Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Shows you'll never watch

I was having lunch recently with fellow comedy scribe/blogger Earl Pomerantz and he posed an interesting question. “How many shows do you have on your DVR that you never watch?”

The short answer is: a lot more than I realized.

First off, I’m embarrassed to say there are two of my FRASIER episodes that have been languishing unwatched for about a month. I saw they were going to be on, taped them since I hadn’t seen them in awhile and really liked them, and so far have not found the time to watch them.

The way I know I’m officially over a series is when I see there are eight episodes waiting to be screened. If it’s May and I just now am getting to the Christmas episode, it’s time to cut and run.

THE BLACKLIST was one of those shows. Loved the pilot, stayed with it for half a season, and then it just got too absurd for me. UNDER THE DOME was another. They’d all be dead by now. That’s a logic problem I have trouble getting past.

I used to keep episodes of shows I really liked but then realized I never go back and watch them again. How many times can I see Will Gardner die? Or Piper Perabo run full speed in high heels?

When I hear of new shows coming on I try to catch their debuts. But half the time, when left with the prospect of actually sitting down and watching them, I end up hitting the delete button. Do I really want to devote a half-hour to some new sitcom that the network obviously knows is shit or they wouldn’t have premiered it in May?

Generally, once a month I’ll scroll down the list of movies TCM is showing and flag three or four. And then rarely watch them. In theory, it would be great to see GUNGA DIN again. In reality, why am I going to see GUNGA DIN for the tenth time? The old movies I tend to actually watch tend to be cheesy, kitsch, stunningly bad, B movies. I watched GO JOHNNY GO, a ‘50s rock n’ roll schlock film starring D.J. Alan Freed that made Ed Wood movies seem over produced. THE GREEN SLIME is another masterpiece I caught up with. CITIZEN KANE I deleted.

I’m also quicker on the trigger finger. If there’s a show or movie I’m not lovin’, I’ll kill it in the middle. Why waste my time when THE GREEN SLIME is waiting on my menu?

I’ll also record Dodger games, which is really stupid because they replay them five times a day. Sometimes I think I should save a couple of games because this is probably Vin Scully’s last year calling them, but seriously, five years from now I’m going to keep watching a Dodger-Diamondback game from April of 2014 where the big moment was Mark Trumbo not hitting the cutoff man?

I’ll tape documentaries I hear are great and all caring citizens should watch. But honestly, if I’ve got an hour and my choices are SHARK TANK or political injustice in South Africa I’m watching some idiot try to sell chocolate bars made out of grasshoppers.

There is now sooooo much product. Not only are there shows I’ve never heard of, there are networks I’ve never heard of. So not only do I have to be very selective as to what I want to watch, I have to be very selective among the shows I DO want to watch. Even shows I myself wrote.

DVR capacities are expanding. 200 hours of space. 400 hours of space. But so what? That’s just more hours you can fill with shows you’ll never watch. What we really need to do is add to the length of days. Expand them to 200 hours each. If Steve Jobs were still alive I bet Apple would have introduced such a device. That’s what it’s going to take to start watching WHITE COLLAR again. Or my FRASIERS.

40 comments:

luciuspaisley said...

Well, I'm convinced.

Tomorrow, the deleting commences...

Roger Owen Green said...

So true. STILL haven't watched the first ep of Cosmos, so haven't even recorded the rest.

Scooter Schechtman said...

To those of us who do nothing but watch TV DVR is a valuable er,tool. I think I have the whole Bob's Burgers series on there, plus a bunch of Real Boobies On My TV Screen! movies from TCM.

Pat Reeder said...

Nielsen has a new survey out that found the average American has access to 189 channels and watches 17 of them. Wouldn't it be funny if they were the same 17, and nobody at all was watching the other 172?

If a cable channel airs a reality show about the dangerous job done by lumberjacks, but nobody's watching, do the trees make a sound when they fall?

Nielsen says this could mean we've reached "peak TV," where there are now more channels than anyone has time or interest enough to watch. For me, that happened long ago. I get 300 channels from U-Verse, and most nights, I'm working at the computer with "Big Bang Theory" reruns on TBS, waiting for Conan to come on. BTW, I still have the final two episodes of "House" on my DVR. Beat that.

Stoney said...

You REALLY expect logic from Stephen King? C'mon Ken!

I don't have a DVR yet. Still going by my cable system's ON DEMAND menu (where I'm eagerly awaiting last night's episode of "Fargo". The opening scene had me cheering!)

My brother has a DVR and he's got just about every episode of the very funny Canadian import "The Red Green Show". Good thing too because our local PBS station is no longer running it.

Anonymous said...

I used to set my Tivo to automatically record anything by my favorite directors or actors. (I don't know if it works with writers.) Every few weeks you had enough to run your own film festival. Robert Duvall was on my list. It even recorded an episode of "The Untouchables" that he was in.

Kate said...

