When I survey my viewing habits over the past year and reflect upon their evolution post-COVID-19, one inescapable trend has emerged. I am watching a lot more garbage.
I'm a firm believer that one man's trash is another man's treasure. Taste is subjective and value can be found in all forms of media, no matter how deep in the dirt you go. So when I say I'm watching a lot more garbage, I'm talking about the type of television that probably won't be winning Emmys or topping out critics' best lists come December.
In short: My energy for "prestige TV" is all but sapped. It could be the stress of living through Australia's current lockdowns, but my days of live-tweeting Sopranos rewatches and trying to convince everyone to binge Deadwood are all but done.
Right now I'm watching BEASTARS, a Japanese murder mystery anime about anthropomorphised animals in high school. Think Riverdale, but with furries. Before that it was Haikyuu, a sports anime about teenagers playing volleyball.
I am a 40-year-old man.
I've also been watching sports. An embarrassing amount of real, actual sports. First it was Euro 2020 and endless international soccer matches. Then it was the Olympics, when I somehow managed to get myself emotionally invested in sports I normally couldn't care less about -- like skateboarding, gymnastics and… the high jump?
I don't know if you're aware, but some people are really, really good at jumping.
All the while the regular, big budget "prestige" TV I'm supposed to be consuming has gone unwatched. I haven't seen Mare of Easttown. I skipped The White Lotus. Couldn't even muster a smidgeon of enthusiasm for the endless swathe of Marvel shows launching on Disney Plus. I watched the first episode of The Underground Railroad, instantly recognized it to be a show of immense quality and singular importance… but watched the furry anime instead.
My patience for "good" TV and all that comes with it -- minor key covers of '80s bops, Emmy-bait performances, bloated, indulgent storytelling -- has completely evaporated. I'm over it. Over it, because prestige TV, in its own way, has become cliché. Too hard. Too long. Too… boring.
Too much for my shriveled sultana of a brain.
Right now what I want is familiarity. I want to be able to doomscroll for two minutes without losing my place or a piece of crucial information. I want my plots generic and foreshadowed to the point where I can zone out -- or possibly even nap -- without any consequences.
I don't want layered performances. I don't want slick literary devices. I want it straight and one-dimensional. I want to be spoon-fed like a gigantic, brain-dead baby. I want to be patronized. I want you to go slowly. I want expository dialogue to make sure I haven't missed anything. A 30-minute episode of Ted Lasso pushes me to my limits.
The truth is sitting down to watch an hour-long episode of any sort of fiction, that challenges me on any level, requires way more energy than I'm consciously willing to muster. In the face of existential threats like COVID-19 and the Climate Crisis and [gestures to everything] all of this, what I really want (need) from the content I consume is comfort. Nothing more, nothing less.
Hence all the garbage I've been consuming.
Maybe there will come a time, when things feel a little more normal, when I'm a little less exhausted -- my tiny brain a little more hydrated -- where I will be more willing to engage with content that demands more of me.
But right now I want garbage. Pure and simple. Give me nothing but garbage. Or more sport. I'm begging you.