Television, Man.

Not many CVs include it under Hobbies, but a popular pastime these days – amongst people over 30 with nothing better to do, anyway – is to binge-watch entire series of television shows all in one sitting.

Way back in the prehistoric era – that is, when I was in primary school – we’d have to wait with bated breath, from 9pm Sunday night right through to the next Sunday night at 8pm, to find out if Laura and Mary Ingalls would finally get a cute puppy to guard their little house on the prairie from ferocious wolves and bears. Oh, the anticipation! (Others apparently had to wait a whole summer to find out who shot JR, but we were never allowed to watch television shows with Adult themes so we were spared that agony.)

Whole decades later, not much had changed in this regard, or not in Australia anyway. Right through the 1990s and first decade of the 2000s, viewers without Foxtel (by the 2000s, this was possibly just me) were still kept on the edge of their seats, waiting a full week for the next episode of NYPD Blue, or CSI Miami, or sometimes even a show that wasn’t an American police drama, such as The X-files. Sometimes the show wasn’t even American, believe it or not, in fact, I never watched any of the shows mentioned above, but I did sometimes turn to SBS and watch Austrian police drama, Inspector Rex.

Things only changed recently in this regard, in Australia, at least, with the arrival of streaming services over the internet (I hope I’ve got that terminology right. If you have a complaint about incorrect terminology  please send it to the PO Box address at the top of the page, allowing up to 4 weeks for Australia Post to deliver, but only if you live in the next street. If you are further away than that, we recommend carrier pigeon, which is cheaper and more reliable.) Of course, everyone with an internet connection – basically anyone except my parents, who still enjoy sitting back to watch an episode of Ma and Pa Kettle on VHS – has access to streaming services like Netflix™ or Stan.™

Ma_and_Pa_Kettle

Ma and Pa Kettle, still going strong in the Ma and Pa Blathering household.

Pic: dvdclassicscorner.com

Released from the shackles of free-to-air TV, no longer do we have to wait a whole week to find out what disastrous conniving Frank Underwood will come up with next. In fact, there’s nothing but but sheer self-discipline to stop us from succumbing and watching through a whole series of our favourite show all in one sitting, so completely absorbed that we even forget it’s bin night, only remembering with a shock the next morning, when we are woken by the clank of the garbage truck, realising in that same moment that we’ve missed the garbage collection, and, what’s more, that binge-watching TV is destroying our lives and the lives of those around us, who now have to put up with an overflowing rubbish bin for a whole week.

Overflowing_bins_1672021c

After a few weeks of binge-watching TV those bins can get out of hand.

Pic: The Telegraph

The only hitch for me in this delightful new model of leisure-time activity is that I seem to have trouble fully succumbing. I’m still bothered by a niggling need to be doing something. Of course, in this context, I use the term something fairly loosely. Since something pretty much means anything that is not nothing, then I guess I could blow my nose and that would suffice, but I am driven by the need to something that feels just slightly more useful, or productive, or meaningful, than nose-blowing. Only slightly, mind you.

Even reading a novel fits my category of something that’s more productive than watching TV, since reading a literary book these days feels as virtuous as engaging in any other equally quaint and archaic pursuit might do. In terms of how virtuous I feel about doing it, I may as well have with baked my own bread from wheat that I’ve grown and harvested in my tiny inner-suburban backyard, or sewn my own clothes, from fabric that I’ve previously woven on the loom I keep in the attic. All the above activities involve using technology that is slowly dying out, to achieve an outcome that – some would argue – can be achieved through much more efficient means.

If a book doesn’t feature a celebrity chef, celebrity sportsperson, or celebrity celebrity on the cover, or promise to supply you with the tools to change your life, then reading it seems to be an activity that is looked on with bemusement by most people. This vocal majority cannot fathom why we bother, when there are so many games available to download from the App Store, feeds to follow on social media, and shows to stream on Netflix. Plus, the Olympics are on, or so I’ve heard.

But I digress.

Because of this annoying compulsion to be productive, my absolute threshold for bingeing on television shows is 3 episodes in a row of House of Cards, after which time I feel compelled by forces beyond my control, to go and do that useful something. Up I rise, from the couch, and off I self-righteously trot, probably straight to my laptop, where it’s likely that, although intending to write a witty post on my blog, I’ll spend the next 45 minutes idly scrolling through social media posts, or trying to locate someone I haven’t seen since 1976 (not actually with any intention of contacting them, you understand, more out of curiosity to see if they still have any hair).

After a good part of the next hour has been lost for ever, I’ll be overcome with guilt at all the time I’ve wasted, and scramble to do some hurried edits on a half-written post that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere – most likely, deleting a comma and then, with a flourish, inserting a dash instead – before packing up and going to bed, with a sense of satisfaction at another day put to good use.

But, as regular readers (hi Mum!)* will know, I do binge occasionally, only, it’s usually on music. In fact, this very blog is to blame. Yes, that’s right, as far as blogs go, it may look as though butter wouldn’t melt in it’s mouth*, but it’s been the cause of more than a few musical binges before, during, or after I’ve mentioned some music while writing a post. Maybe I used a lyric as a title to a post – next thing you know, I’ve listened to an entire back catalogue four times while writing the post, and had a particular song stuck in my head for about three weeks until I can’t bear to catch myself humming it yet again.

