau of Labor Statistics: This number is skewed a little by the unemployed and old people, who watch more TV than anyone else.  Here are some more specific details I found interesting:

Hours of TV

Weekdays Weekends


2.80 3.81


2.43 2.87

25-34 year olds

2.06 3.16

Employed F/T

1.85 2.98


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