I recently read This Revolution has been Televised by fellow Penn graduate and television critic Alan Sepinwall. I felt like I was missing out on the television phenomena as I tend to watch very little, preferring to read, listen, or just plain sleep. It turns out I have been missing the TV renaissance which has been occurring in front of my very eyes since The Sopranos 1st season (January 10th, 1999)! That is well over 16 years!!! I guess I should have invested in Netflix (NFLX) because scripted series has been on a tremendous uptick. The compelling writing and story lines have obliterated the movie industry, basically leaving only blockbusters (huge budget) and art house (very small budget) movies. I for one watch very little TV because the idea of taking on a new show, let alone a season, is very daunting. You are essentially signing up for 20 hours multiplied by however many seasons. This is a bridge too far, and therefore I take the responsibility very seriously. This week we turn to some help, so we don't waste our limited TV time watching nonsense while sitting in LIE traffic, headed overseas, or simply binge watching in bed!
The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers, and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever
As previously mentioned, my guide to improved television watching was, ironically, a book! The perfect place to start was Alan Sepinwall's critically acclaimed book about the seismic changes in TV. He had the good fortune of being at the right job (television critic, apparently no one else wanted!) at the right place and time (the Newark Star Ledger was proximate to the Soprano's filming location). He recognized the revolution as it was happening and immersed himself in the middle of it ... sounds like Alexander Hamilton! I thoroughly enjoyed his romp through some of the classic early and ambitious scripted shows (The Wire, Breaking Bad, Lost, and much more) that emerged, beginning with the Sopranos. It compelled me to look in the rearview mirror and binge watch a season of a few of them, and I wasn't disappointed. He also has a blog to check out, if you want to immerse yourself further and have time on your hands!
The goal (in life) is to not waste your time (I hope). To optimize your time is an art; time is precious and should be valued. How much do you charge an hour? Television is no different. You shouldn't even start a show that doesn't hold interest, let alone isn't the best possible option. You have found the right show when you willingly stay up late (all night?), so you can finish the season (series?) in a single helping! I would say the Internet is a perfect place to find that show. The folks at Metacritic have taken this approach and distilled the reviews by critics and individuals into one simple to use score. They have applied this approach to television, as well as other media outlets including movies, video games, and music. They have rated TV shows, as well as much, much more. It is a great place to see what people think, meet like-minded people, and immerse you in media. I have used it to discover great new shows, and to try to get my arms around shows recommended to me by others. Soon, you will be recommending shows to your friends! I will be watching Season 1 of The Handmaid's Tale (Metacritic rating 92), say tuned!
Common Sense Media
I have lost the battle, but there is still time for you young, ambitious parents out there! One of my favorite (embarrassing, bad parent) stories was at my son's kindergarten parent/teacher conference. The teacher shared one of his drawings which included an axe-wielding person and a headless person, in the corner oh his math sheet. I asked my adorable son what this was and he matter of factly said, "Oh, yeah Dad, that's the guy from Kill Bill! I think the teachers' chins hit the floor. So, therefore, for the good parents out there (present company excluded) there is a not for profit organization that has taken it upon themselves to review what is age appropriate material. This is certainly a hot button issue with the new series 13 Reasons Why which (graphically) details the reason why a high school girl committed suicide. Whatever your parenting style, these are great recommendations if you are looking for a movie for your child, particularly when there is a play date or a sleepover, so you can at least cover your ass with the other parents.
Save Time for Watching
Let's be honest; almost everyone has TSA Pre. So much so, that often the line is longer in TSA Pre than in the regular security check. To maximize our time through the airport (so we can get to binge watching the shows we have downloaded) we need to get through airport security quickly and efficiently. Clear is the solution. It was acquired out of bankruptcy by Louper Caryn S. who was (still is) a frequent traveler and recognized the (clear) need for a rapidly getting through airport security. While TSA Pre was a step in the right direction, Clear goes even further, especially if you are a frequent traveler. Sign up online, and then go to an airport to easily complete the registration. You can add additional family members for $50 each after the initial annual fee of $179. It is currently operational in 22 airports, as well broadening the reach to other venues such as baseball stadiums. Soon you will be breezing through the airport or another venue while the trusted travelers will be left in your dust. The network of places that accept this form of ID is growing rapidly and who wants to be the shnook waiting in line.
Time to Watch
We all know Netflix is great (maybe even genius), don't get me wrong, but Hulu has one-upped them and figured out how to add live TV into the mix. It is a cable substitute rather than just a mechanism to binge watch shows. They have recently changed their look, and it seems closer to the future of TV. When you first signup/login, you provide your preferences (genre, shows, and even specific sports teams). Then it continues to suggest shows that may be of interest to you and continually gets to know you. I would argue that my Hulu account knows me better than I know me, sort of like my wife knows what I like to eat at a restaurant more than I know! You will build a very nice relationship over time, though it may border on co-dependence as you become increasingly addicted to binge-watching. Again, unlike Netflix, it is about live TV (its partners are the major networks/content providers), so with Hulu you can watch ESPN, The Today Show, The Bahelorette, or whatever, whenever!