But, my friends, those musical binges will have to be a tale for another post. Today’s post, which has been slowly written over a week, including sessions where I probably did do little more than delete some commas and insert some dashes – hopefully with outstanding results – was really about the major conflict experienced in modern life: being torn between indulgently binge-watching our way through a whole TV series, whilst also experiencing an annoying urge to be creative and/or productive.

The moral of today’s tale is, quite clearly: those who binge-watch too much TV will end up with a row of overflowing smelly garbage bins, and those who are all smarmy about how they don’t watch much TV at all, are probably lying; or just have really bad memories – and, furthermore, likely to be the sort of person who drastically overuses the dash.

 

*

*I’ve never understood what butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth really means, or rather, I get that it means that someone looks innocent when they are not, but I don’t understand how the analogy of butter melting in someone’s mouth came to be used to convey that concept. If you know the history to how this became a common turn of phrase, please write to the PO Box at the top of the page, or if you don’t trust Australia Post not to return your mail by accident, then please write your answer in the comments section. All correct answers will receive an honourable mention in next month’s newsletter.

*Observant readers will have picked up that my mother does not have internet at home, so for her to be reading my blog regularly, it would need to be available as an animated version transferred onto VHS tape. That in itself is a fantastical option, and if you add in the need to post them to her via Australia Post, you will realise that whenever I refer to my mother reading my blog I am cracking a halarious inside joke, which never fails to be amusing to at least one of the persons writing this blog.

 

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7 Comments

  1. weebluebirdie

     /  August 17, 2016

    Ah, yes, a zeitgeist of a post. I find that those who claim to ‘not watch much TV’ are actually streaming Netflix on their laptop to watch boxed sets – they think that doesn’t count. I’ve taken up crochet to do while I watch; it feels more virtuous than playing Candycrush; although I hear that multi-screening is all the rage.

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    • That’s a good idea. Crocheting doesn’t quite fit House of Cards, though. Maybe I should buy a treadmill and furiously storm my way through episodes on that, just like Claire Underwood would.

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  2. I remember Sundays watching Little House on the Prairie… 🙂 And waiting 2 years for a film to come out on video, another 2 years for it to hit TV. And 28 days for packing and delivery…

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    • It’s funny to think that I, in Australia, and you, in England, were both sitting home on Sunday nights watching an American show about American pioneers! I used to dread the end of “Little House on the Prairie” because it meant I had to go to bed and it was the end of the weekend. 😦

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  3. Not sure whether or not I am smarmy (probably a matter best left to others to judge) but I have been known to mention (maybe with a touch of self-satisfaction) that we don’t have a TV set and haven’t had one for years. We put the last one out in the front garden from whence it promptly disappeared, as we knew it would, and have never felt the lack. (We live on a main road and the ‘recycling’ of unwanted furniture or appliances is simply a matter of parking the item in the front garden and waiting a few days for it to disappear. Our greatest triumphs to date have been a Welsh dresser and a gas cooker.)

    Yes, OK, Tigger does subscribe to Netflix and to that Amazon thing that gives you stuff to watch. Then there’s the BBC’s iPlayer which, in the UK, at least, allows you to watch recently screened broadcasts for a limited period afterwards. Together, these provide such a full menu of things to watch, from thriller to documentary, and whenever you like, that the idea of a TV set with programmes only at fixed times seems positively archaic.

    I understand about the need to be doing something ‘serious’. It afflicts me too though I do my best to conjure the demon, realizing that it is an illusory blight, a germ planted in the subconscious when we were too young to resist. (See Philip Larkin’s This be the Verse.) The trick is to have ready a number of nothing-activities, things to do which have no results or consequences and occupy only the superficial front of the mind, leaving the deeper part free to do some solid thinking, fantasizing or just nothing-very-much. For example, there’s that Solitaire app on my phone. I’ve done some of my best thinking while playing Solitaire… or not thought about anything at all. Books too are a great help. A gripping story will claim all your attention and stop you worrying about whether what you are doing is ‘serious’ enough.

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  4. Hi Silver Tiger – firstly, I’m not sure if it’s some kind of WordPress glitch – but for some reason, I didn’t receive any notification that you’d made this comment, and only happened to notice it tonight because I perused the “Comments” column – that you only see if you are in the “old” WordPress Admin page. So now I’m hoping I’m not regularly missing out on reading comments!

    I read your old post on the dresser and gas cooker and enjoyed it – that was an amusing tale. I should think if someone can get a working gas cooker for free, they probably would be prepared to stop in a No Standing zone, maybe in the middle of the night with a torch!

    You are right, the idea of being restricted to fixed times for watching TV is now just another thing that we can tell our kids about. For my daughter, it will become a memory from the earlier part of her childhood, just as black and white TV was for me!

    I love playing Solitaire! When I first learned how to play it (my partner showed me, about 20 years ago) I was addicted to it for a while, and played it all the time. It had such a “so close” feeling when a particular round was not achievable, that I would obsessively start a new game in order to “win” the next one. Perhaps that’s how gamblers feel, and what keeps them playing, but I’ve never been interested in gaming machines or gambling. I do still like to play Solitaire occasionally – with cards, I haven’t got the app on my phone. Maybe I will download it. Because you’re right, it’s the kind of activity that allows the brain some free time to daydream, an activity that is apparently good for our imaginations, and also becoming archaic.

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