I finished Girlfriends Guide to Divorce on Netflix last night. I choose it because I’m a sucker for the four-girlfriends-figuring-out-life-over-wine theme, and more importantly, it fit my two-plus seasons Netflix rule.
I’m not quite sure why I stuck with it. I hated the gratuitous sex, and more importantly, the narcissistic, judgmental, and all-around annoying main character.
Interestingly enough, I’ve felt that way a lot recently about television characters. It’s got to be some kind of sign. Maybe I should up my show game? Or perhaps I’m narcissistic, judgmental, and all-around annoying so I see it everywhere. Or the universe could be nudging me to make better use of my time?
Let’s hope it’s the latter.
Two Show Rule
Years ago, when my boys were toddlers, I wanted to write but I had a full-time job. It occurred to me that while I couldn’t change my work schedule, I could limit the amount of time I spent watching television. So, I made a strict rule of two shows a week —I have lots of rules. Anyway, I was able to free up enough time to actually take a correspondence writing course.
Of course, it was easier back then. We didn’t have cable at our house, and there was no such thing as streaming. But even when we did get cable, I maintained my two-show limit for almost twenty years.
But then, my children grew up. There was plenty of time for reading and writing during the day because I no longer worked full-time. I eased my rules and watched more shows during the week. Even so, I rarely watched television for more than four hours a week.
The Summer of Mad Men
That all changed the summer before my youngest child’s senior year of high school. She and I butted heads more often than not. My oldest son, who was twenty-four at the time, still lived at home, which created a lot of tension. My husband and I were in a horrible place. And to make matters worse, I had all but given up on my writing because every submission netted a rejection.
I spent the entire summer watching episode after episode of Mad Men in my bed, alone. It didn’t occur to me at the time that I was battling depression. But now, whenever I think of that summer and the hours I spent watching Mad Men, I feel really sad.
I don’t remember exactly how or why I reengaged in my life, but I did. As a result, I watched less television. When my oldest son died the following year, TV wasn’t very comforting. Almost everything had the potential to be an emotional trigger. The only thing safe to watch was HGTV. House Hunters and Love it or List it became my go-to shows when I wanted to watch television.
Catching up with old friends
Over the last year or so, binge-watching has crept back into my life. It started by watching critically acclaimed shows and slowly grew into whatever seemed most interesting or fit my mood. It has become a part of my weeknight routine — make dinner, grab a glass of wine and lounge on the sofa while watching my shows. Tuning in to the next episode often feels like catching up with old friends.
Turns out binge-watching is a huge phenomenon. According to a Deloitte study, 75% of all consumers say they have binged watched tv and 34% do it weekly. It’s how we relax. It also offers the ability to form parasocial relationships with television characters that don’t require much from us but make us feel less lonely. We feel as if we’re connected to people, but it isn’t real.
Perhaps that’s why I find myself annoyed by most of the characters on tv. They are a poor substitute for real friends. To be honest, it was fine when I first moved to Tampa. I didn’t know anyone. Tv occupied my time. But now I want my own set of girlfriends to figure out life with over wine.
I can’t help but wonder what other things I might find to do if I wasn’t watching so much tv? It makes me think it’s time to edit my Netflix rules to include time off from watching. I’m going to try this week and I’ll let you know how it goes.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your binge-watching/no television stories.
Until next time. . .