A couple of weeks ago, I came home to my worst nightmare. I turned on my television and nothing happened. No picture, no noise, not even some static or a TV test pattern. I was overcome with fear. No Chuck Bass. No feeling better about my evening wine consumption via the drunks on Intervention. No Top Chefs. It was my favourite night of must see TV and I was going to miss it all.**
Because I enjoy frustration and really bad customer service, I called Rogers. They informed me they could fix it, but not for six days. Six days! But, I was missing Gossip Girl! Panic set in. I worried about what kind of trouble the Real Housewives would get into without me. I imagined the anxiety caused by being the only person on Twitter on a Sunday night not in on the Mad Men jokes or snark about Girls. What if some racial diversity suddenly showed up on Girls and I missed it? What about the dreaded plot spoilers? Rogers didn’t care.
I curled up on my living room floor and threw the best only-child in-a-world-that-is-unfair-woe-is-me- temper tantrum I could muster. I sulked and imagined my life without TV. Would I have to read books? Enjoy nature? Get a hobby? Interact with humanity? Screw that.
My life wasn’t always this way. There was a time when I often chose not to join a regularly scheduled program already in progress. As an avid consumer of pop culture, I sometimes find myself exhausted and overcome with the need to disengage. This has resulted in me avoiding: competitive cake baking shows, Brangelina, Glee, people trying to make Channing Tatum happen for me, and anything to do with the Hunger Games. I also refuse to make macaroons the new cupcake and, no, I haven’t seen the new Avengers movie. Leave me alone!
But when the fatigue really sets in and this pop culture junkie needs rehab, I often take my frustration out on my television. It’s not that I have high viewing standards. Not at all. I’ll watch and hate watch—sadly I’ve kept up with the Kardashians more than I would like to admit—pretty much anything. Except televised talent competitions. I have never watched an episode of American Idol. The terrifying combination of Ryan Seacrest, people breaking into song, and live studio audiences is too much for me.
But Lost was Seacrest free and I still managed to avoid it until season two. I knew it was about an island and a plane crash, but that was about it. Mad Men suffered the same fate. I felt like a feminist fraud when a friend and I were discussing pop culture heroines and Buffy made the list. I had to confess I’d never seen an episode. Battlestar Galactica. Whatever. Space sucks.
Eventually, I come around though. Resistance is futile. I finally started watching Lost and managed to annoy my friends—who were wondering why they were stuck in 2005 all of a sudden—with incessant questions about the hatch and the polar bears. I recently watched the first two seasons of Buffy and wish I hadn’t come late to her vampire slaying party. I now host Mad Men viewings on Sunday nights. No themed cocktails though. I’m far too lazy for that.
When faced with pop culture overload we sometimes just need to regain control and consume things on our own terms. I’ll care about Don Draper when I’m good and ready, thank you very much. It’s not just the watching of the TV. It’s the TV-related tweets. It’s the endless online recaps and media analysis. I had reached my saturation point with Girls before I even started watching it. It’s the friends who make you feel like a total loser if you’re not watching Game of Thrones. I am not watching Game of Thrones, by the way.
While laying on my floor post-Rogers temper tantrum I considered becoming one of those people who doesn’t watch TV. Those smug people I avoid at parties cause they think they’re better than me. You read The Economist instead of watching Jersey Shore. Hooray for you, here’s a smarty pants medal!
Lucky for me I didn’t have to ponder this long cause my cable ended up returning after four hours. Turns out it was just a service problem in my area. I did miss Chuck Bass that night, but made it in time for Shameless. It’s a great show. You should totally watch it.
**Yes, I realize this is a very first world problem. I also realize I could watch these shows online, but really that’s not my preferred method of TV delivery.
Lisa Whittington-Hill is the publisher of This Magazine. Her blog on pop culture will appear every second Tuesday.