How We Watch TV

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Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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  1. Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:

    Before I got a Tivo, in 2001, a was slightly worried that I would end up spending more time in front of the TV. As it has turned out, precisely the opposite has occurred. Before, after coming home for work, or whatever, I would turn on the TV, and would scan the channels to see what was on. Ultimately, I’d watch almost any dreck, because by the time I turned the TV on, I was already committed to watching TV, and was really just looking for some means of baking my tired brain.

    Once I had the Tivo, I watched less television, but enjoyed it more. I actually picked everything that I watched, and entirely lost the habit of following time sinkholes. So, in that sense, Tivo enhanced my quality-of-life in a tangible way.

    I never watch anything live, now, except for news and sports. Having to watch ads just seems too high a price to pay for entertainment.

    There are a few dense shows I stockpile to the end of the season to watch marathon-style: they are: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Treme. I’d do the same with The Good Wife, but get too much pleasure from it to defer my viewing much past the day after its original airing…Report

    • I was going to write a comment on this, but Snarky said everything I was going to. Time-shifting prevents me from channel-surfing, resulting in a lot less time in the overall. It also lets me stock up on a show and then realizing that watching it is almost a chore and deleting it, whereas before I would watch it out of routine.Report

  2. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    I don’t have DVR, but between On Demand, HBOgo, and Netflix I can hit just about everything I would want anyway.

    Basically I watch television two nights a week: Thursday (Community/Parks and Rec) and Sunday (Game of Thrones, Veep, and Girls).

    As a result of my Sunday lineup, I always miss Mad Men, which then does become somewhat of a chore to catch up on. And then I miss another one. And then the chances double of missing it a third time, and before I know it I’m back 4 episodes (I’ve never sunken as far as 7).

    My solution? I find some work to do, usually blogging, research, or general catching up on my social media, while Mad Men is on in the background. That way I’ve not committed to watch it, but odds are if the episode is good (and they usually are, at least into the second half of this season), I’ll end up just watching it and not doing any work anyway. Somehow this bizzarre little dance relieves the pressure of watching the show, which tends for whatever weird reason to end up being a barrier to me actually catching up on the show, something I almost always enjoy once I’m in the swing of an episode.

    I’m curious how many people would use their DVR to record sports. I miss tons of soccer matches I’d love to watch, but the idea of watching them after the fact just seems, well, lame.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Ethan Gach says:

      I DVR fights (Ultimate Fighter Live and Bellator) when the cards are so-so. I just fast-forward to the good moments and watch those. With big UFC cards I have recorded a couple and it is almost impossible to avoid spoilers during the day thanks to social media. I basically have to completely avoid Google Reader and Facebook until I watch them.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Ethan Gach says:

      heh. My wife has something she calls the “Quantum TiVO Theory”. Her contention is that it’s vital to watch sports live, because only by observing the event as it occurs can you hope to affect the outcome. If the event has already been observed then its outcome is no longer mutable, and you might as well just look up the score on your phone.Report

  3. Avatar James Hanley says:

    I don’t have a DVR, and your description helps me understand why it probably wouldn’t be a good buy for me. I’m an opportunistic TV viewer. When I’m ready to sit down and watch TV, I scan for something that will amuse me. Fortunately the bigwigs in the syndication industry know what time I’m likely to sit down for a while, so years after they first aired I’ve become familiar with The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother (‘though after several months of frequent viewing, they’re beginning to wear on me). The last 3 innings of a Tigers game is always good, too (there’s nothing wrong with baseball that cutting games down to 6 or 7 innings wouldn’t cure). Fortunately Comedy Central re-airs Futurama at convenient times, too, because I would never be able to discipline myself to schedule it in advance.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

      (there’s nothing wrong with baseball that cutting games down to 6 or 7 innings wouldn’t cure).

      Communist.

      Though these is nothing wrong with basketball that disallowing timeouts during the last five minutes wouldn’t fix.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        “Though these is nothing wrong with basketball that disallowing timeouts during the last five minutes wouldn’t fix.”

        Fascist. Do you really want to see games end with players running wildly up and down the court instead of executing brilliantly (most of the time) drawn up plays?

        There is nothing wrong with Mad Men that January Jones’s boobs wouldn’t fix.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

          “What’ll we do, coach?”

          “Try to get the ball to our best shooter, and keep it out of the hands of the guys that clank free-throws.”

          “What if they have the best shooter double-teamed?”

          “That’ll free up someone else.”

          “Huh?”

