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Adams' Analysis - Winter Olympics Provides Opportunity To Catch-Up, So Take It

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Just over a week ago marked ten years since the end of the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike, the fourth undertaken by the Guild, which resulted in the shutdown of virtually all scripted television shows - October Road the only one to continue. It was a long and taxing 100 days for all those involved.

Because of the shutdown, networks relied on reality programming to fill holes in schedules vacated by scripted series with no scripts on hand to produce. Numerous shows suffered as a result, with truncated episode orders, indefinite production postponements, and cancellations. When the WGA managed to avoid another strike in the eleventh hour last May, it was difficult not to be overjoyed that everyone with a connection to television would not have to go through it all again.

Sunday 25th February marks the final day of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, broadcast on NBC in the United States. As tends to be customary with these types of sporting mega-events, the rest of television takes a sigh of breath and is put on hold for the duration, savvy network executives acutely aware of the ratings dangers involved in competing with a major rival broadcast like this. Tuesday’s primetime live showing garnered 17 and a half million viewers; it is no Super Bowl, which captured just over 103 million viewers on the Peacock Network, but risking a vast majority of shows’ figures by pitting them against the Olympics still seems absurd. And while the playing field has not been entirely barren, the range of options during these two weeks has made for pretty slim pickings.

It is impressive that something like this can have such an impact, even in such a short space of time. It speaks directly to the expansion of television in the last decade that a two-week period of reduced content can feel like a cupboard left bare. Back in 2009, the year after the WGA strike ended, there were 210 scripted shows. Last year, 487. That is an increase of 132% in just eight years, a staggering jump in quantity that shows just how wide the landscape now is. And because the drop is so substantial when most of those take a brief hiatus, their absence can be felt hard, even if not quite as hard as during the strike.

How best to deal with this, then? The answer is obvious: ketchup catsup catch-up! March and April sees upwards of 30 shows premiering, with a dozen of those entering their second seasons - surely, no better time to get current on a few. Or how about that series on Netflix you have said for months you will get to? There is still your DVR, alerting you every so often that it is 90% full and to please clear those episodes of Law and Order SVU from a year ago that will never be watched, containing a whole bunch of content you have yet to find time for. And maybe some old classics or erstwhile hidden gems people keep nagging you to try out.

All of these are logical coping mechanisms.

Yet over this period, I have watched so little that I could count it all on one hand. It almost feels like a dereliction of duty to myself as a television fan. How can I possibly expect to consume the content I should when, having been provided the perfect moment to tick some boxes on the watchlist, I decide to do little more than twiddle my thumbs and watch the break pass by like it is a funnily-shaped cloud?

This is a strange concept for me. I have written before (at the end of 2016) about watching fewer things, and how at the same time I felt a slightly diminished enthusiasm for the medium. At a time in the past, it would be fair to have called it something of an addiction - one less harmful and one which creates more widespread joy than your usual suspects in that department, but arguably one nonetheless. It is also one I somewhat welcomed, for whatever that is worth.

Thinking back to that 2016 piece is interesting in terms of trying to establish why I’ve wasted this opportunity. There is a sense of exhaustion for me about television in the present day, in the sense that being able to watch all of it is such an implausibility that even the mere idea of watching a lot - define that how you wish - of it feels a monumental task. What is available is brilliant and inspiring and hilarious and remarkable, but having to be stretched thin in order to experience all of it can be tiring, particularly if you want any hint of a social life.

I also cannot help but feel that this is a vicious cycle in which I am trapped. That is, to say, the more I put it off, the less inclined I feel to ever actually do it. Those SVU episodes from before? Sure, when you recorded them, you said you would get to them at the weekend. That became next weekend. Then the weekend after. Then, “oh, it’s nearly the end of the season, I’ll spend a day in the summer binging them all.” And now you sit in that position of needing to delete them but not wanting to, because surely you will get there eventually, when in truth this is the least motivated you have been to watch them since they aired.

The best and only way to break this cycle is to knuckle down and watch something, anything brand new, and to no longer waste the time that could be used to sample the latest talk of the Twitter cooler.

Having considered all of this, I had better make some progress on that watchlist. Just as soon as I watch one more video on YouTube.

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