Why I’m not watching much TV these days

NBC Nightly News broadcast
NBC Nightly News broadcast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The TV listings in my local paper, The New York Times, have 106 channels, including nine premium cable.

In the past month, I’ve turned the television on maybe four or five times. I wish I could say I miss it terribly, but I don’t. My TV fast began in June when I house-sat in Vermont, with a screen that needed three remotes, none of which I understood. Instead, I went to a barbecue, a minor league baseball game and read.

You know, books.

It continued at my Dad’s house when I was house-sitting in late September. I’d light a fire — a luxury we don’t have at home — eat dinner on the coffee table and settle in with a huge stack of unread magazines. I didn’t miss TV at all.

I normally watch NBC Nightly News every evening at 6:30, fully aware that it’s a narrow, slick, over-produced reduction of what’s happening in the world. Foreign news is almost unheard of in the United States, except for wars affecting U.S. interests and huge natural disasters. If you want a clue that the world beyond the U.S. exists, you need to follow  BBC and consume on-line media from other countries.

I often follow the news with Jeopardy, (a quiz show in the U.S., for which I qualified in 2006, but was never called to appear.) My granny used to watch it, so it’s something of a tradition. I also want to stay in trim as I plan to try out again on my next visit to L.A. The host is Alex Trebek, a fellow Canadian, who once hosted a Canadian quiz show for high school students called Reach For The Top. I was on our school’s team two years in a row and helped take us to the quarter finals.

I enjoy What Not To Wear (which helps you figure out how to dress better) and Project Runway. I avoid all talk shows and political coverage, as I get plenty of that from my print and on-line sources already. How many opinions do I want to hear every day?
The TV stays dark most of the time right now because I’m burned out on the hyper-stimulation, the silliness, the repetition and its incredible time-suck.

I do watch movies, often, and eagerly await the January start, here in the U.S., of the third season of Downton Abbey.

I recently discovered “Wallander”, the original series in Swedish, shot in a town of 18,000 in southern Sweden, and loved it. I was so struck, in one episode, by the dominance of a very specific color, a deep teal — in clothing, wall colors, the evening sky, upholstery. I love the differences in every detail: the cars, the light, the landscape, even the electrical outlets. (I think I need to do some overseas travel soon!)

I had seen the British version, starring Kenneth Branagh, but much prefer the Swedish one.

But here’s a sampling of shows on offer — and why I’m able to resist:

The American Bible Challenge

Jersey Shore

Shocking Hip Hop Moments

High School football

Death Row


The Real Housewives of Miami

I’m reading a lot more books. Talking to my husband and friends. Calmer and less distracted.

One friend, whose boys are two and six, limits their entire weekly screen time — including anything with a screen — to one hour every Friday night. Imagine.

Inspired by her discipline, I’m also trying to severely reduce the time I spend staring into any screen, whether phone, Ipad, computer or TV.

In the past few weeks, I’ve re-discovered a lost pleasure, that of diving into a book and disappearing in it for uninterrupted hours. I read, and loved two novels, “The Expats”, by Chris Pavone and Richard Ford’s newest, “Canada.”

Here’s a review of the season’s hottest three new shows, according to New York magazine. I haven’t seen any of them.

Do you watch much TV?

What are you watching these days?

37 thoughts on “Why I’m not watching much TV these days

  1. Nemesis

    …”it’s a narrow, slick, over-produced reduction of what’s happening…”….

    Let’s make that “redaction”… rings truer. There. Fixed it for ya! TeeHee!

  2. thisintersection

    Enjoy your posts, thank you. I don’t own a TV, and haven’t for the last five years, happily so. I decided that if I wanted to watch something, I could find it online. Last night I watched a few of SNLs The Californians from the NBC website. Sometimes I watch TED videos. I love watching interviews of authors/poets. Sans TV, there is more time for meditation, writing, bike riding, and searching for what interests me. I like to think my life Is more enriched in this way, but I have to admit that sometimes I wonder if that is really so.

