A few years ago, I watched a lot of TV. I watched TV because I liked it (I still do), I watched TV so I could talk about it (I still will) and I watched TV because I thought I wanted to write it (I was wrong). TV was the way I related to and gauged the scope of other people; learning everything I could from the way they responded to new episodes of Mad Men or Breaking Bad or Girls or whatever-we-were-all-obsessed-with-at-the-time. I saw TV as the great equalizer, delivering a message in a language we could all understand. But I eventually began treating it the way I used to treat music in my teens and twenties, using it as a measuring tool through which I would determine whether somebody was worth talking to or not.
Which was the most limiting way to do anything. As soon as culture becomes currency — as soon as it becomes the factor that determines whether or not a person is worth knowing or conversing with or taking seriously — its purpose is defeated. TV (or music or movies or books or any other type of art) can’t be the sole indicator of whether or not a person has worth because . . . what the fuck, honestly. Then, if you do that, you’re creating a bubble where only a small number of people have access, and within that bubble will exist only a few very limited points of view and all of a sudden we’re smack dab in the middle of the worst DJ night in the world, shouting about what so-and-so doesn’t “get” about Bon Iver.
We turn into the worst version of ourselves all over again.
Plus, let’s be real: watching TV is a luxury. A lot of people do not have the time to watch every AMC and HBO drama because they have to go to work or pay their bills or honestly they have to sleep because life is hard and I’m sorry but if you think I’m going to spend an hour every week watching Game of Thrones 14948 seasons in, you’ve got another thing coming. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to watch that show. I don’t want to watch a lot of shows, actually. So I stopped trying to.
I don’t know when I realized I wouldn’t pass away if I didn’t watch everything everybody was talking about — likely a few years after realizing I still liked and listened to and understood music without having to listen to every album ever released. In my late twenties, as I began writing less about music exclusively (and more about pop culture as a whole), I stopped making myself go to every concert or follow every up-and-coming act, and began listening to music I liked and thought was interesting. And from there, I actually began liking music a lot more. (While also actively not giving a shit what somebody else liked — unless they were actively crusading against One Direction because then I’d have to fight them.) Ultimately, when music stopped becoming a barometer of hip, it became a lot more fun. Similar to the way TV would.
Over the fall of 2016, life complicated itself via a whole realm of reasons. And the more shit piled up as autumn froze itself into winter, the more my brain told me I could handle maybe three series at a time, so choose wisely or risk combustion. So I did. I watched shows that made me happy over the shows I felt would add to my cultural clout, and I basked in those shows and embraced those shows and remembered why I loved TV so much once upon a time in the first place. I was too tired to care what was cool or what was the frontrunner of our conversations or whatever-the-hell-else has tied itself to television. In the immortal words of my best friend Judith during a particularly terrible semester: “I just want(ed) to laugh.” Or, at the very least, give myself a break by actively enjoying the work of writers and actors I liked. (But especially Sir Attenborough because Planet Earth II was clearly one of my autumn/winter go-tos.)
So this is me saying you will not die if you can’t keep up with everything. It’s fine. You’ll be fine. No person (minus a very insecure person) will look at what you do and do not watch and announce to the world that you’re not cool or interesting or that your opinion doesn’t matter. Life is too short (way, way, way too short) to watch anything you don’t want to watch. This isn’t school. You won’t get in trouble for not investing in season three of The Affair. Go buy a plant or take a nap or read a book or scroll through Tumblr or bake a pie or, or, or.
And yes, everyone will probably talk about That One Thing That Happened in that TV Show for a while. But then after a while, they won’t. Remember: once upon a time, you couldn’t say Breaking Bad without someone popping out of the bushes and screaming “NO SPOILERS!” and now if you bring up a Heisenberg reference everybody will feel sad that we’re all 154 years older and at one point this reference seemed fresh. You will survive not relating for a second. And also, that feeling will only last a literal second because most people will move on once you say, “Oh, I don’t watch that show, actually.” Because they probably feel the same way about another show, and we are also all adults who have other things to talk about should TV not be what unites us.
So breathe easy: you don’t have to watch every show. You don’t have to listen to every band or see every movie or know about every designer’s collection. No person on the planet can subscribe to all of those things, and if they do, they have a time machine, so your new goal should be stealing the time machine from them.
Although, for the record, Riverdale is very good. But if you can’t get around to watching it, that’s fine, you’re still cool, but know that you’re missing Skeet Ulrich wearing plaid and waffle tees.