Viewer Fatigue

During fall quarter of my freshman year in college, I watched the soap opera, All My Children, with my friends at my dorm. Yeah, I really did. In a later quarter, I grew to resent the intrusion of an econ class that kept me from watching TV at noon. How dare the school schedule classes that cut into my soap opera viewing!

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Many years later, I find myself resenting TV for cutting into my life. How ironic for a person who usually spent her downtime in front of the tube.

Though I watched and enjoyed the two-hour season finale of Agents of Shield last week, I felt relieved that I wouldn’t have to watch it this week. I had spent the season having to play catch-up when a friend and I got together other every Tuesday—the night Agents appeared on TV. With that relief came another realization: I’m a bit weary of the continuing storylines of many TV dramas.

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Remember the days when TV episodes were more self-contained—a different problem or villain each week? You could elect to skip a show one week and not feel that you had to catch up on the episode you missed. Nowadays, with continuing storylines or multiple-episode arcs featuring a slow reveal of key information, if you miss a show, you’re lost the next week. You have to keep watching to get the whole picture. I watched shows like Battlestar Galactica and Babylon 5 with strong arcs that meant you had to watch the episodes in order.

For those in charge of television programming, this is a good strategy for keeping viewers engaged. Obviously, this strategy of linking episodes worked for soap operas for so many decades.

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Over the years and even recently, friends and family highly recommended shows like Daredevil, Game of Thrones, Arrow, The Walking Dead, The Flash, Downton Abbey, Scandal, and many other critically acclaimed, entertaining shows that I have yet to watch though they have huge fan bases. Believe me, I’m not doubting the quality of these shows or anyone’s right to watch them. It’s just that now I’m tired of tuning in.

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I need a viewer vacation this summer. If I watch anything, it has to be a one-shot deal—something that begins, then ends with no messy arcs to follow.

I might binge on Downton Abbey, Flash, and Arrow at some point in life. (Thank you, Netflix!) But for now, I’m reluctant to invest more weekly time in someone else’s televised world, especially if I neglect my own fictional world.

In the coming days, I’ll work on my book. When I take a break from that, I’ll seek inspiration from reading or hanging out with people or walking in nature. I desperately need to fill my senses with the sights of the great outdoors.

Today (Monday), I’m having lunch with a friend and dinner with another group of friends. On Tuesday, I’ll probably hang out with another friend. I’m not sure what the rest of the week will look like. But I plan to take this advice.

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What about you? How do you feel about shows with continuing storylines? Love them? Deplore them? Feel comforted by them?

Television from sewarental.wordpress.com. All My Children logo from blog.chron.com. The Flash logo from lyricis.fr. Scandal logo from abcallaccess.com. Agents of Shield logo hihimag.com. Daredevil logo flickeringmyth.com. Think logo from irregulartimes.com.

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46 thoughts on “Viewer Fatigue

  1. I have pretty much the same issue! When I was at uni, it was easy to binge watch things (particularly given the amazing file-sharing network that those of us who lived on campus had access to if we knew the right people), and you’d say you’re just having a break from essay writing to watch one episode, then suddenly hours had passed and you’d watched a whole season.

    I think I actually got the viewer fatigue when I went on a seven week trip to Europe two Decembers ago and ended up seven weeks behind on everything. I’m much more likely to read a book or do some writing than watch something on TV now, and I find it really hard to commit to a new show. When Netflix Australia launched, I started watching Orphan Black, and I manged to just fit in the 20 episodes of that in the two and a half months before Season 3 started, but now I’ve decided to just wait until I can watch Season 3 on Netflix, too – I don’t like downloading things much anymore, and the Australian on-demand site that is fast-tracking the episodes only keeps them up for two weeks.

    To answer your question, though, I think I actually do prefer to have some kind of season-long arc, but I need to watch it on my own time.

    Sorry, this got really long!

    • I totally feel your pain, Emily. I had to quit watching shows when I was in grad school. Too many deadlines. That’s why I missed Downton Abbey and many other shows.

      When the first season of Heroes aired, a friend of mine and I sat and watched it for five hours. FIVE HOURS. Talk about not getting anything done! Yet I couldn’t sit down for five hours and work on my novel???

      I don’t watch as much TV as I used to watch. I got out of the habit through grad school. I’ve been reluctant to get involved in shows, because I know how I am. I’m easily addicted to shows!

      • I have to say, this is the reason I am appreciating shows like Agent Carter and Galavant that have limited seasons. Even if you watch it all at once, it’s actually only possible to lose one afternoon/evening, then you have to get back to what you’re doing.

      • I was thinking about both shows, Emily! I also was glad of the limited run, which makes me want to see them when they return next season. I wish more TV shows had the amount of episodes of Sherlock or Doctor Who.