    1. I did not own a TV until I was 30, and only because my boyfriend had one. I admit it would be tough without cable for HBO and TCM. Part of my challenge now is zzzzzzzz suburban life, where there is almost nothing to do in the evenings (at least of interest to me) so TV ends up being a lazy easy choice after a day spent reading for work.

      TED videos are fun…and only an 18 min. break, not four lost hours…

  3. I watch a lot of TV, mainly for entertainment purposes but also because occasionally I get an idea for a story or learn something that helps my writing. I watch a lot of crime, like SVU, NCIS, Castle, and Elementary. I also like supernatural dramas like Grimm and Once Upon a Time, and I’ve gotten to be a big fan of Scandal and Ghost Adventures. Plus I have my comedy interests, such as SNL, Family Guy, Big Bang Theory, and The Daily Show.
    Yeah, a lot of TV. Thank God for Hulu.

  4. I have zero tolerance for commercials, so I watch Netflix for series I like – especially BBC productions and recently, the TED talks. My biggest pet peeve is now there are TVs everywhere – restaurants, stores, dentists’ office, auto shops. It’s something akin to the ear radios from Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”. Very creepy!

  5. Judy - Denver

    I watch TV in the evenings 7:00-11:00 pm Mon-Fri and news shows Sunday am (Fareed and Candy). I DVR 90% from cable with the exception of a few shows on the main network–Elementary, Big Bang, Person of Interest, Modern Family, NCIS, PBS, and I ‘mute’ commercials. I get 95% of my of my news on-line. I too loathe TV in public spaces. I’m retired and can read during the day. So looking forward to Season 3 Downton Abbey!!!

    1. That’s a ton of TV time…maybe if I were retired…I just feel I also really have to keep up with reading for work and I can’t usually justify doing that during the day. TV also really cuts into time talking to my husband or listening to music or just being quiet.

  6. Yet two more things we have in common – I was also on my school’s Reach For the Top team and I can’t wait for Season 3 of DA. I just got Season’s 1 and 2 so I’m in top form for the next installments!

  7. Oh my, I have never been much on watching t.v. thanks to my rebel mother who had strong feelings about it. This past year, I cancelled our cable package because it was really a waste of money and pointless to have–we really don’t watch it at all! When I hear about the things that are on there, I wonder how anyone can. Great post.

  8. I took on a challenge last January, to read 50 books this year. I’m at 45 and need to pull up my socks! I watch less TV, tried new genres that I had never ventured into before like thrillers , sci-fi and mysteries! I have loved most of the books I read and disliked a few. When I watch tv now I focus on tv series that are on Netflix. Shows I’ve missed but heard good things about, like the C word and Firefly. I have become a more intentional person. I no longer do things to let time pass. Reading does that for me, it makes me think, laugh and cry. It’s been a good year. I need 5 more books to make my goal.

    1. Any book that actually makes you laugh, or cry, has certainly done its job.

      If you want a quick solution for one of the remaining five, and email me your address, I’ll send you a copy of Malled. It’s a quick read.

  9. When The Jersey Shore cast got famous I knew television was going down a dark, spray-tanned path I didn’t want to follow. I definitely get more pleasure reading books and getting outdoors!

    1. Being outdoors is so restorative….but I find the LONG nights now so annoying…it’s dark here in NY by 4:45 p.m. and I often am worn out after a day of reading for work. The thought of reading more is sometimes just too much. Although last night I started reading Romeo and Juliet aloud with Jose. He found it much too hard work and I loved it. I’ll just have to play all the parts! 🙂

  10. Until grade seven, I wasn’t allowed to watch much television (maybe one or two hours a week, max). So, I can go without TV if I have to. There is a lot of nonsense on the tube, but there are some that have me hooked (The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey, Mindy Project, Parks and Rec.) I have to mute commercials, though. They’re mind-grating. And I totally agree with you about American news – watching the BBC, you’d think they were talking about a completely different planet. International news out of Canada is a little better, but if you want to know what’s going on in some small corner of the world, turn on the BBC!

  11. It’s amazing how easily one can not watch television if you’ve done it in the past. I went to boarding school, so TV was only something I saw — Grades 4-9 — one night a week for a few hours.

