It’s not easy to have a life and keep up with ‘Thrones’
If you occupy yourself with anything other than television you are out of the loop
‘Game of Thrones’: “I stopped watching after the first series. I can’t remember why but can only assume it was because I got duped into watching the latest ‘amazing’ Scandinavian drama.”
Dear world, stop trying to make me watch everything. I wonder what we talked about before we decided to down tools and spend our lives bingeing on television? TV now monopolises not just cultural conversations but social conversations and small talk alike. Upon us is the new season of Game of Thrones , which I stopped watching after the first series. I can’t remember why but can only assume it was because I got duped into watching the latest “amazing” Scandinavian drama. The new series of Mad Men is around the corner too. I feel like I’ve been reading articles about Mad Men for the best part of 20 years, but some quick research informs me that its first series was in 2007. Good God it’s boring. If I wanted to watch a bunch of blokes drinking and smoking and basking in a bygone era of sexism I’d hang around Kildare Street more often.
Parents spent the 1970s and 1980s wringing their hands about children watching too much TV. Those goggle-box kids are now adults, and spend their leisure time locked away, indulging in Netflix subscriptions, endless box sets and hard drives loaded with downloaded shows, emerging from the chrysalis of flat screens and MacBooks only to talk about what they’re watching.
When people take breaks to hang out in real life, face to face, the cul-de-sac conversations revolve around listing programmes before eventually hitting upon one you’ve both watched, talking about it, talking about what’s better than it, recommending something else, insisting that you’ll be interested in it, and perpetuating a daft social pressure to keeping consuming television. Obviously, all of this “pressure” is a product of my own neuroses. But it feels inescapable. Maybe technology isolates us so much from our environment that this new pastime of binge-watching is a handy way to keep us away from real life. If you have your head stuck in Borgen and Silicon Valley and Girls all the time, then you don’t have to bother with interacting with anyone off screen.
If you occupy yourself with anything other than watching television, you’re out of the loop. I honestly don’t know where people get the time to watch and become amateur critics of American Horror Story and The Fall and Sherlock and Boardwalk Empire and Homeland and Scandal and Top of the Lake and The Good Wife .
The only conclusion I can draw is that everybody is lying about the amount of TV they watch. I do. Only last week I told someone that they should really check out the original British House o f Cards , having never actually seen it. I’ve nodded in agreement about the virtues of Sons of Anarchy . I’ve criticised the plot holes in Lost having watched about 20 minutes of it. I lie because I don’t want to shock people with my ignorance and end up in a Clockwork Orange scenario, kidnapped by disappointed peers and imprisoned in a room, eyes propped open by matchsticks, with season two of The Newsroom rolling. I watched the first couple of episodes of The Newsroom . Rubbish.
I slogged my way through Breaking Bad , where for at least two seasons the ratio of episodes in which something actually happened to those in which a tumbleweed tumbled was about 1:3. It’s practically French.
My secret shame was that I had never watched T he West Wing . So last year, I started out on all 109 hours of it. Now, while it’s fantastic, I can’t imagine lying on my deathbed thinking “I’m really glad I spent all that time with Josh and CJ.” I watched the first season of The Killing because everyone told me to and was exhausted by it. After watching the first episode of The Bridge , I decided I couldn’t take another series of Scandinavians murdering each other, so dropped it. Popping into a friend’s house one evening, the finale was on TV. Fantastic! Now I know the beginning and the end. Sacrilegious in our new telly evangelism, of course, but time-saving nonetheless.
House of Cards is great but the hyperbole surrounding contemporary television programmes is ludicrous. Our “must- watch” and “must-see” culture is actually about the gluttony of consuming entertainment, “chewing gum for the eyes” as Father Ted once said. The elevation of average shows to high-minded critical conversations and coverage is overblown.
I get it: we’re living in a golden age of TV. Yes, I know all the big directors and big actors are moving to smaller screens. Good for them. Just don’t expect everyone to watch everything. It’s impossible! What do you mean you haven’t watched True Detective ? IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU? DO YOU HATE ART? DO YOU HATE LIFE ITSELF? Well, no actually, (a) I have a job and (b) I prefer to spend my evenings drinking cheap wine and talking rubbish. That said, I can’t wait for the second series of Orange is the New Black . You have seen it, right?