I run a tight DVR ship. Most things I record, I watch the next day, 2 at most. Unless I'm waiting to watch (or rewatch) with my husband. I ruthlessly delete when it's clear we're never going back to a show, unless it's one we binge watch like The Impossibles (Hotel and Restaurant). I do keep whole seasons of favorites with long hiatuses like Sherlock or Doctor Who. Until I rewatch when the new season does arrive. But I never, EVER let the box get over 30% full. That way lies madness and despair. You must kill your darlings.

Phillip B said...

Every episode of the new season of VEEP is waiting for me, and the new episodes of LOUIE are beginning to queue up.

They lie on top the pile of each and every Saturday Night Live from last fall. When I get back to SNL, I start with the most current show - which means I've made it back to Christmas.

The very best thing about DVR viewing, of course, the fast forward button. Typically it means an SNL compacts into about 45 minutes.

Carol said...

Not to mention all the stuff that's on Netflix streaming. I click on it, then spend the next 20 minutes scrolling through everything, and give up twenty minutes later because I can't decide what I want to actually watch. Spoiled for choice, really.

(Frasier is on Netflix, BTW.)

Friday question that randomly popped into my head. Not sure if you've ever been asked this/answered this but are you a fan (or have you ever watched) Mystery Science Theatre 3000? And if so what, as a writer, is your opinion on the scope of the references they made through the years, and what are your thoughts in general about 'riffing' shows and movies?

Dan Ball said...

Ken, this feels like one of your travelogues.

"Travelogue: Journeying Through My DVR (BYOMachete)"

Michael said...

Ken, this story just ran in Nevada and I immediately thought of you:

http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/natalie-wood-run-nevada-parole-and-probation

Anonymous said...

Hey Ken,
I can totally relate to the "heavy documentary" vs. Shark Tank dilemma. Sometimes you just want to sit back, relax, and not think too much, especially at the end of a work week (Friday nites- when Shark Tank airs) And yes, as I've gotten older I'm quicker with the trigger. Don't know if it's my OCD, lack of patience or what but if a show doesn't "grab" me in the first episode (or 2) I'm out. --LL

404 said...

Don't blame Stephen King for the TV version of UNDER THE DOME. Other than the initial premise and the characters, very little of it has stayed the same, or followed the "rules" King set up in the novel for the how the dome acts, breathes, etc.

In the novel, they were slowly dying because the air was getting stale, they had limited access to resources--the producers of the TV show have seen fit to ignore those in the hopse of being able to stretch the show out multiple seasons.

Charlie O'Brien said...

I was addicted to my DVR - but now I'm free. I would record everything - then let them pile up - then delete them one at a time. heaven forbid I deleted a show my wife recorded on HGTV and she now wants to see it 6 months later. "Geez, Honey I know it was on here." Oops. I have ditched cable TV and watch over the air. I can't record anything. If I missed it -I've missed. "Maybe a summer rerun? Oh, it's cancelled." No probs. Netflix is my pacifier now. Someone has already taped these shows - so I better get at watching them.

mariusz moniuszko said...

Well thanks for The Good Wife major spoiler you threw in there!!.... I made a point of avoiding your previous posts about this show (you at least forewarned the spoilers that time)..... You yourself said this is one of your favourite shows - imagine knowing what happens, especially something like this?!

Seriously pissed off from UK!

Ken Levine said...

Sorry about that but the event occurred almost three months ago. If I have to observe all international airing schedules than I could never write about anything current or relevant on television because there are shows that aired here last year that still won't air in some countries till next year.

I apologize, but that's the danger of a US-based blog.

Film streaming said...

Merci pour cet article et bonne journée à tous !

Cap'n Bob said...

I almost never watch a DVD or tape that I have on hand, but if the same show pops up on TV I'll watch it. I quit Netflix because I was holding movies for over a month before I forced myself to see them. One of my many quirks.

Chris said...

Structural question: If you have a scene with 4 people and 2 of them go in the kitchen to have another discussion for 5 minutes, is that written as a separate scene?

Todd Everett said...

Stoney said...

...I'm eagerly awaiting last night's episode of "Fargo". The opening scene had me cheering!)

I like Billy Bob generally, but even if he hadn't done a thing before, last night's episode justified every penny they're paying him.

SharoneRosen said...

what are you saying? That I should clear "Inside Daisy Clover" that I recorded in August?? I will watch, I WILL... soon...
(and Butterflies are Free from February... The Jazz Singer [Jolson version] from September???)

Keith said...

You mention Under the Dome which begets a question: Do you get irritated when a show like The Killing or Under the Dome goes from a limited or self-contained mini-series to an open ended series? Those shows PO'd me to no end and it's changed my viewing habits. I tend to (loosely) boycott those networks and I'm much more inclined to ignore the popular zeitgeist and turn more toward Netflix or similar services down the road. In essence, those responsible broke the contract with the viewer and they can bite me.

Jerry said...

CITIZEN KANE sucks! Go GREEN SLIME!

Tim W. said...

I don't tend to continue to record television shows I don't watch, although that has happened. My big thing has been movies, especially movies I've seen a long time ago but would conceivably like to watch again. Like the Gunga Din, I had Network and others like that that I just never got around to watching.