          “Think about it. They have five guys and so do we. If they have two guys covering one of ours, that only leaves three of them to cover four of us. Look, I’ll draw a picture.”

          “Oh, yeah. Now I see it. I guess that’s why you’re the coach. But I still don’t understand what we’re supposed to do.”

          “Pass the ball to the open man.”

          “Oh, yeah. Duh. Boy, it’s a good thing these timeouts are so long. It gives us time for these complicated discussions.”Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            If you were using the same approach to criticize mound discussions in baseball, I’d be with you. Basketball is more complicated; it just doesn’t translate to TV.

            “Hey, coach.”
            “Hey, pitcher.”
            “What’s up?”
            “Throw more strikes.”
            “When I do, I hit them.”
            “Throw strikes that are harder to hit.”
            “Oh. Is that all?”
            “Yea. But I’m going to stay out here another 2 minutes because we’re going to pull you out of the game anyway and I want our reliever to be warmed up.”
            “Will he be able to throw strikes that are hard to hit?”
            “Damned if I know. Hey, why do they make us coaches where uniforms?”
            “I don’t know, coach. I don’t know…”
            Rinse. Repeat. Then shoot Tony LaRussa in the head.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I wouldn’t go that far, but I’d limit teams to one timeout in the last 3 minutes.Report

      • Basketball in my world:
        A “set” is 4 minutes in length. There is a jump ball to start the set. Play is to 10 points or 4 minutes whichever comes first.
        A “Game” is 12 sets long. The winner is decided as the first to 7 wins, with any additional sets played for stastics/ practice/ honor.
        A tie break in the case of 6-6 sets is played for 3 minutes.

        Think of it… 13 chances for something to be decided ‘At the buzzer’.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        My gripe is more with football.

        Less clock stoppages would be great. In fact, I’d rather have 2x 45 minute halves with clocks that run continually (like soccer) except for time outs.Report

  4. Avatar J.L. Wall says:

    I’ve always been a one-TV-show-at-a-time kind of guy: at one point in my life it was the late-night re-runs of the original Star Trek on UPN, then I discovered that there were NEW shows on once a week; then Voyager ended and it was the West Wing (which was why I could never really watch Enterprise); then Studio 60; then nothing for a year or so; then Mad Men. Plenty of other shows have fallen by the wayside as I’ve failed to commit to watching for more than an hour a week. (That isn’t to say that I haven’t caught bits of things like 30 Rock, the Office, etc. with friends.)

    But what that article you’re quoting reminds me of is my Google Reader feed. Seriously. I tend to go through it in the morning, before I’m fully awake, but there are things that require very full attention/are simply LONG and then pile up over a week or so.Report

  5. I watch way too much tv, but it’s usually random. I get home and sit down, or I do something else and have the tv on for noise. With some exceptions (my Friday night news shows, the news hour, the local pbs news show), I usually don’t “plan” to watch anything, I just watch whatever is on. And although I just said I keep the tv on for the noise, I usually end up paying more attention to the tv than to whatever it is else I’m doing.

    I don’t have DVR. In fact, I don’t have cable, which is probably a good thing. We do have netflix, so my girlfriend and I will do marathon viewing of certain tv shows.Report

  6. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    I haven’t watched live television in over 3 years. I basically grew up with DVR, but cable and satellite are so expensive that I don’t bother anymore. The one television in my home is hooked up to the Internet and I just stream whatever it is I want to see when im ready to watch it. The major networks have most of their shows on their website, I have Netfix and Hulu has more than I need. I have a few DVDs in my home, but I don’t make a practice of buying them.

    It’s funny to watch my son grow up with this style of entertainment. I remember my daddy taking us to the video store every Friday night when I was 7 years old. We each got to pick a VHS for the weekend and we would eat pizza. The experience of rewinding VHSs before returning them will be lost forever. Ugh, now I feel old.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Miss Mary says:

      I basically grew up with DVR

      my son

      Wait…what? Has DVR been around longer than I thought or did you get preggers at 15?

      And, yes, once again you’re making some of us feel old. 😉Report

      • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to James Hanley says:

        Tivo was introduced in 1999 when I was 13 years old. This is about the time I started paying attention to tv and video games. Before I was a moody teenager who watched too much television, it was all rollerblading and swimming at the local pool for me. I don’t recall what was going on in the entertainment industry before 2000 really.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Miss Mary says:

          Wahoo! I’m not the youngest one here. I turned 16 in ’99!Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Miss Mary says:

          Tivo was introduced in 1999 when I was 13 years old.

