Friday, October 23, 2009

Season Pass

Building off the last post, I want to make a distinction: I watch television, but I don't often watch TV. Let me explain.

I love TV, because there are several programs that I enjoy and follow and discuss. I honestly believe they make my life better. I also enjoy the ritual of watching TV, but I've ritualized it to suit my schedule--I often come home late, get some food, and wind down with one of my favorites, pre-recorded and ready to roll. So, I watch TV, but I rarely just sit and watch live television.

I break all TV shows into Four Tiers:

1) The Season Pass.
These are the handful of shows that I do not miss. I've set the DV-R to record them every time a new episode airs. These are my favorite shows, and I feel a void in my life when they aren't around.

(Note: Some shows have Season Pass status, only I've turned off the actual Season Pass. They re-run constantly during the week, and the DV-R goes crazy (its "record only new episodes" feature doesn't work at all). I turn off the Season Pass for these shows and manually record the new episodes. Example: Top Chef.)

2) Football.
The exception to the "rarely watch live television" rule. On Saturdays and Sundays, when I have time and feel like I've earned it, I will watch hours and hours of football. There are few things I enjoy more. Some people watch all television the way I watch football: the act alone is enough, and the specific program is a bonus. I don't like to just watch TV--I'd rather sit in silence than plow through a Bones marathon. But I'll watch nine hours of football when none of my teams are even playing. I love it.

3) It's On.
There are a few shows I like but haven't promoted yet to Season Pass status. Basically, they're in an extended audition; either I haven't liked them enough, or haven't liked them long enough to bump them up to permanent rotation. Sometimes this is a show I've only recently started liking, but not consistently (How I Met Your Mother). Sometimes this is a show I've Season Pass-ed before, but demoted depending on the season (Laguna Beach/The Hills/basically all MTV programming). If the right show catches me at the right time, I'll give anything a shot.

4) "Television."
Watching all TV out of boredom stopped working for me several years ago. I don't know why--I can't do it. I'll tell myself that I want to veg out, relax, and let my brain die in front a Bond marathon--next thing I know, I'm vacuuming my bedroom. Like everything else, I guess, TV has its purpose on the daily schedule. I get in, get out, move on to the next thing.

Or, like Michael commented Monday, moderation is the key.

So, what does this look like on a weekly basis? Just for fun, here's everything I watched before I killed my TV:

By the way, hit up the comments below and tell me:
What do you watch? What made the cut for your Season Pass? What would? What could you live without?

Mad Men
- One of the best shows I've ever seen. I can't get enough.

How I Met Your Mother
- Last season made a jump for me. They realized Barney's the draw, and wrote accordingly. The plots are tighter, the jokes less derivative, and Jason Segel's more involved. All good signs. To boot: a "date" sequence last season featured Big Star's "Thirteen." I never had a chance.
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations - Suddenly, I'm a big fan of the Travel Channel, and all Shows-About-Food. Weirdly, I don't like this show consistently (some episodes are really dull to me), but I never miss it.

Tuesdays stink. I have a memory of some Laguna Beach/Real World/The Hills/RW/RR: Challenge combination highlighting Tuesdays on MTV, but I'm at least one season behind in all of those now, and never cared enough to catch up.

The Middle
- I'll be honest: I wouldn't have found this one if one of my good friends didn't work on the show. It's brand new, and targeted mostly to families, and I'm in the TV-dark as it is. Having said that, I think it's great. It's much quirkier than I expected, the acting is on-point, the youngest son is outstanding, and I always want more. It's just a tight, smart, endearing show.
Top Chef - The best reality show I've seen, and it gets better every season. It's the only one of its type that doesn't base its drama off the lunacy of its cast. Pretty much everyone on the show is a talented, reasonably normal adult. If chefs finish their dish early, they help their competitors finish before the buzzer. I've seen people in elimination plead to be sent home instead of someone else. It's unique. Also, it has Padma Lakshmi, who should win the Emmy for Outstanding Hair and Nobel Prize for Stealing My Heart.
Man vs. Food - It's the Travel Channel/Shows-With-Food power combo, but substitute "Bourdain in Asia with some noodles" with "Tubby Dude in North Carolina with a mountain of fried stuff." I watch it if I think to, but I don't miss it when I don't. Fun fact: Adam, the host, once won a food challenge by eating the hottest curry in America (it's so spicy the chef has to wear a gas mask while cooking it). When I moved into my place in New York, I realized that I'm on the same block as that restaurant. And if you think for one second I'm not eating that curry, we clearly haven't met yet.

And of course, I'll get video of the whole episode and post it here. Way ahead of you.

Parks and Recreation - Alright, P&R: I'm listening. You have my attention.
30 Rock
- I realized sometime last year that Tracy Morgan is one of my favorite humans. If he's onboard, I'm onboard. Also, Chris Parnell's semi-recurring "Dr. Leo Spaceman" makes every episode better. In terms of laughs-to-lines ratio, he's nearly untouchable.
The Office - Still my favorite comedy on TV, though it makes me nervous. Also, Creed's laughs-to-lines ratio hovers near Spaceman's. They're like McGwire and Sosa in '98, without the gigantic heads and banned substances. Actually...

Real Time with Bill Maher - When it's on, which is almost never. Maher vacations more often than Congress. Actually, that makes sense. Nevermind.
Friday Night Lights
- When it's on, which is never.


