Episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia from 2014 remain un-viewed on my DVR, and I didn’t know the Oprah Winfrey Network existed until yesterday. I have quit TV, or to be specific, I have quit watching programming with story arcs.
I just don’t have the tolerance to commit to shows any more. I prefer watching movies because the story ends in two instead of 100 hours. I would rather research the health benefits of a squat toilet than start a new series. But sometimes being out of touch with pop culture poses social challenges.
Last month, two coworkers and I were still in the office at 7 p.m. That isn’t unusual—we work in federal communications and sometimes the agency director or the president of the U.S. makes an abrupt policy change that forces us to scramble to inform the public. In this case, Alison, Margaret and I were definitely done working and we were also hungry. Before we could even get to the point of deciding which D.C. Chinatown restaurant to visit, I stood watching my friends banter about The Walking Dead. And Fear the Walking Dead. And Buffy the Vampire Slayer (yes, still). And shows I’d never heard of and can’t repeat because I forgot them as soon as their titles touched my tympanic membrane.
At first I chimed in to say things like, “Who is that?” and, “That’s the name of a TV show?” Then, I felt too inadequate to enter the conversation. I just stood there waiting until Alison and Margaret tired of standing. Thirty minutes later, we began walking towards the door and eventually to a little sandwich place. The thing is, my coworkers were never done discussing television.
TV is always one of the most popular topics of discussion for my friends. Even if initially my friends and I discuss something else at first, someone steers the conversation to TV. With shows at the forefront of their minds, that transition is simple.
Transforming from an active conversationalist to a bystander is annoying but I accept it because it means I can log more films. I accept never seeing a single episode of Westworld or Stranger Things or whatever the hottest new show is. But somehow going a day without seeing news on Donald Trump is unfathomable because this election has been the greatest real-life story arc of our time.
My mornings used to begin with me sitting down with three cups of coffee and scrambled eggs mixed with cheddar and chili sauce to quickly scroll the headlines on Google News. Then came Trump and I couldn’t stop myself from reading headlines and their linked articles. Every day, it seemed, Trump said or did something that elevated my excitement level. Or he didn’t say or do something that equally elevated my excitement level. I kept reading and clicking and then all of a sudden I looked at the clock and saw that half the time I’d dedicated to my writing had disappeared.
Now, after setting down my coffee and eggs, I have to start a timer. I give myself 15 minutes to absorb Trump. If not for being a contributing member of society, I’d give myself 15 hours.
To me, this election has the feel of an epic, of a story so grand that books will be published and movies produced about it and its two powerful contestants for decades to come. Many of my friends and family members see it all a different way. The current political landscape enrages them, as do individuals who don’t share their same opinion. They say they can’t stand the news, won’t see a second of coverage on Tuesday, and can’t wait until Wednesday when the election will be over. They say they’ll move to Canada and I actually believe Margaret has a packed suitcase ready to go.
Margaret can’t watch, while I can’t get enough. This, not binge-watching HBO or Netflix, is my entertainment.
From the moment I return home from voting on Tuesday I will have multiple predictors’ Twitter feeds open and three different television channels running. That’s until I relocate to a bar so I can see the finale with my neighbors. I’ll stay up until slumber beckons me, at which point my dreams will probably be filled with deep sadness that there isn’t another “season” of this election or at least an encore.
Then will come Wednesday when, I’m sure, more amazing headlines will consume 15 minutes of my morning. My employer happens to be one of those federal agencies Trump would like to eliminate so come January there is a chance that my fantasy of being able to read headlines for 15 hours could come true.
Meanwhile, I can already see the conversation between Alison and Margaret Wednesday morning.
Alison: “Crazy election last night!”
Margaret: “I know! We’re all going to be jobless! Norman Reedus was so hot in Sunday’s episode!”