          [Recalibrating mental perception of Miss Mary.]Report

          • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to Will Truman says:

            You *must* tell me what you thought before you read that.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Miss Mary says:

              I thought you were somewhat older (mid-to-late thirties, if I’d had to guess). I seem to remember that you added the word “Miss” because it makes you feel younger. So that’s probably where the impression came from. Maybe a couple of your biographical details.Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to Will Truman says:

                Good memory.
                Yes, I added the Miss to keep me young because, although I am 25, I feel like mid-to-late thirties.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Miss Mary says:

                Well, maybe that’s better than being 29 for a decade until you’re suddenly 40.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Miss Mary says:

                A little more precisely, my perception shifted from “Thirty-seven, but spunky for her age” to “Twenty-five, but has had to drive down some gravelly roads.”

                Hope that doesn’t offend. I’m very wrong sometimes. Finding out Kazzy was into and knowledgeable about sports required *major* recalibration. I can’t even explain why.Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to Will Truman says:

                I’m not offended.

                I know what you mean about Kazzy. He is an enigma. I think I’m getting used to him though. Actually, I find him fun.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Miss Mary says:

                A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Miss Mary says:

                I’m starting to wonder what you guys actually make of me! DO TELL!Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Miss Mary says:

                A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

                I’m starting to wonder what you guys actually make of me! DO TELL!

                Obviously Nob thinks you’re Chinese. Given that he’s Japanese, I think it’s pretty clear what he thinks of you.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:

                Finding out Kazzy was into and knowledgeable about sports required *major* recalibration

                Same here. It just doesn’t seem to fit with what comes to mind when I think of “liberal male pre-school teacher.” You’re supposed to be into unicorns, rainbows, and non-competitive activities. 😉 What I like about learning of your sports enthusiasm is how it breaks down my instinctive stereotype and reveals a much richer character–it’s like character development in a novel.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                I had a feeling that was a part of it.

                The truth is, I am a bit of enigma.

                People who know me professionally are shocked to learn about who I am outside of work.
                People who know me personally can’t believe what I do for a living.
                I can deftly slide from playing baby dolls with five-year-olds to throwing back whiskey shots and beers while arguing sports.

                I will say that I am not what many think of when they think of male pre-school teacher. I am nurturing but not cuddley. I don’t use baby voices or talk “sing song”.

                Basically, had I been at League fest… I would have blown your fuckin’ minds. 😀Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to James Hanley says:

                Do you have to remind women that you’re married on a daily basis?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                Not sure I fully grasp the intent of your question but, generally speaking, no. Pretty much everyone I work with knows, since I got married while working here. I don’t wear my ring at current time due to a busted up finger from basketball (need to get it resized). I have had some moms who flirt, but they’d probably flirt regardless; I’ve also had just as many assume I’m gay. The moms who do flirt tend to be the ones who are in very perfunctory relationships and probably have little contact with men, let alone a younger man who they know sort of has to be nice to them.

                If I go out without my wife, I’m generally not talking to women as it is. I did find myself chatting with some girl recently, and I forget what about, but she didn’t believe me that I was married, which was a strange tact for her to take. My inability to produce a ring didn’t help the matter, so I just walked away.

                But, no, I don’t generally have to remind women on a daily basis that I’m married. Primarily due to the fact that there are few women I interact with on a regular basis who don’t know me well enough to know that I’m married.Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to James Hanley says:

                Just curious. It sounds like you possess qualities that most women find attractive. Of course, it would probably be a better measure to ask women who know you if they have to remind themselves that you are married. I doubt it is common place for women to continue hitting on men after they find out they are in a relationship.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to James Hanley says:

                “I can deftly slide from playing baby dolls with five-year-olds to throwing back whiskey shots and beers while arguing sports.”

                Nobody who saw you write that sentence could be confused about what kind of person you are.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                And that’s all to the good, Kazzy. I get where you’re coming from. I can’t wait for a Leaguefest we can both make, although I’m more inclined to sip my bourbon than throw it back.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                Mary-

                There is definitely a certain type of woman who is very into what I do for a living. I tend not to like these women, primarily because they gush about how “cute” my job is, which I find to be very patronizing. I know they don’t mean it that way. But that is how it reads. My job is a career, one I work very hard at, that has joys and warts just like any other job. It is not “cute”. And of course, there are women who could never see them with a man who teaches pre-school, since it doesn’t fit their notion of what a man/husband/father should be. I dated one of these women. It did not end well.

