You’ve written a lot about your reading habits in the past, but I’m curious to know more about how you find and watch TV shows. You’ve mentioned before that you watch very little TV (in explaining your productivity), and yet you speak highly of the shows you do watch. Do you have any strategies to find good TV, how to watch television “well”, how to avoid getting sucked in to mediocre TV, etc.? And, I’d be curious to know what specific shows you think are worth the time sink to watch.
All of this comes from my somewhat-conflicting desires 1.) To not waste time and 2.) To enjoy the best art there is, in all of its forms.
Here are my rather brutal answers, noting they probably are not helpful for most people:
1. Most TV shows are not good. The key problems are that too much quality scripting is required, and that the incentives are to try to get the show extended for another season. Plus too much of the audience “just wants something to watch.”
2. Most TV shows that your smart friends tell you to watch also are not good. See #1.
3. You should almost always watch a movie rather than a TV show. If you have to, watch the movie in hour or half-hour segments. Movies are better and smarter, at least if you can figure out which are the quality films. But that is not so hard, as standard critical opinion does OK there.
4. “The Golden Age of TV” doesn’t change any of this, though Hollywood movies have become worse, due to tent pole franchises and pressures for serialization, which give them some of the problems of television shows. At the margin, almost everyone should be watching more foreign films. Do you really know them all? How well do you know the best of African cinema? Iranian cinema? And so on.
5. I will try a TV show if two people I know, in the very top tier of smarts, recommend it. Even then I usually don’t like it. I thus infer there is at least a single dimension where I differ strongly from just about all my friends.
6. Could I name twenty TV shows that I think are worth watching, relative to the best movies you haven’t seen and the best books you haven’t read? Not sure. Attention is that which is scarce. But it shouldn’t be. Just pay better attention and read that book or watch that movie. There is also plenty on YouTube that beats TV shows, and if you are old you may not consume much YouTube content at all.
7. For sure, there are fifteen TV shows worth watching, but you really need to have very very strong filters. Whatever your filters may be, make them stronger. Don’t trust those friends of yours!
8. By this point, you are probably not very interested in knowing which are those fifteen shows.