  2. I feel exactly the same. There are many shows-shows that I enjoyed, that I have fallen away from. My feeling is that, though they are great, they have gone on too long. They need resolution. I guess you can have too much of a good thing! One of those is The Walking Dead. I decided a few seasons ago that they need to go to the coast, get on a boat, and go and live happily ever after.
    New programmes have started, but I’ve stayed away as I already have too much to watch. One exception though is The Bridge, ( the original Swedish/Danish version). It’s the best thing I’ve seen in tv for a long while, if you don’t mind subtitles, and the third series is to air this year. The character of Saga-a female detective who is somewhere on the autistic spectrum, is one of the most interesting and unique characters that’s ever appeared in a crime show.
    And sorry, I think I’ve attempted to outdo Emily ^^ 🙂

    • Wow that sounds like a great show! I don’t mind subtitles.
      No! No! Here I am, ready to look it up and watch it. And I said I’d take a break. But I will look for that series eventually!
      I remember bingeing on shows like Rosemary & Thyme, Foyle’s War, and Midsomer Murders. At least with those, I could borrow them from the library or from friends who happened to have the boxed sets. I love a good police procedural!

  3. I actually enjoy the winding storyline, but I agree that it carves out a big bulk of time. If you miss the actual showing then you have to find another time to watch it on the DVR or find it on an Internet site. My wife and I did that with the 4th season of ‘Once Upon a Time’ because we missed the first few episodes. This is kind of why I gravitate more toward DVD box sets these days. Downside is that I don’t get into the big stuff when everyone else is into it. Upside is that I get to watch it at my own pace. To be honest, I find myself turned off to most of the extremely popular series. Just the rabid fandom and obsession of people makes me leery of the whole thing. Not sure why.

    • I also watched Once Upon a Time, but stopped because I was out most Sundays. I could get it through Netflix, but I was watching Grimm and Babylon 5 through Netflix. So I switched to Justice League and Green Lantern (the animated series) because those were shorter and easier to breeze through. Now that I’m done with those series, I’m going to take a break and try to do what you’ve done a lot lately–finish a book!!!

      • TV definitely gets in the way of things at times. I’m trying to step back into Windemere tonight, but I keep thinking of stuff on the DVR. I’ll be happy if I can finish this section before I collapse.

      • Looking at the schedule you posted on your blog, I’m glad you’re dedicated to finishing that section. Because of your example, I’m trying to be more dedicated.

  4. Yay for working on your book! I generally don’t watch shows with continuing storylines because my schedule is so unpredictable that I miss key episodes and coming back is like a truant in school trying to focus and catch up. I tell myself that I can always see the whole episode when it comes out on DVD, and then I don’t do it. I’m more of a movie person anyway. If I want a full-length story, I want it right away. Instant gratification.

    • I know what you mean, Lyn. My schedule also is unpredictable (except for the weekly and monthly meetings I have). I like being free to do whatever, instead of having to race home and see a show. I also like movies. There are quite a few good ones debuting this summer.

  5. I have a love/hate relationship with shows having continuous story lines. I’m an avid Downton Abbey fan, and really enjoyed the first season of Sleepy Hollow (not so much this year, though), but, don’t like being tied to to 8pm/Wednesday night sort of viewing. The good news is that we have other options for viewing. Right now, however, I’m knee deep in dirt; pulling weeds, planting pots, sweeping up maple whirlybird seeds – which is all quite wonderful for me.
    Having lunch/dinner/coffee with family or friends is so wonderful and has been an activity renewed of late. Enjoy your time outside the box – and I plan to as well. 🙂

    • Oh man! I’m really curious about Sleepy Hollow. Someone else mentioned that show and Elementary, since I watched Sherlock. Arrrgghhh! So many good shows. I’m really glad for Netflix. I can watch a show at my leisure. I’ll add Sleepy Hollow to my “someday I’ll watch this” list.

  6. I prefer shows that don’t require the ongoing commitment of watching soap operas. I tired of Person of Interest, The Mentalist, and L.A. Law because they required viewers to hang on to too much “back story.”

    That said, we loved every episode of Downton Abbey.

    • Nancy, I know I would love Downton Abbey too. Soooo many people have begged me to watch it. I’m estimating at least 20 people have mentioned this show to me. But I know I wouldn’t finish anything if I got involved in it. That’s what Call the Midwife did to me. But someday I will watch it.

      I faithfully watched Law and Order, L.A. Law, and The Mentalist, but also quit watching them.

  7. I used to enjoy following shows with continuing stories, but really can’t be bothered now. In fact, I’ve gone from being an avid TV watcher to hardly ever looking at anything other than the news. Like you, it’s not that I think the shows are bad – I just can’t get into the mindset anymore of settling down at the same time each week to watch. Too much other stuff to distract me.

  8. I haven’t watched a continuing series in years, L. Marie. I’d rather read or write than watch TV…except Jeopardy and The Hallmark Channel of course. 🙂
    It sounds as though being without your cable has been a good thing.

