There are too many shows on TV. Too many shows! Who can watch all of these shows? I can’t watch all of these shows.
When I was a youth, there were a lot fewer of the shows. Golden Girls, Murder She Wrote, maybe like one or two others that weren’t about elderly women. Even then you couldn’t watch all the shows, but it didn’t really matter because you were not really expected to know about the shows. There were no blogs about the shows! No podcasts about the shows. Each show did not have its own sector of Twitter, its own subvertical on Slate.
You found yourself sharing a moment at the watercooler with your co-worker, and you shook your head and said, “Man, that Blanche Devereaux sure likes fuckin’!” and your coworker said “Boy howdy!” and that was pretty much it. Even if you missed Golden Girls the night before, you could say that and it would be fine, because the B-plot of every Golden Girls episode was about how Blanche is the horny one. Honestly you didn’t need to watch more than one episode of Golden Girls. But they kept crankin’ ‘em out, so that eventually everybody could watch one, and then everybody would be on the same page about Golden Girls.
Now there are like 5,000 shows all at the same time, and they’re all an hour long, and each episode of each one is different and fully serialized, so you have to watch the prior one to know what the hell is happening in the next one. And then each one is attended by a constellation of dedicated blogs and podcasts and vaguely frightening subreddits where shut-ins advance bizarre theories about minor plot points. You bump into your co-worker in the break room and he goes “Hey man did you check out [list of podcasts for each of the 715 shows he watched] last night [somehow]” and of course the answer is no, because it’s literally not possible to do that without violating the laws of physics, and that’s the end of that interaction because of course your coworker has not had time to develop anything else to talk about, between all the shows.
I found out today that there’s a show called Better Things, and that it’s not even the same show as the show called Stranger Things, the latter of which I haven’t gotten around to watching yet even though it has been off the air for like a year, and even though approximately half of all basketblogger tweets reference it. The two shows are not even related in any way. Shouldn’t that be against the law? How big a load of x Things shows can the culture (my brain) bear at one time? Not this many, that’s for damn sure.
There are like a dozen different superhero shows. There are more shows about discrete fictional superheroes now than there were total shows—about superheroes or horny grannies or murder grannies or anything else!—when I was a youth. It’s too much. I am not up to date on what’s going on in the storylines of a dozen actual living human beings, and that’s without setting aside 12 hours a day to watch shows about superheroes.
There used to be a queue. There were only four networks, and only 24 hours of programming time for each one to fill in a day, so there could only be so many shows at once. If you wanted to do a show, you had to wait until one of the shows went away and emptied its time-slot. And even then you had to beat out like a hundred other show ideas to get the time-slot for your show. This was good, for viewers: Nobody could spring a whole new show on you before you had gotten closure from your relationship with the last one. The Family Guy asshole could not just fire up a new show out of each new dumb-ass unfunny idea he had; he could not have 65 different bad TV shows all at the same time. If he wanted to do a show based on the worthless idea “Star Trek, but for me,” he would have to make a very special Star Trek episode on one of the shows he already had. Maybe you could give this or that superhero a three-episode guest arc on the existing show about another superhero. You could not just go, Oh, let’s give Lieutenant Laser Muscles his own whole entire show, even though he is not interesting enough for one of those at all.
But there is no such queue anymore! The networks are growing; the shows are growing with them, exponentially. Your cable subscription (if you have one) comes with a thousand channels now, and even that is not enough to fit all of the shows: Half of them are on internet-based quasi-channels like Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime and such. These services are where the abundance of shows can become truly overwhelming. Look at all these shows:
Most of these shows were never even on TV, but were just pumped out of whatever show factory Netflix has in overdrive. Nobody warned me about these shows! One day they did not exist and then the next they were just there, a full 10-12 episodes attempting to jam themselves into my show-addled consciousness. How do you find out about a new show coming this fall on frickin’ Netflix? How am I supposed to know if any of these shows are good? I only find out about these shows because people who already know about them are live-tweeting their series finales. But where did the knowledge originate? What the fuck is The Confession Tapes?
The guy who did The Wire (a show I have not gotten around to watching) has a new show already. This is bullshit! Quit crowding me with new shows. At this rate, even if the world never produced another new show, I could spend the entire rest of all the free time I will have between now and my 90th birthday just catching up on all the Extremely Important Prestige TV Shows that had come and gone by the time I grew more than vaguely aware of their existence within the past three years.
The world has more shows than televisions to watch them on. Four is a good number of shows; please trim the rest. Thank you.