Aaaaaand we’re back with another thrilling installment of the internet’s most dubious advice column, “Ask Pajiba (Almost) Anything” — where no problem is too stupid for us to slap a stupid solution on it. Especially if said solution involves bear traps, fire, or fiery bear traps. And SPOILER ALERT: It almost always will!
[Reminder: our mailbag is always open, because it’s on the internet and I don’t know how to turn the internet off. So until I get THAT sorted, you can continue to email all your burning life questions to [email protected] and we’ll definitely read them. And probably answer them! Maybe even in a slightly-to-moderately helpful fashion! THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS!]
This week we’ve got a reader in a very relatable rut. When there’s an overwhelming amount of critically-acclaimed movies and TV, how do you cope with the fact that you… just kinda don’t care?
The most recent critically acclaimed TV show I watched was Breaking Bad. I tried to get in to GoT, but gave up after the first season, having run out to read all the books only to slowly realize the series would never be finished. I didn’t see The Last Jedi until it showed up on Netflix, and I’m sitting here wondering about the implications of not even being excited for Star Wars anymore. I used to love it all, from Wes Anderson to Wes Craven. Now, colorful and pretentious filmmaking with stilted dialogue just makes me roll my eyes, and I avoid horror because I don’t need to be any more scared than I actually am(I haven’t even seen Cabin in the Woods or Babadook).
All of which is to say, I find it impossible to get into TV or movies (I usually catch the Marvel stuff eventually because it’s always good for getting friends together but that’s where it ends.) I want to love the interesting shows you guys talk about all the time like The Good Place or Shameless but my resolve usually ends with me looking at the Netflix card and deciding I don’t have the mental bandwidth or it would be too much work to enjoy or I’m just too far behind to participate in the discussion. I’m just really struggling to get into entertainment lately, more often than not I’ll just watch the first four seasons of The West Wing again, my favorite episodes of Bob’s Burgers or go all the way back to watch ‘Home Movies’ again because Jon Benjamin is timeless and awesome(I know I can get my fix from Archer these days, but the world is one giant asshole in RL and its hard to laugh about people treating each other in the absolute worst ways possible). I did watch The Dragon Prince while sick one day, it was charming and beautifully animated but failed to “reignite the spark” for anything except another season of The Dragon Prince. That in mind, I probably never would have watched it if I hadn’t been glued to the couch and a trash bin for 48 hours.
I hate being stuck in this entertainment rut, how do I get back to being excited about worthwhile TV and Movies again?
You’re already one up on me, because I’ll be honest: I haven’t bothered to watch Breaking Bad. I didn’t watch The Good Place until 2 seasons were already out in the world, and I gave up on Shameless sometime back when Justin Chatwin was on it. Is he still on it? I have no idea — I just sorta wanted it to be a weird drunken sequel to that terrible live-action Dragonball movie Chatwin made with Emmy Rossum, but when James Marsters didn’t show up with bad green body paint I got bored (Sorry, Chambers!). The point is, I spent a decade working for different television and film companies, and now I spend my days writing about entertainment, because this sh*t is my passion — and even I can’t be arsed to stay on top of it all, no matter how good it’s supposed to be. Or how many people assure me it’s good.
The thing about so-called “Peak TV” is that it’s the long-gestating product of the diversification of media outlets, and the super-serving of very targeted audiences. Instead of 4 networks with an assured massive market share, catering to the most general interests, we have an overwhelming number of cable channels, streaming platforms, and other outlets taking big swings to entice us to spend our time with them — because there’s no way for ANYONE to watch it all. The burden of choice is on us, and while there’s certainly something out there to fit anyone’s particular interests, sometimes it’s exhausting to think of trying to make that choice and signing ourselves up for another time-suck.
But one thing I appreciate about the plethora of options is that the options AREN’T all “worthwhile.” Sure, there’s plenty of “prestige” TV, but there’s still plenty of trash too! Mindless comfort is OK, and there’s no need to be ashamed if you’ve skipped Westworld in favor of season sixenty twelfth of Survivor, because you’re not alone. Besides, thanks to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, it’s never too late to catch up on anything you’ve missed (assuming you can dodge the online spoilers).