I'm still watching the Blacklist, but it's definitely not as good as I hoped it would be. A little to "procedural-y" for the initial idea. Still, I'm on board for the time being.

Jeffrey Mark said...

I don't own a DVR and have no intention of getting one. I don't have cable and I think I'm all the better for it. I do have Netflix streaming on my computer and I do enjoy it. Right now I'm binging on Cheers, a few episodes a night - going to go through all seasons. I just get too overwhelmed with the choices that are out there. I believe that I'm all the better for it...keeps my head clearer - I think!

Al said...

I recently deleted over 20 episodes of the Walking Dead when I realized I hadn't watched it in two years. I realized that while I thought the show was well written and engaging, the world they had created had grown so depressing that I just didn't want to go there anymore.

gottacook said...

There is now sooooo much product. Not only are there shows I’ve never heard of, there are networks I’ve never heard of.

One way to read this is that with the current amount of (scripted) production for all these channels, perhaps there's simply too much series content for you to be able to sustain interest in more than a very small number of series, irrespective of quality. In that case, even if there were six or seven Good Wife-caliber 22-episode network series, you wouldn't be able to sustain interest in more than two or three, no matter the merits of the others.

As for me, I'm happy to wait to see a noteworthy cable series on Netflix or some other medium. If a series is nutritious during its original run, it's likely to stay that way afterward, and some of these I won't likely get to until years from now. Likewise for at least 50 non-big-budget movies I can think of.

[By the way, the death of Will Gardner (the episode "Dramatics, Your Honor") was on March 23 - that was only six and a half weeks ago, although it does seem like almost three months ago.]

Ed said...

Ken-

Do you still watch The Americans? Last year you blogged about and, while you were complimentary, you did point out some of the show quirks.

I'm wondering if you still watch? The quirks seem less notable. The tone is darker and it seems like they're exploring themes that give the show much more depth.

Then again, to some, it may make the show boring.

I'm wrapped up in it but I know of no one else that is.

Your blog today made me wonder about your thoughts on the show since I watch it via DVR.

Pat Reeder said...

Ed - My wife DVRs "The Americans" and watches it faithfully. I've never seen it, though, so you two may the only diehard viewers as far as I know.

Scott H said...

Since I was too young when it was on, I started recording "All in the Family" reruns, which were airing 2 a weeknight, in series order, on one of those nostalgia cable networks. I do watch a few a week, but now I've got 98 of them stacked up on my TiVo, and I can't bring myself to delete them. I'll just have them around for years, and slowly chip away, I think.
"The Americans" is one of those shows that I like, but let stack up, because it requires so much concentration to watch, between the subtitles and just figuring out the plot. "Cosmos" is a show I'm committed to watching, since I love Dr. Neil Degrasse-Tyson and the whole idea of a series about science, but I've yet to be in the right mood to watch even one of them, so they're all stacked up waiting for me. I still prefer to record them on my TiVo than rely on on-demand or Netflix, since I've had the rug pulled out from under me too many times with shows suddenly vanishing from them.

skarab said...

This is the exact reason we don't have a dvr!

Ed said...

Thanks Pat!

Counting myself, that doubles the audience for the The Americans as far as I know.

Baylink said...

fFor the record: the internet spoiler rule is that spoilers must be marked until the end of the first North American East Coast airing of a program.

And that's been the rule since 1982.

Paul Duca said...

This week, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS reported a study by A.C. Nielsen saying that even with hundreds of different channels available, the majority of viewers watch just 17 of them.

mmryan314 said...

I have every available channel known to mankind plus dvr plus plus plus and I find myself drawn to Netflix etc (damn auto correct) forgetting juli plus and Amazon prime. I almost NEVER watch network stuff except for Modern Family which starts in 10 minutes. The whole world has changed for me.

Pamela Jaye said...

My DVR will kindly tell you how much TV it has on it in hours. Let's check, shall we?
Total Recorded:
1 year 10 months 1 day 17 hrs 37 mins
It also wants me to know it's been working (well, on and off, with some major breakdowns, since Saturday August 11th, 2007

Total Running Time:
6 years 8 months 26 days 5 hrs 15 mins (last summer it was down from sometime in June till, well, August 11, maybe? Honest, I'm pretty sure it was the day before the Grey's Anatomy premiere. Not August.
The original database ( we lost it) started late July 2004.

Pamela Jaye said...

Pat Breeder, I have some House - but I've watched them. Oldest unwatched? Probably the last 6 expos of Boston Legal.
I'm sad to have list the first two eps of Journeyman (yup, watched t hem all)

Lumpy said...

If your DVR is full of past episodes of 'Hoarders' ...

Anonymous said...

Blacklist did lull in middle of season / end of first quarter but the last four to five episodes have been excellent. I almost dumped it but fought my way back in and glad I did

Myrmidon said...

This reminds me of something I think Baudrillard said, which went along the lines that video recorders are machines that watch programmes for us, because we feel very guilty about missing them.