    • It certainly makes it easier to not watch TV. 🙂 (Though I miss the Hallmark Channel.) And the box STILL hasn’t arrived. I was out this evening anyway. Had a great meal and a great conversation with friends! I needed that! Now I’m back to working on the book. 🙂

  9. I don’t mind them, but I limit myself to 2 or 3. TV takes up plenty time, which I don’t have to spare. Like you, sometimes I’m relieved when a season ends- more free time! XD

    • I usually follow two shows too, though I missed one of them this season. I’m always gone when the show is broadcast. I might catch up with it though Netflix at some point.

    • I love movies too, Professor. At least with those, you’re done after two hours. But a show has 20+ episodes. (Though Doctor Who only has 13.) I couldn’t give any more attention to another weekly show.

    • Oh man! So true, Laura! I had to quit playing games on my smartphone. I was playing Sims FreePlay. It got so bad, I was waking up at 3 in the morning to do a task on the game. That’s when I quit. So you have a point!!!

  10. I love and hate those kinds of TV shows. Once I start I can’t stop and I’m totally addicted, which is why I’m really careful about starting to watch a new show. I tend to wait until I know I can afford to lose several days to obsessive TV watching, then I’ll binge a season of something like Game of Thrones. After a binge session I always feel relieved it’s over so I can get back to life and reading and writing.

    The problem is that there are so many good TV shows now that if we were to watch them all, all we’d ever do is watch TV — and I’m like you, I resent how much time TV can take out of my day. We got rid of all TV channels a couple of years ago and that’s been lovely. It’s lead to us watching a lot less TV.

    • Ha! I’m so with you! I binged on Call the Midwife. I was angry with myself for sitting there and watching three episodes in a row. And I couldn’t rest until I had seen two seasons!! Yet I groaned about producing fifty pages on a book???? Something isn’t right!!! So yes, I am relieved to see a show end for the season.

      • Oh, I haven’t watched Call the Midwife, but I love Miranda Hart! Have you seen her UK sitcom? It’s hugely silly, but I love it. I think Call the Midwife would be a good one, not too many cliffhangers (I imagine?) unlike the game of thrones type series.

  11. In the past I have not watched much TV but now, with Netflix, I confess to binge watching Orange is the New Black, Walking Dead and House of Cards. Whenever I’ve tried watching a weekly show on TV with a continuing story line I lose interest…thank goodness. I really don’t need/want to worry about catching up on a show if I’ve missed a week or two. Now if only I could write more!! 🙂

    • Netflix is really good for that. That’s how I finished watching the first season of Heroes, all of Battlestar Galactica, the first season of Grimm, the first two seasons of Call the Midwife and many other shows. But although there are many shows (and Orange Is the New Black is another show people have recommended), I’m in need of a break. I need to finish this book!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  12. How funny – I was an AMC addict for a couple of decades. When we moved overseas for a few years in the early 2000s, a family member taped two episodes a week for me and mailed it when the tape was full. We shipped these videos back and forth across the ocean for almost 5 years. Ridiculous! I know what you mean about viewer fatigue, and I think it’s a very calculated move on the part of the networks. TV’s not as simple as it used to be — there’s a lot of competition these days with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, etc., so they have to keep the viewers coming back somehow. But grown weary of all the melodrama that’s packed into so many of these shows. So I tune in mainly to Netflix and watch a lot of documentaries. If you’re going to binge watch a new series, you can’t go wrong with Downton Abbey.

  13. You really hit a note on this one, Linda. I have this odd dread when it comes to TV shows I enjoy watching. Right now, due to other constraints, I have a backlog of them on the DVR and I feel like it’s going to be WORK to actually get through them. Weird, right?! So instead, I prefer to use my spare time for reading or writing.

    • I’m glad you’re reading and writing, Phillip. You’ve been reading some awesome books, judging by your book reviews.
      I know what you mean about the backlog. There’s so much catching up to do! And with summer coming up, you just want to be outside enjoying life with your family!

  14. I like movies but I’m not really a TV person. The only two shows I’ve watched series beginning to series end are Gargoyles and Smallville. The first because it’s cool. The second because Beloved liked it a lot. In general, I like the old shows better. Get Smart is my very favorite. It had a little bit of a story arch, but not too much. The 1960’s Batman is still awesome and I liked the Batman with Terry(?) The futuristic one? There’s a blip that still makes me giggle even though it makes no sense out of context. Specifically: “It’s shway!” “It’s shwarbage.” Anyway. Screen breaks are always good, for so many reasons. 🙂

    • Batman Beyond? I used to watch that one. 🙂 I like animation, especially superhero shows. I’ve probably seen every Batman show known to mankind!

      Get Smart was hilarious!

      I’ve been enjoying my screen break. I’ve written several pages on the story and worked on my maps. 😀

      • I don’t mind getting involved in an animated series. Have you seen The Zeta Project? That takes place in the same era as Batman Beyond. In fact, the robot Zeta appeared on some episodes of Batman Beyond.

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