Television

The TV Club, 2018

Entry 16: Don’t cry because Peak TV is over. Smile because it happened.

Creator Issa Rae stars as Issa Dee in HBO's "Insecure."
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by HBO.

I absolutely echo Willa in enthusiastically encouraging us all to divorce our TV watching experience from guilt! I know this is hard because there are all kinds of pressures on us, from our editors to the readers who rely on our advice. But as keeps coming up in this year’s discussion, there’s too much TV for any person ever to be a final authority on all of it. What could be more convincing proof than that, as Todd notes, there are original shows on Facebook, of all damn things. I’m sure Sorry for Your Loss is good! If and when it shows up on a platform I can stream via Apple TV to the large, motion smoothing–disabled television set in my living room, I will check it out. Until that happens, though, I’m not going to worry about it.

In one respect, the volume of new TV is bad because there’s so much that even a very active and devoted viewer can’t possibly join every conversation. But it’s also good in that this frees normal people (those whose editors aren’t assigning them reviews) from the notion that there’s anything they “should” be watching. There’s no more should. Should is over, if you want it!

We all get a limited number of hours to, uh, live, out of which we carve an even smaller number to watch TV. (My number might not be that small relative to others’, but I don’t have kids and I’m not hurting anyone and therefore, yes I can answer your questions about what Bristol Palin’s been up to since she joined the cast of Teen Mom OG.) There was a time when, as I wrote earlier, every HBO show was deemed important based solely on the glow of the brand itself; one might stick with a merely OK show rather than risk not having an opinion about it when it did or didn’t get an Emmy nomination. But there’s no network or platform or service that gets it right 100 percent of the time, even ones that only program a couple of original hours a week. Once, AMC had both Mad Men and Better Call Saul and we were all like, “They’ve cracked it,” and then along came Hell on Wheels and we were all like, “Never mind.” Even FX, which gets it more right than most, is still out here trying to make Snowfall happen.

There was a time when there were so few programs to fill your allotted TV hours that you’d stick with a C+ show, just because it seemed in some way essential in order for you to maintain your status as a serious viewer. Now that’s not the case! You can fill your whole TV schedule only with shows you love—and, as Willa and Sonia both note, they don’t even have to be current. Give yourself a marathon of your favorite shows every day of the week. Every day of your life!

As a self-employed podcast host and sometime freelancer, I have a great deal of privilege to quit or straight-up ignore shows that aren’t for me, and thus am not oppressed by the same weight of obligation you, dear colleagues, can be. But I actually didn’t think this was a bad year for TV. I loved lots of stuff that didn’t even make it into my Top 10, like Insecure and The Venture Bros. and Atlanta and America to Me and American Horror Story and Bob’s Burgers and Patriot and Deutschland 86 and a whole bunch of others. I have a satellite subscription and nearly every streaming service. I never ran out of things I wanted to watch or had to leave my couch to enjoy them.

TV is a beloved friend to me. I suspect it is to you all as well, even if it lately feels like it’s demanding more of you than you have to give. Don’t feel guilty for not loving more of the truly enormous number of series it’s trying to give you. Feel grateful we live in a time when the obscurest, niche-iest, weirdest series you love got a chance to exist.

Thank you for letting me join you as we all looked back on the year that was! Now I can go on holiday break, which I will spend watching TV.

—Tara

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