In this so-called golden age of television, saying “there’s nothing to watch” is one of the biggest lies you can tell yourself. On the contrary, there’s too much to watch—and a lot of it is good! Remember when “Must See TV” was just one night? Now it’s every night. It’s 10 times a night. Must-See TV is just any TV that happens to be turned on, and frankly, as has been remarked time and time again, it’s too much for many of us to handle.
Below you’ll find a selection of shows that no one would stop talking about in 2016, but that we couldn’t find the time (or the desire) to watch.
No offense to any of them (we’re sure The Night Of is great), it’s just that...something else was on.
This Is Us
I refuse to engage with this manipulative melodrama, purely off the strength of the excessive praise for a show I presume to be mediocre at best. There are two timelines happening? Like Westworld? And people cry? Some people are related? In my preview of 2016 TV pilots earlier this year, I advised everyone to “Skip” this, and yet you all didn’t listen and now we have a This Is Us mess on our hands and the show has broken ratings records and earned Golden Globe nominations. The New York Times wrote in September: “Watching ‘This Is Us’ is like getting beaten up with a pillow soaked in tears” and described the series as one of those “cry-time dramas, those heart-on-sleeve series about ordinary people with ordinary problems.” Mandy Moore meanwhile described it as “cathartic entertainment.” No? Per Rich’s review, I don’t want to ball through an entire episode of a show starring Mandy Moore. This Is Me Not Watching.
The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum called the six-episode series “a precision black-humor mechanism, a warped and affecting fable about one single woman’s existence.” Frankly, Fleabag sounds like another show about a rando white woman, though it seems to have the ingredients of a critical cult hit: sex, dark humor, London. I just can’t quite find the care or energy to sit down and watch. Plus, Bobby Finger pointed out to me that the star, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, looks like several different people. I see Marion Cotillard. I see Rose Byrne. I see Lizzy Caplan. I would be thinking about that the whole time.
Mozart in the Jungle
The title of this show is dumb and perplexing. Is it about Mozart? There’s an orchestra person... Is it about a jungle or is that figurative? This exchange earlier this year between Jezebel’s Kate and Madeleine (the writing appears to be terrible) made me hesitant to approach the show and so I didn’t and I won’t.
The Night Of
This show has popped up frequently on my social media feeds and I’m always like, Should I watch it? Then I’m like, eh. Believe me, I want to—it’s on HBO, a network I generally trust to produce universally “good” shows, and it’s great that the lead, Riz Ahmed, is an actor of color (British Pakistani). But here’s my rationale: I don’t have time. I asked Julianne (who wrote about the finale of the mini-series) what the show is about and she said: “It’s basically about a Muslim Pakistani college student from Queens who steals his dad’s cab to go to a party and then picks up a chick who makes him do a bunch of coke and ecstasy and ends up dead, and then a lawyer with terrible eczema believes he is wrongfully accused so helps him with his case. The eczema is very important. The eczema is like, the third main character.” Love it, sounds amazing. I’m not watching it.
Game of Thrones
I’ve been meaning to catch up on Game of Thrones for about three years now, but it seems there’s always something more digestible to binge on, i.e. lately I’ve been spending those hours on Showtime’s Shameless. Even though I adore dragons, and the idea of losing myself in a fantasy world full of them is alluring (I made a valiant attempt to get through Episode 1 of Season 1), I feel all hope is lost on joining the GoT fandom. This is a great show that I fear I can’t get into and I truly am sorry.
While few people I actually know have been telling me to watch This Is Us (that’s mostly just been the breathless reports of its Nielsen ratings and Tweets from news outlets screaming about how it’s “emotional AF”), my friends—people I have met and confirmed to be real human beings—spend a significant chunk of the past year suggesting that I watch Unreal. “I know you’re bad with TV,” they’d say. “But this is so up your alley.” For a while, I believed them. I was willing to give the first season a go, when suddenly those same friends publicly expressed their disappointment with the second season. And that’s what did it. That’s why I slammed on the brakes. Why would I invest time into a wonderful first season if the second season has been panned? If I don’t get in on the ground floor of a show, it’s hard for me to find a reason to catch up. But once I’m in, I’m in. (See: Game of Thrones and Homeland, both of which have had entire seasons I’ve despised.)
The Night Manager
This is one of those shows that I remember everyone talking about for exactly four weeks. In those four weeks, I would get home from work, think about what to cook for dinner (a monumental task in and of itself), and then decide what to watch while eating it. I was told The Night Manager was great! Just six episodes! Feels like a movie! This is what I’m looking for in a television show, and yet, when I finally bit the bullet and tried watching an episode on my AMC app one night, the show was no longer available! As a subscriber to a cable package that includes AMC, this angered me. I could have looked for the episodes elsewhere, but you know what? It was easier to just turn on a DVRed episode of The Golden Girls. So that’s what I did. Sorry, Tom! You lost your shot! I’m never going to know what the hell went on in that hotel with you and the guy from House or whatever!
When asking friends and family members who have been fans of Gilmore Girls since its premiere some 16 years ago whether it’s a “good” show I should bother watching, I’m usually given one of the following three responses:
- I mean I loved it back in the day. But I think you might think it’s bad.
- No to both questions! But I can’t wait for the Netflix episodes.
- They talk about coffee a lot! You love coffee!
These are not good ways to convince me to watch anything, let alone spending the time to watch its 153 original episodes before even getting to the new shit. I haven’t even watched The Wire yet! Or Breaking Bad! Or Roseanne, which I started several months ago and never finished. Also I skipped to the end of the last episode to hear “the last four words” and groaned without even knowing who those two women were.
When I found out this show would last not one or two or three or four or FIVE, but SIX seasons, I gave up on it immediately. Full stop. No time for arguments. No time for reviews. I’m all for learning more about the life of Queen Elizabeth II, but do I need 60 hours to hear that story? I could read a biography of this woman in less time, and even then, only be marginally satisfied because Queen Elizabeth II is arguably the least interesting Queen in English history. Like, what about Victoria, who (for better or worse) expanded the shit out of the British Empire? Or Elizabeth I, whose life story is like 300x more interesting than number 2's?
I could see a 2.5-hour biopic on QE2. Maybe even a nice six-hour BBC miniseries! But sixty episodes of smoke-filled rooms, Elizabeth’s quiet, pained glances at Phillip, and corgi after corgi after corgi? No thanks. I’d rather watch the Cate Blanchett Elizabeth 24 times.
This Is Us