The thing to remember is that your time is your own, and entertainment is there to entertain you. Nobody gets a cookie for being the MOST up-to-date on pop culture. Even critics don’t watch everything, because there’s literally not enough time in the day. And it’s also perfectly normal for your tastes to change over the years — because YOU change, or because your circumstances change. Sometimes those changes open you up to things you’d never have enjoyed before, and sometimes they take you further from the things you once enjoyed — or the things you think you SHOULD enjoy. Just because you loved the original Twin Peaks doesn’t mean the new episodes were for you, and we’ve all faced the crushing reality that we’ve hit the Law & Order marathon phase of adulthood. I make a point to skip most Best Picture nominees for at least a year because the buzz drives me nuts, but I also unabashedly went to see LEGO Batman as a Valentine’s date.
(And not to be alarmist, but if you’re noticing a large change in your tastes, like you’re not enjoying things you normally would or you’re having a hard time motivating, it might be worth talking to your doctor about depression. Most of the Overlords took your note at face value and went all-in on the tv talk, but Emily did point out that depression can present itself in a lot of different ways. So, maybe that’s something to consider, from a bunch of not-therapists who value the work of actual mental health professionals.)
But you want to know how to get yourself excited about film and television, so let’s see if we can offer some more practical tactics to get you in the mood:
- The Total Reset: What got you stoked as a kid? Sesame Street? Muppet Babies? SeaQuest? Eerie, Indiana? The Last Unicorn? Pee-Wee’s Playhouse? Rewind the clock on your experience of television and movies by going alllll the way to the start. Personally, I bought every season of the old X-Men cartoon on Amazon Prime and every season of Dinosaurs on DVD, because that’s my happy place. Ain’t no shame in that! And maybe rewatching some old favorites will remind you what it felt like to be excited about movies and TV again.
- Try something new… but NOT something Super Serious: I call this “The Supernatural Method.” Ease yourself into taking a risk by watching something you’ve never seen before, but also something that is basically the television equivalent of wrapping yourself in a warm quilt. Supernatural is a great option since there are a ton of seasons to plow through, which would feel like a lot of pressure to someone who is trying to stay on top of the media landscape — but for you, I think it might prove to be a welcome escape from worrying about all the other shows. Want even less pressure? What about At Home With Amy Sedaris? Or 9-1-1, which is just straight WTF-ery you could fold the laundry to?
- Watch Something No One Is Talking About: Sometimes too much buzz can be a buzzkill, and it occurred to me that maybe your lack of excitement around Star Wars could be influenced by all the drama that surrounded The Last Jedi. I liked the movie, but I’ll admit that I wanted everyone to stop arguing about it almost immediately. So maybe finding entertainment that no one is talking about — something with zero baggage — will help you have fun again. Go obscure! Unearth those random British shows that pop up on Netflix, or channel surf and click on things you’ve never heard of, or binge some old Shaw Brothers martial arts classics. Be an explorer.
- Just Watch DuckTales. I’m not kidding. It’s a dose of pure f*cking joy. If DuckTales doesn’t get you even at least a little pumped about TV, then it might be time to just read a book.
- Just Read A Book: Or play video games, or cook yourself a meal, or KonMari your bedroom, or spend your time in literally ANY OTHER WAY than in front of a television. Because you shouldn’t have to force yourself, and you have nothing to prove to anyone. Not everyone likes TV, or likes A LOT of TV, and that’s FINE. There are enough problems in the world, and how you spend your free time shouldn’t be one of them. Just do something that makes you happy, instead of worrying about why something ISN’T making you happy anymore. And maybe once you’ve let go of the pressure, you’ll find yourself naturally gravitating toward some piece of entertainment again. Or not. And that’s OK. Just don’t beat yourself up over changing — embrace the change, and be yourself.
And finally, courtesy of Steven, comes our most obligatory tip:
“If your biggest problem is ‘I don’t feel like watching television anymore’, maybe stick your dick in a bear trap.”
Alternately, lighting it on fire would also probably work. Either way, it would certainly put things in perspective. Or just think about doing it, and see if that encourages you to spend your time catching up on The Good Place, which I promise will be INFINITELY more enjoyable than experiencing actual physical pain.
Header Image Source: DC Entertainment/Warner Bros.