    BBC is always reporting stuff you’ll never hear elsewhere, esp. when it comes to American news as well.

  12. LOL, guess I’m the only peasant here. 😀 I watch a lot of tv, mostly complete junk food for the mind. I watch all of the Housewives, and several other Bravo shows. I love to watch the crime shows (Criminal Minds, L&O) as I fall asleep. At this point in my life, I like being able to tune in and tune out. But I also enjoy some of the “better” dramas on HBO, and have recently discovered Homeland.

  13. As if!

    I can watch What Not To Wear or HGTV until my eyes bleed. And Project Runway…But for the moment, I’m a little burned out on it all. I used to watch L & O. I do think there’s something very comforting indeed watching TV. It’s tidy, undemanding, neatly resolved in 38 minutes — so unlike real life!

  14. I only watch a few shows–Homeland, Walking Dead, 30 Rock (okay, and I’ll admit–Revenge). I also like travel shows. But I can’t stand channel flipping. If I have to search out something to watch, then I know I’m just looking for a time suck and I’ll put on a record or go outside. Or read a book! I just returned from Hawaii– getting lost in a book while lying in the hot, bright sun makes me feel like a brand new person. But, as a 31 year old, my aversion to too much TV makes me feel like a bit of an anomaly. My friends talk about reality shows and I don’t have a clue what’s going on. I saw an episode of Jersey Shore once and it made me sick to my stomach.

  15. I enjoy a few current series but watch on my schedule and usually when I’m doing chores or on the treadmill. I feel like I always need to accomplish something if I spend time watching a show. If I do sit down to watch, I’ve got a craft going at the same time.
    My favorites right now are Once Upon A Time, Burn Notice, and Arrow. I’m also looking forward to continuing with Downton Abbey and Doc Martin.
    Alex Trebek is from my hometown of Sudbury. Reach for the Top was popular with a group of my friends in high school.

  16. I grew up in rural Kentucky (all my grandparents installed indoor plumbing in my lifetime. I ‘m 46) with 3 television channels, rabbit ear antennas, and nothing much to do but things involving imagination. I read and wrote,made up games in the backyard with footballs, baseballs and in the house with cards. What I wanted most as a kid were more television channels. I mean, with three channels and open air antennas, if the wind blew too hard or the President spoke, your television night was over. I dreamed of a world where I could watch anything I wanted anytime I wanted. Be careful what you ask for.

    Now, I have a million channels…and I can never find anything on. In one fashion or another what I do most is read and write. I make up stories about kids playing ball in the backyard (sometimes) and long for the days when I only had three channels.

    Thanks for this post.


  17. When I was little my Mom limited my screen time to 1 hour-a-day, and we were only allowed to watch PBS. (I still love that channel more than any other.) Combine that w summers unplugged in Colorado and I’m not that dependent. We cut our cable last year and the only thing we missed was the Olympics. I go to the cinema regularly and make an effort to watch Masterpiece Theater/Mystery (can’t wait for Downton!), American Experience, & Nature (I knit while watching so I feel productive). That said, I’ve been watching Deadwood lately and am totally hooked. I’m generally a bigger book-reader though. There’s nothing like curling up with a good novel and a cup of tea.
    If you like Wallander/Masterpiece you should check out Collision – it’s a mini-series, only about 5 episodes, and it’s brilliant (also free on Netflix).

  18. I watch no t.v., other than ‘Pawn Stars’ maybe once a week with my dad for an episode or two, when he’s already watching it, or with my boyfriend’s dad if he’s watching ‘House Hunters’ or ‘Love it or List it’.

    Personally, I never turn on the t.v. of my own volition- I can’t stand the commercials. Plus, within all the shows I’ve seen in the past few years, people treat each other terribly. Aside from that, I have so much else to do! As you elucidated, much can be done when not staring at a screen.

    Thanks for the reminder; I’m going to return to what I was doing prior to ‘computing’, and truly consider the one-hour a week idea. After all, I can compose blog posts on paper to save screen-time, and can entertain myself in So many other ways. Thanks for another thoughtful post!

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