It all started with The Sopranos. Back then I had an excuse. I didn’t have cable TV. By now, premium “serial-based” TV shows have taken off. Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Walking Dead. I haven’t seen any of these even though now I have (at least basic) cable. I haven’t even watched Ash vs. Evil Dead even though that’s really up my alley. Even if I want to be a cheapwad and not pay, I could probably download this stuff. I think there’s three big reasons why I don’t partake:
We’ve reached a point in history where the amount of stuff to watch (or listen to) far exceeds the amount of time anybody has to invest in the activity. I was the epitome of a couch potato when I was a kid. Even with the rise of videogames, I watched tons and tons of TV. Now I have far less time due to more responsibilities, competing ways to spend what little idle time I do have, and a growing sense of mortality.
Consider, if you will, that if I were to resolve to watch every Simpsons episode back to back (up to 2014) that it would take 8 days straight, no sleep. To watch through every Mad Men, every Breaking Bad, every Walking Dead, would eat up an enormous amount of my time. This would take binge watching to a new level.
The other factor is a certain prejudice against the messages conveyed in most of these shows. Ever since the Sopranos, each of them has sought to prove they are “adult” and “edgy” and as a result you have a lot of unsympathetic characters as protagonists engaging in various acts of cruelty, selfishness, and vice, all in the name of waving a sign that says “look at us! We’re ADULT!” I don’t really think fulfilling quotas of sex scenes and entrails is my idea of quality television.
How this relates to TIME is I really have to take something away from what I watch that I can ruminate on. Even when I’m watching an old B-movie I can look at it as a nostalgic time-capsule. The new stuff needs to sink or swim purely on its intrinsic merits, and if my value-system clashes too much with what it’s pushing, then it’s just going to bother me.
For instance, Tom Hardy’s new show, Taboo, I caught a little of it, and while it is definitely well crafted in creating a period piece, it just kind of comes across as creepy and disturbing, a sort of testament to the psychopathic ultra-masculinity of Tom Hardy himself, I guess. And I just have no interest in exploring that sort of borderline Hannibal Lecter archetype.
I find that today’s television writing (and some film as well) is cynical to the point of nihilism, which in turn reflects a post-911 culture that has so little left to feel proud of and a future that feels like the end of a tragic zero-sum game.
In order for me to enjoy something, I have to care. In order for me to care, the characters can’t be assholes, and they need something to work for besides their own aggrandizement or for their tribe to stomp on the skeletons of the other tribe. It’s all just too…damn…bleak.
The last is the fact that just about all modern television (or film for that matter) is shot in a way that I just flat out dislike. Yeah, I’m talking about the handheld shaky-cam and a level of crisp digital detail that is, well, it gets monotonous. The old stuff, the chemical film stocks, the film-grain, the various different looks of different lighting, it provides a much more varied visual experience. I feel that the art of cinematography has really lost something with the move to digital cameras, not so much that you can’t do artful things digitally, but that people choose not to, because they’re chasing a sort of artificial caricature of hyper-realism, sort of the visual equivalent of today’s heavily auto-tuned vocals. The old stuff has a charm to it because of its handcrafted analog, and yes, imperfect, nature.
So anyway, I’m sure eventually I’ll give one of these shows a chance, and maybe some of these prejudices will be proven wrong. Until then, I’ll mostly keep mining through old stuff.