Welcome to Basic TV Week, a celebration of all the bad, perfect, and (mostly) network television we can't get enough of.
Over the next year, a lot of things will probably get worse: climate change, politics, the cast of Dancing With The Stars. Most of this is expected, a consequence of the second law of thermodynamics. Entropy and decay comes for all things, you know? Unfortunately, one of those things is the world of streaming services: Every entertainment company out there is getting ready to launch one, each with their own shows, and some of them sound pretty damn good.
As a result, I have to tell you a hard truth: You can't keep up with all of these shows. But you can sure as hell watch all of these shows. The trick is undoing what the last decade of streaming video has done to your brain, and to stop watching everything like an obsessive freak. Instead, watch every show like it's a broadcast show. Just drop in on the most recent episode and enjoy!
That may seem bananas to you—sure, that's how TV used to work, but not anymore! People make these shows like ten-part novels or movies, you can't skip! Everything is serialized!
Look: You're smart, probably. And even if you aren't, television is, by design, mostly idiot-proof. That montage of what happened previously? It's there for a reason! Missed that montage, or the show doesn't have one? That's okay! A good episode of television is still a self-contained story: characters want something, and they can't have it for some reason. What are they going to do about it?
Yes, there are overarching plots and character relationships that you might not be able to parse, but when you get down to it, it's all about how good the storytelling is hour to hour. Is the show beautiful to look at? Well-acted? Funny? You should be able to pick up on enough of that from any random episode, and from that, you can tell if you want to dedicate time to catching up, or just watch from here on out. Does this mean spoilers? Yes, but if spoilers are just things you don't know yet, everything is a spoiler to someone, and there will always be more. Think on that, and stop being so precious.
I like streaming TV a lot, but streaming services—with their algorithmic recommendations, auto-playing episodes, and progress bars— encourage you to think of art as something to just consume for consumption's sake. They're like a marathon you run from your couch: you see the sights, post a photo on Instagram, share your thoughts on Twitter or Facebook, and move on to the next thing.
As someone who writes and thinks a lot about video games, a medium overflowing with content and very good at playing with dopamine rushes, I can tell you where this is all heading: fucking checklists. You're going to have to come up with a damn spreadsheet to keep track of all the TV you want to watch. And look, maybe that works for you. That is fine. The planners and organizers among us deserve their time in the sun. The thing I want you to avoid is this feeling that you cannot check out something that looks interesting, because you haven't caught up, because you have your spreadsheet, because you do not need another show on your docket.
TV critic Margaret Lyons does this thing every year where she asks her followers on Twitter what shows they "divorced" in a given year. I love the idea of divorcing shows, because it's a way to remind yourself that your time is yours, and you should spend it doing things you sincerely want to do, while also tacitly acknowledging that you just cannot do it all.
As a moron who feels compelled to watch most comic book adaptations, I used to follow the CW's slate of DC superhero TV shows pretty religiously. Then two years ago, I looked around and said wow, there are SIX of these shows, and just... stopped. Know what I did last week? I watched a bunch of finales to see what they were up to, and it was pretty fun! I might go back and watch more, even though I know the ending!
It's easy to look at the mass of entertainment options available now and be overwhelmed. There's just way too much, you know? Even if you only subscribe to a couple of services, your options are plentiful. You can respond in a lot of ways: tuning out, making a plan, choosing to watch only the best of what's out there. Those will all work fine.
But when I say you should watch all TV like it's broadcast TV, I'm not just arguing for you to skip episodes. I'm saying you should be more curious. More frivolous. Don't just watch an episode of a show you might be interested in catching up with, watch a show you think you might not ever watch again. Get weird, have fun. Time is finite, but you don't have to spend it like everyone else.
Joshua Rivera is a staff writer at Kotaku, where he writes about video games and deludes himself into thinking he can keep up with television. His work has appeared in The Nation, Vanity Fair, and GQ.
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Originally Appeared on GQ