Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Talking Point: is there too much TV on TV?

Tuesday, 13 March 2012
I know we live in a time where television's available round-the-clock for most people in the Western world, but I was wondering if there's too much being transmitted through the airwaves. It's a difficult thing to gauge, because obviously we don't all watch the same things. Some people, like my grandad, may think there's nothing worth watching on TV most days. Other people, perhaps with wider access to TV via the internet or cable/satellite, may feel swamped with the 24/7 choice available.

And, obviously, not everyone has the time or inclination to watch everything that exists out there. Many people prefer to wait for box-sets, and only then buy/rent the shows they heard were good from friends, while others devour whatever comes their way when broadcast.

But if you're like me (i.e. the kind of person who writes/reads TV blogs), I'm beginning to think there's too much TV to handle. I mean, I never read more than one book at a time, because I couldn't keep multiple stories in my head in their written form, yet I'm constantly watching a half-dozen TV shows. Sometimes more. If most of these programmes are lighthearted, or don't have very long seasons (i.e. US cable of British), this isn't unmanageable... but when the majority are complex, serious-minded, and on for most of the year, it can be a real problem.

Right now, for example, I have quite a few "universes" swirling around in my head, each full of storylines and characters. There's the survivors in The Walking Dead, the burly slaves in Spartacus: Vengeance, the investigators in Fringe, the housemates in Being Human (both versions), the explorers in The River, the gamblers in Luck, the detectives in Dirk Gently, the cop in Awake, and the agents in Alcatraz. And those are soon to be joined by the casts of Touch, Game Of Thrones, Eastbound & Down, Mad Men, The Killing, Veep, and Titanic over the next few months.

Now, I know it's very unlikely all of the above will air in the same week, as many will finish their runs and be replaced by other things, but there's still the potential for me to need mental room for a huge array of characters, ideas and plots.

And is that really a good thing?

Can you truly invest yourself in a show and its events, when so many others are swimming around your head, too? I've learned to compartmentalise things, and writing about TV shows helps keep the different shows straight in your head, but I sometimes find myself jealous of casual viewers who are only watching two or three shows conscientiously. Those people probably select the current must-see TV shows, like Game Of Thrones and Mad Men, and view them as occasional treats in their week. That way they can leisurely spend time ruminating on them without the "pressure" of other shows to watch almost every day, and perhaps watch frothier TV to fill time (gameshows, reality TV, etc.) Or else have the time to catch-up with classics they missed, which I rarely do.

So what do you think? Is there too much TV around these days, with every channel desperate to have a show that captures global attention and press inches? And is that unfortunate, because people only have so much room in their lives for scripted entertainment? Or is the problem purely one of personal scheduling, and people like me are the minority? If you think you're watching too much TV every week, and it's becoming some form of burden, should you just admit defeat and start renting box-sets at a later date?

How many TV shows do YOU watch regularly, and how do you cope with the avalanche of programming that falls down the Mount Television every week? Can you cope with watching more than six shows every week, or do you intentionally only watch a couple "in-depth" and catch-up with the rest later?