                I also have my share of faults. I can be incredibly arrogant and stubborn. The number of times I’ve been wrong in my life can be counted on one hand. I hate my two cats. I’m uncomfortable with death and tend to smile awkwardly when it is discussed, which tends to be the worst reaction in such situations. I once stole a slice of pizza from my college cafeteria. I can be very type A, though have gotten better at this (I no longer organize our bookshelf first by subject, then by author last name, and finally by title).

                I’m human. Really, I am able to slide amongst various social groups because I’m pretty easy going and am a tremendous bullshit artist. And I love working with kids. It’s nothing particularly special… its just uncommon, which I see little reason to take credit for.

                So… what’s YOUR deal? :-pReport

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                “Nobody who saw you write that sentence could be confused about what kind of person you are.”

                Since you left out an obvious barb, I will supply it for you: “A creepy one.”

                JH-

                I’m slowly graduating to sipping bourbon. I’m getting a tad too old for shots. And as much as my friends are pushing Scotch on me, I just can’t pretend to enjoy it as much as the American stuff.Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to James Hanley says:

                “So… what’s YOUR deal? :-p”
                Wouldn’t you like to know :p. I’m just kidding, I have no deal.
                It’s nice to know yours though. You must not be one of these introverts I hear about. Me neither.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                “…I have no deal…”

                Cop out. You are probably the youngest and one of the few female commenters on the goddamn League of Ordinary Gentlemen blog. You’ve got SOMETHING goin’ on… :-pReport

              • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to James Hanley says:

                A friend informed me of something that was here and I checked it out. After reading it I looked around. The league is like nothing I have seen before. Weird stuff interests me so I kept coming back (it’s like looking at a well organized train wreck) and I after I while I felt comfortable in the sub-blogs. Now that people talk to me (that took a while), it’s not likely I will leave. I’m a people person; choosing psychology as my major was a perfect fit and working in human services is like going to the playground 40+ hours a week.
                Satisfied?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                Since I didn’t explicitly A/S/L you, I’ll take it.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy says:

    We’ve had a DVR for several years now. But I sometimes forget this. I sometimes think, “Crap! It’s 5:02. I missed the start of that show. All is lost!” This, I realize, is silly.

    I do sometimes reach the point where my backlog is daunting. This is generally with shows that I consider “intense viewing experiences.” They tend to be longer and are the types of shows you can’t really multi-task during, since they require full attention to fully enjoy. “The Wire” is this way. I love what I’ve seen thus far. But it’s taken me almost a year to get through 1 1/2 seasons because I rarely have time to sit down for 60 minutes and do little else. Well, it’s not that I don’t have time… my posting frequency here probably indicates otherwise. But it is the idea of committing myself fully to one thing and one thing only for an extended period of time. And as much as I enjoy shows like “The Wire” they don’t grab your attention in the same way that a show like “Breaking Bad” does. This is not to say it is worse or bad… just different. You really have to focus. And I am increasingly unwilling or unable to focus in this capacity. Which is a concern in its own right. I should probably work on that.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

      I love The Wire, and consider it possibly the best series in the history of television. But it almost fetishizes omitting exposition, which can make it very difficult to approach. I don’t miss conversations that go “As you know, Bob, the gangs keep the bulk of their drugs in what’s called a ‘stash house’, to make it harder to steal or confiscate”, but the amount of time I spend wondering if I’ve seen that character before is disconcerting.Report

      • Avatar Bad-ass Motherfisher in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I love The Wire, too, but it’s so damned much work to watch it!Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Bad-ass Motherfisher says:

          I feel you.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            Phew! I’ve expressed this feeling before and people look at me like I’m crazy. I could never quite put my finger on why it is so much work, but it is, and I think Mike is onto something there. It doesn’t detract from how great a show it is… it just means I’ll probably still be watching new-to-me episodes in 10 years.Report

        • I think The Wire was artistically superior to The Shield in virtually every way… except that I enjoy re-watching the latter almost twice as much as the former.Report

          • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Will Truman says:

            Hmmm. I enjoy re-watching the Wire, sometimes more than watching it the first time, because I know what’s going on and can look for subtleties. I’ve never tried to re-watch The Shield, because I presume that the real pleasure of it is the visceral stuff and I got that the first time. (I also assume, perhaps unfairly, that Vic’s almost invariable success at conning cops and crooks alike wouldn’t stand up to real scrutiny.)Report

            • I rewatched The Wire once (from end-to-end). I enjoyed picking up on many of the things that I missed. I enjoy re-watching The Shield on a more regular basis. Typically in bits and chucks. “Oh, I forgot this scene! This one is good. Ooooh, then there’s this other scene, which DVD is that on?”Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Will Truman says:

                I also suspect that the shocker at the end of the first episode would ring false. Vic’s not entirely above doing that, but it wouldn’t be his first resort, and it would haunt him afterward.Report

  8. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I’m often loath to start watching a new series, because keeping up with it will become too much of an obligation. Because of that, the British-style shorter seasons of cable shows are a big plus.Report

  9. We tend to be default DVR-users, because it is so easy, only to go back through the clutter and wonder why we bothered to record half the crap that’s there.

