I don’t really watch T.V. I use Netflix and HBOGO and watch certain shows that I like, like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, I do like Scandal I won’t deny that, it’s just one of those addicting shows, like a bad but good romance novel. I like House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black is chill, Modern Family is funny, I love Louie’s show and stand ups. Right now I’m watching The Sopranos.
I have given this speech multiple times, maybe with reordering a few words and phrases, or placing emphasis on different shows depending on the audience: the truth is that when I tell someone I watch The Sopranos, or that in my dream world I would write for Mad Men, I feel confident in the picture I’m painting. It’s as though Mad Men makes me classy, Breaking Bad makes me smart but not boring, and watching Louie means I’m just as hilarious myself. Regardless of what this person thinks of me, I’ve created a solid, smart, interesting baseline because I watch these shows.
For others, it can be the bonding confession that neither of you can wait to see BRAVO’s next Real Housewives, or ABC’s The Bachelorette, or TLC’s Little People, Big World and Toddler’s & Tiaras.
The post-Sopranos era of television has propelled a new type of dedication to shows, a sort of following similar to religion. We identify with those who watch the same shows, we come back week after week, or now with Netflix and HBOGO we binge with episode after episode, and we express our love and excitement for these shows with others. It’s a point of conversation, we even try to get people to convert: just trust me. Just watch. Trust me. Beyond human to human conversation, social media, mainly Twitter, gives us another outlet where we can vent, retweet, and even discuss an episode while it’s airing live.
And when a show is off season, Twitter can hold the show’s fans, and even grow fans with behind the scenes tweets, star interviews, recaps, images from past episodes, sneak peeks, star retweets, and the list doesn’t really ever end. Look at Scandal’s Twitter for a prime example. Also, Game of Thrones has a Twitter following of 1.77 million that’s growing as you read.
There’s also the blossoming culture of insomniacs and sleepy, yet dedicated watchers who just need to know what happens next. We all know the feeling of heavy eyelids deciding whether to remain still and watch the Netflix countdown, “next episode playing in 15 seconds,” or say goodbye for now and treat ourselves tomorrow.
Today it’s about T.V. You can’t step into an office on a Monday morning without hearing snippets of show recaps, opinions, predictions, and someone’s take on how things really should’ve gone.
Often times, in a social setting, we let our shows do the talking for us. The shows you watch aren’t just entertainment, they’re extensions of you; they help you communicate the kind of person you are. You can tell a stranger you like Breaking Bad, meaning you’re not afraid of subjects like meth and murder, or you can tell someone you like Mad Men, meaning you’re interested in history, costume design, and a man like Don Draper, or you can say you watch Grey’s Anatomy and tell us that you’re a perpetually unhappy person who chooses to be upset by indulging in dramatic and depressing stories.
To me, this reverence for television isn’t bad or good, it just is. It groups us, divides, gives us something to follow, to believe in, and to connect over. People have always bonded over popular books, brands, celebrities, food, and so on, but the dominating force today is television, and it has a more a cult-like, religious following than other pop culture mediums. The massive following acquired by popular shows feels similar to the followings acquired by popular religions. Maybe it’s because television really has become better, or maybe it’s because it’s as free and accessible as walking into a house of worship.
Even when the going gets rough, which us Mad Men devotees were or are feeling, we push through. Just because Don Draper is too blue for our liking, or we can’t stand to see him cheat on his wife again, and again, and again, and again, and again, we can’t just stop watching. Blasphemy. What do you mean stop watching? We are there until the end. At least then we can let everyone know how it really should’ve ended.