Some of my favorite shows now were shows I missed at the time. I came along late in the game--friends recommended I wait until the finale, then start from scratch with DVDs. So, here are the shows that would've both been Season Passes had I watched them at the time:
The Sopranos
The Wire
Arrested Development

And yes, I feel guilty about two of those. Like, really guilty. Like, if I could go back in time, and sign up for Americorp, and somehow Americorp gave me a monthly stipend to work in Los Angeles and do internet marketing for those shows, I would definitely do it. I'd also put a lot of money in Google stock. And buy a trampoline.

So what do you watch? And what could you do without?

Way down in the hole,


Sarah said...

I DVR How I Met Your Mother & Ellen DeGeneres. really though, sports & Gilmore Girls are all i really need.

Chris Milam said...

Here's a question: when did How I Met Your Mother get to DVR status for you? Has it always been there? Did it grow on you?

Sarah said...

HIMYM reached DVR status with season five but i haven't seen any of those yet; currently on season three. As fate would have it, i didn't find HIMYM, it found me a year ago.

Chris Milam said...

Ah, that's a big oversight by me: shows you're catching up on, and get the pre-emptive Season Pass upgrade. Great call.

How did HIMYM (I'm reading it "him-yim," which works somehow) "find you"?

Elliot said...

Season Pass status on the Mitchell/Buck/Bass DVR..."Mad Men", "Modern Family", "30 Rock", "The Middle", "The Office", and dare I say it, "Glee". We are also NetFlixing "The Wire".

Sarah said...

Elliot, i too enjoy Glee. Could The Thong Song have had a better comeback? i say no. Chris, some friends asked me if i wanted to borrow the first two seasons of a show they knew i would love.I said, "why not!" At that point, HIMYM was just a bunch of letters. This relates back to your earlier post: "the crucial thing about watching television isn't watching television, it's talking about what you've seen." Agreed. we bonded bc of HIMYM

ross k. said...

You're all a bunch of sheep suckling a glass teat. Why I never...

...Wait, am I staring at a screen now, as I'm typing this? What are these wires coming out of my arm? Oh my God, I'm made of METAL!


ross k. said...

OK, seriously, I can be a snob about some of the garbage on the tube, and DVR/TiVo is still rocket-ship to me, but I have to admit that a lot of that is my own ignorance. I bet a lot of the shows you've mentioned are truly good, and I just don't know because I've never seen any of them. But I do catch an episode of this and that sometimes. Including...

-I'm with you on Man vs. Food. I also like watching Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. Both these shows are just plain fun and not demanding of the viewer in any way. I see these now and then.

-Occasional Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Sports Century, Friday Night Fights, Boxing After Dark and ESPN Classic Boxing. Also enjoy X-games highlights and will catch random basketball and football for a minute, but rarely entire games. I do enjoy watching pool and golf and follow boxing the most closely. Sports watching order goes boxing, pool, golf, basketball, football. (Sorry, Southeasterners.)

-Occasional Larry King, Bill Moyers, Charlie Rose, McLachlan Group and BBC World News, which along with Real Sports, seem to be the most consistently intelligent and responsible reportage on the box. I like the guest power that Bill Maher corrals onto his show, but the host himself is too smug for me. He should shut up and let the guests talk more. Even though I'm liberal, I find myself wanting to disagree with everything Maher says no matter what it is, just because it's him. Used to watch the Daily Show during the Bush years, but haven't recently. What's the point? It's run its course.

-Family Guy. Guilty.

Chris Milam said...

With Maher, I get it. I watch because his panel's usually strong and I like seeing the rare adult conversation. And he's one of the only people bold and researched enough to occasionally call the Great Christopher Hitchens out. But I understand why some folks don't enjoy him. I have a similar reaction when he talks about religion.

Bigger issue: So you're the guy who watches billiards? I never knew!

Organized Living by Amy said...

I love sharing tv viewing lists. I'm going add a category- The Bank (I also don't watch live tv. So, these are shows that I record each day or week, but don't rush to watch. They are just in the bank, ready to watch or delete.)

Surprise, surprise you're on the Mad Men bandwagon. Lame.

Here's the Season Pass list. It's heavy on the funny, light on the drama.

Amazing Race...Are you freaking kidding me? I love this show!

How I Met Your Mother- we've watched since the beginning. It's definitely gotten better.

So You Think You Can Dance
The Hills
The City

New Adventures of Old Christine- JLD + Wanda Sykes- hilarious
The Middle- maybe. We watched our first episode last week. I do love the youngest boy, but I'm not sold yet.
Modern Family
RR/RW Challenge
Top Chef

Parks and Recreation
The Office
30 Rock- I also love anything with Dr. Spaceman
Project Runway

Ugly Betty (maybe...considering deleting)


The Bank
Daily Show- I do watch this daily.
Young & the Restless
Bonnie Hunt Show
Little People, Big World
True Life- MTV
And....I'm thinking about getting into Hoarders

Is that enough?

Chris Milam said...

Mad Men bandwagon? I DRIVE the bandwagon. I drove it in early 2008. There were six other guys onboard, five wore tweed, and one was Jon Hamm. I say "all aboard." We've still got room.

I love the Bank. Weirdly, I think only the Daily Show and Colbert Report fall into that category for me. I record them many days, and only occasionally watch those recordings. Basically, I play those when I've got nothing else to watch before I crash for the day. They comprise that weird subset of show for me: "I always enjoy it, but seldom watch it." The Simpsons has always been there, too.

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