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Nowadays, with the help of ingenious creations like Netflix and HBO GO, even the most niche television viewers can find something to cater to their sick fetishes. If you get enjoyment out of seeing small people with big town problems, you can go to TLC and find an unbelievable amount of shows with “Little People” somewhere in the title. Or maybe you’re looking for something more dramatic? Well, don’t worry, because Grey’s Anatomy will somehow outlive all of us. Perhaps you’re more of a masochist? 2 Broke Girls is undoubtedly still on some streaming sites.
Simply put, it’s easier than ever before to unwind after a long work day with some mindless television viewing. Which is why these past two weeks have been so excruciating for me. That’s right – I haven’t had Wi-Fi or cable as I’ve moved into my new apartment.
I realize that this is hardly a problem; our grandparents most likely all huddled around a radio after a day at the coal mine to listen to hosts talk about how a nuclear winter was imminent. But did they ever have to deal with middle-management who’s the same age as them ream them out over an insignificant task? You fucking know that excel document your boss had you do today was busy work.
That’s why when I got home yesterday, I was absolutely thrilled to hear that the cable guys had installed our new package. My roommate was astonished that I was so gleeful over being able to watch Tiny House Hunters until I inevitably passed out on the couch. Unfettered, she talked about how she could go for months without television, how unproductive she feels with it, and that she could never see herself being “one of those people” that watches TV as a way to relax. “Different strokes for different people,” she said with an air of superiority. “Why don’t you just go outside?” At 9:00 p.m.? On a Sunday? While Hurricane Hermine raw dogs the entire coast? No thank you, I’d rather watch my boy Frank Underwood dip, dive, duck, and dodge ethical and legal boundaries all night.
“That cold shrew,” you’re no doubt thinking to yourself while you try to wipe those pee flecks off your khakis. But don’t act like you haven’t show shamed before. Back in the heyday of Jersey Shore, we called our friends garbage for watching it. Yet, at the end of work, or school, or whatever it was we were doing with our miserable lives back then, we muttered “it’s fucking t-shirt time” under our breath before going home and watching guidos have sad sex in front of a nationwide audience. Is that an ethnic group? Can I call them that?
Then there’s Bachelor Nation. How many of us loved hating Evan this past season? Or Chad? Or that human embodiment of apathy, Nick (Luke was cheated, how dare Chris Harrison disrespect our veterans like that). There’s a general consensus that watching people crash and burn has some inherent entertainment value. For a few hours out of our day, guys like myself are telling ourselves that if we were on the show, we would definitely knock it out of the park. Women, meanwhile, are judging JoJo for choosing clearly inferior Jordan over the chiseled and grizzled war hero, Luke. We allow ourselves to become lost in this sick, twisted fantasy world that ABC has created for our viewing pleasure. And guess what? I love it.
Are the shows mentioned above objectively garbage? Yes, Jersey Shore is a dumpster fire that even a homeless guy wouldn’t warm his hands over. That’s the point though – television doesn’t always have to be good, it just has to make you feel good. We’re so inundated today with visuals telling us that we’re not living our lives to the fullest, that the grass is always greener on the other side. You see your peers getting promoted, getting married, or just generally posting about their successes on social media. We hardly ever hear about people who are just doing “OK” in their entry-level job or those who are having a tough time finding a date.
Sometimes, you just need a cheap laugh or a half hour where you shut your brain down. Why do we watch television? Either to put ourselves in a fantasy world where we’re King of the North, or to laugh at other people’s misfortune. Can we do this by reading a book or engaging in some other form of entertainment? I suppose. But there’s something about the suspenseful build-up that TV writers have mastered in the last decade that has us coming back. Does Walter White get caught? Does Schmidt marry Cece? Will Nick Viall die alone?
Regardless of what your fix is, don’t let people tell you how to enjoy your free time. I mean for fuck’s sake, there’s a woman out there that’s literally attempting to be fatter than anyone ever before. Are people telling her how to live? Okay, maybe doctors, but she doesn’t let that dissuade her. Go tell people in your office why you enjoy Pretty Little Liars; don’t be afraid to start up that conversation on how The Night Of is pretty good considering a dead guy came up with the idea. Tonight, get yourself a bottle of wine, throw on some HGTV, and kick off your loafers because the evening is all about you. Let’s get back to shaming people for the things that matter..
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