I recently came to the realization that I watch too much TV. Not only was I watching a large amount of TV, but I wasn’t enjoying a lot of the shows I was watching in regards to various levels of quality or just plain apathy towards them. I have since “reformed” my viewing practices, by parring down the amount of shows I watch and focusing on shows that I truly love, rather than wasting my time on other fine but ultimately superfluous shows. What follows is ten ways you too can learn to watch TV better…
1. Utilize “Mom TV”: What is Mom TV you ask? Mom TV are shows in which stereotypical “housewives” will have on in the background while they do their various tasks around the house, such as folding laundry or cooking, blah blah blah, stereotypes. These shows require limited engagement and can be easily dropped into without missing much, since the “housewife” will always been in and out of the area of the TV.
To further this point, let me indulge one of the few things I retained from a communication studies class. Marshall McLuhan, a renowned Canadian communication theorist, devised the idea of hot and cool media. Hot media refers to media such as print or radio that requires devotion of a singular sense, such as vision or hearing. We can compare this side to Mom TV where only one sense is paying attention to any given program. Reality shows are a good example of hot media where it’s not entirely essential to be paying attention fully at all moments, and you can not miss too much by having it in the background or dropping in and out. You’ll miss bits and pieces, but you’ll still get the general idea of what’s going on.
Cool media on the other hand is media that requires the attention of multiple senses and the necessity of paying attention, otherwise you fear being completely lost. More heavily serialized dramas and procedural shows, crime shows and such, require devoted attention so as not to miss key plot points that could effect the remainder of the episode or the greater arch of a season. Without paying full attention you can easily miss key details that will leave you out in the woods in regards to what is happening.
Figure out which shows you watch that you need to devote full attention to and schedule them out so you can devote your full patience to. On the flip side, see which shows don’t involve much of your attention and use this to get some work done, whether it be from home, work or school.
2. Cut down on Procedurals: For the unaware, procedurals are any types of shows which have self-contained stories that get resolved at the end of the episode. They have little carry over from episode to episode and thus a viewer can drop in at any time of the season and not have to worry about an overarching story that they have to catch up on. Your prime examples include any number of ‘Law & Order’, ‘CSI’, ‘NCIS’, ‘Blue Bloods’ or ‘Criminal Minds’, each network usually has a plethora of them as they are very bankable. The examples are endless and a staple of TV. These shows don’t do much (as a general rule) but provide quick, cheap entertainment that one can easily drop in on. Unless you’re really taken with one, no need to follow it week to week, but drop in when you have some time to kill.
3. Watch on the internet: Perhaps you’re not always around your TV or maybe you have your laptop at work or school and you have some free time. The majority of shows are posted on the respective channel’s website pretty soon after air date, in both the U.S. and Canada (although it’s harder for Canadians to watch American shows through their respective websites due to restrictions.) iTunes also posts episodes to download for a price that can be easily acquired soon after air date. There are plenty of (legal) ways where you can find all your favourite shows on the internet for whenever you have some spare time.
4. Watch on your mobile device(s): If you have a long commute you can easily stream shows from respective apps or websites that will allow you to watch on the go wherever you want. Or, if you’re savvy enough, you can load previously downloaded shows (hopefully legally) onto your smartphone, iPhone, iPad etc. etc.
5. Wait for the DVD’s: If you have a busy life or couldn’t be bothered following shows week to week, just wait ‘till the DVD’s come out and watch at your leisure. Some people aren’t too fond of waiting week to week and having to wait months to watch an entire season and would rather watch a season in a huge chunk. DVD’s allow you to watch slowly at your own pace, or knock out a season in a day (my style).
6. Limit your shows: Figure out which shows you really like and only watch those. I know this seems obvious, but if you’re not so keen on a show, don’t watch it. I like to figure out my “favourite” shows by which shows I genuinely look forward to watching each week, find out yours, only watch them and cut out the rest.
7. Cut ties early: If you start watching a new show and you find it starting to get boring, or you simply don’t like it anymore, just stop watching immediately. No need to suffer through a show you’re not enjoying just possibly under the hopes that it might get better. If you do hear or read about it getting better, you can always go back and catch up on the DVD’s.
8. Carve out a weekly schedule: If you’re busy or don’t have much time, schedule out a specific time each week or every couple days where you commit to watching an episode or two. This helps as it encourages you to actually sit down and watch a show, but still can be limited to whatever size is most manageable for your time frame.
9. Use Time-shifting to your advantage: If you have satellite TV, your favourite show can be on upwards of three (more or less) different times in a certain night. If you live in the West, you can watch the East channel feeds with shows starting as early as 5 PM or 6 PM (depending on your location). Also, if you have lots of shows to record in one given night, time-shifting allows you to create a puzzle of sorts, fitting shows in across the evening at different times, ensuring you can record it all. Even if you can’t fit a show in, check to see if the channel is replaying it in the coming days (which is very possible) or take #3’s advice.
10. Engage and invest in your favourite show properly: Sometimes watching a show just isn’t enough, whether your fiending for more or are just seeking some answers. Visit fan sites, forums or read reviews and pieces on that particular show. You never know what things you missed or theories you share with others, by opening up or joining in on an online dialogue. Obviously specific shows are more conducive to this than others, but you’ll always be able to find like-minded people who enjoy the same shows as you.
As fun as it is to speculate where every thing could possibly be going, it’s even less fun to actually know all this before you get there. So, AVOID SPOILERS like the plague. I used to seek out as many spoilers as I could for all the shows I watched, until it started to drain all the fun and spontaneity out of my viewing experience. Think of it this way, if you’re reading a great novel you wouldn’t randomly skip ahead a couple chapters and start reading, it’ll most likely ruin the story for you, TV is no different. So, watch where the great expanse of the internet takes you, nothing worse than your favourite show getting spoiled (especially if its been out for awhile, which puts you in even larger danger).
So, there you have it, follow all 10 tips, or none at all. Better yet, pick and choose what works for you and maybe you can watch TV more efficiently and allow more time for things more pressing than watching TV (what that could possibly be, I have no idea). I hope some of this can be helpful for the billions of people who are actually busy and have more important things to do than focus on TV 24/7. That’s what I’m here for.