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Television Anxiety: The burden of too many choices

“An artist is somebody who produces things that people don’t need to have.” —Andy Warhol

We are incredibly fortunate to live in a society where choice and free thought are lauded. But with that gift of choice comes a great burden.

The burden I speak of is the anxiety and dread you experience when you will never be able to watch every television show. You will never be caught up. Television shows are being produced and released faster than the reproduction of bacteria. “Stop it!” I yell at Netflix. “Stop making more great shows on your own!”

Amazon Prime Originals? Hulu Originals? Yahoo Screen, what are you doing? Not to mention the sudden accessibility of shows from the past that I never got to watch. Forget about rewatching; it’s not worth taking time away from the time I need to watch whatever HBO is planning to produce next season.

At a recent appearance of the pop-culture czar Chuck Klosterman, someone asked, “With all the pop culture now made available out there, how do we decide what’s worth consuming and what’s not?” Without even thinking about it, Klosterman shrugged and said, “That’s easy. Watch what you think is good. Don’t bother with it if it’s not.” I could sense the whole audience hiding its panic. What did he even mean? We need to watch things because they are important! Because they are relevant! If we don’t like it, who cares? We need to be part of the human fabric! The collection of shows we watch makes up our personalities, our very beings! What will we have to tweet about?

I propose doctors recognize a new disorder, a condition that comes from that specific anxiety about the overabundance of television options. Before there is a magic pill invented to help this, here are some solutions to help us sleep at night:

  1. Friends have had aneurysms when I tell them I haven’t watched something. “You HAVE to watch it!” they yell, hands held to the heavens, as if that one outburst will convince me. Sure, I want to relate to them on a pop-culture discussion level, but there’s no time for extraneous watching. Ask them, “Why is it good?” or even better, “Why would I like it?” If they have no other explanation aside from “It’s just so good!” … it’s not worth it. If they can’t answer the question, they don’t know you and they never really were your friend, so you’re welcome for getting them out of your life. Now you have more time to watch television.

  2. If you have started a show but it begins to seem like work, just quit watching it. Just stop. It will be so liberating! Enough with the idea that you’ve already started it. Stephen J. Dubner, of Freakonomics fame, thinks you should quit and not worry about sunk costs. This idea has helped me immensely, and hey, it’s backed up by experts! Here is a list of shows I quit mid-run because I didn’t feel compelled to watch anymore: The Wire, Homeland, Penny Dreadful, Weeds, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Felicity, Game of Thrones. Are you currently freaking out? Are you angry with me because those are your very favorite shows and how could you even fathom someone may not like them? Despite the time I already put in, the time I would spend finishing them is not worth it. Which leads me to …

  3. A show can objectively be of great quality, but if you are not interested in the subject or premise, don’t try to convince yourself otherwise. I watched Breaking Bad because no one would shut up about it, and I can appreciate it as an art form, but I’m not interested in investing my time in a show about a drug dealer who murders people and lies to his family. [You: “But it’s so good! It’s about his eventual transformation to evil!” Sure, but nope. Not for me.] Conversely, I will never try to convince you to watch Girls if you don’t care about self-absorbed twenty-something women. I can accept that.

  4. Don’t feel obligated to watch something because it is packaged as “prestige television.” The only requirements for that label are that the show is not on basic cable, has a 2:1 ratio of female nudity to male nudity, and has a charismatic evil person. Quality is not required.

  5. Watch every other episode of a series. Are you freaking out at that suggestion? I did at first too. I recommended a friend do that to catch up on Lost. TV recaps are so abundant these days that you can easily read up on what you missed in excruciating detail. Think about it: Many episodes of Lost were just filler. Was every episode an A+? Should I remind you about all the nonsense that happened on the oil rig? That sad excuse of most of season six? I stand my ground.

6. Sometimes, when talking about television, someone will assure me, “It doesn’t really get going until the [season or episode number]. I am interested in watching Parenthood, and a friend told me, “It doesn’t really get going until season three.” So you know what I did? I SKIPPED SEASONS ONE AND TWO! I am a relatively smart person; I figure I can figure out what is going on. Why slog through the inferior seasons when I could save myself time? Ask anyone about The Wire, and I am sure they will tell you, “It takes a while to get into it.” So ask them, “When does it get great?” and start from there.

Finally, we all need to come to a sense of acceptance. Once you admit to yourself that you can’t watch everything—I mean, really accept it—you’ll be at peace. Unless, of course, Blockbuster is revived and starts producing its own original programs. Because then I’ll really lose it.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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