    We tend to be marathon viewers, too. This has as much to do with our schedule as anything intentional. (The Better Half is not infrequently tied up with evening meetings during Prime Time.) But it’s kind of fun to watch several back-to-back episodes of “Happy Endings.” And when we have a DVD of a series we’re just getting to (eg. “Downton Abbey”) we tend to watch several episodes in a row.

    This has led to the occasional mild conflict. The Better Half has both admittedly terrible taste in television, and a tendency to be something of a completist. So even though I’d rather chew off my own arms than watch any more recent episodes of “Glee,” if I want to spend time with him sometimes I have to grit me teeth through an episode or two.Report

  10. Avatar damon says:

    I don’t own a DVR.

    I watch some shows live, usually consistently, like Diners Drive Inns, and Dives, or No Reservations, but all the rest I catch in re-runs, and even some of the live shows I’ll pass on because I know I can catch them a week later as a repeat.

    Generally, I don’t do marathon viewing unless it’s a holiday and they are playing good movies all day, like Memorial Day. I think I watched Merril’s Marauders, Bataan, and a few others that dayReport

  11. Avatar Roger says:

    I use DVR or Netflix to watch the following amazing shows:
    Archer
    Sons of Anarchy
    Walking Dead
    Weeds
    Clone Wars
    Buffy

    My wife and I also DVR Idol and Once Upon a Time and watch them together.

    Even if we like a show enough to watch it live, we are disciplined to start it 30 to 45 minutes late so we can skip all the crap and commercials. I have absolutely no idea who watches commercials now a days. Maybe the bottom quintile? Oh, I forgot…. I am the bottom quintile.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

      My wife hates commercials, to the point that she’ll make us watch 7 minutes of crap before putting “The Office” on at 9:07 so we can fast-forward through all the ads. We still end at 9:30. We still watched 7 minutes of crap. I don’t get it. I think it’s about control more than anything.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

        A lot of commercials can actually be entertaining these days. They’ve made a lot of strides. My wife, though, doesn’t just find commercials undesirable, she actually finds them offensive on some level. She hates the idea of people trying to sell her something because they’re trying to manipulate her.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

          Yea. I hear that as well. But I listened to a TV writer and he likened complaining about commercials to complaining about having to buy a movie ticket. Without commercials, that TV wouldn’t exist. Or you’d pay out of pocket. We don’t really think of it that way. I don’t think that makes skipping past them immoral or theft or any of that… But it does offer a bit of perspective on ther presence and role.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

            Oh yeah. The sense of entitlement we have never ceases to amaze me. For shows that cost millions of dollars per episode to make. When people talk about how because of the availability of piracy that the studios are not going to be able to set their own prices, it makes me wonder what’s going to happen if they’re correct. So far, so good. They’re not struggling like the music industry was even in the very early days of piracy. But we can count on some guy in some acoustically insulated basement to put together quality music for something in the four-digit range or less. Quality film requires much more capital. I hope they find a way, even if it means working in a conversation about the quality of Ford vehicles on the drive to the crime scene instead of talking about the actual plot.Report

    • Avatar aaron david in reply to Roger says:

      I feel strangely guilty if I don’t watch the commercials.Report

  12. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I’m not usually a marathon viewer, but a few weekends ago I watched all of Breaking Bad Season 4, exactly the same way you stay up all night reading a novel: I’ll just finish this chapter. Geez! OK, one more chapter, but that’s it. (rinse and repeat.)Report

  13. Avatar Jeff says:

    We DVR all our shows (far too many to list — I’m kind of glad that several won’t be returning next season [other than to say that “Missing” turned out to be a description of the audience and “Awake” was put to sleep]). I like to watch the “reality” shows — Amazing Race, The Voice and Sing-Off either the same night or the next day so I don’t get spoiled.

    Product placement doesn’t bother me — it’s a way to pay for shows in the days of DVRs, and it’s usually not too obnoxious.

    I watched one season of “The Wire”. It was interesting, and would have been great in its day, but now every cop show usues tropes which “The Wire” introduced, which makes the original a bit less fun.Report

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