I’ve often heard it said we’re living in the era of Prestige Television (or Peak Television, if you prefer). Regardless of the terminology, there is the general sense among people who think, write, and talk about these things that the 21st century has seen the rise of a Golden Age – if not The Golden Age – of Television. The caliber of what’s being offered on TV is generally considered to have risen. There are more “high quality” shows generating more critical acclaim than ever before. The line between “TV star” and the once-more prestigious “movie star” is blurring. In fact, these TV shows with shorter seasons, renown casts, and complex storytelling, are often touted as six (or ten (or thirteen)) hour movies, broken up into smaller installments. You couple this with the rise of streaming services (and the accompanying “streaming wars” where each service tries to outperform the others to earn your subscription fee) alongside the culture of binge-watching and our experience of television’s been transformed. It is a remarkable time to be consuming such content and the excited query, “Have you seen [fill-in-the-blank-show] yet??” drives our pop culture conversations like never before.
The thing is, my answer is almost always “no.” Like 9/10 times it’s “no.” And here’s why.
When it comes to the stories I like to enjoy – whether TV shows, movies, comic books, or novels – I am drawn to ones I can return to again and again. By nature I like to rewatch shows so the idea of jumping from one new exciting show to the next to the next not only doesn’t appeal to me, it makes me a little nauseous. I like to sit with a story. I like to turn it over again and again in my mind. I live with and in it. The speed with which new shows are released and how quickly our cultural discourse jumps from one to the next makes me care very little about trying to keep up.
That’s another thing, there is so much content released so fast it feels like work! And, with everything streaming all the time, I can watch it whenever I want which also prompts anxiety in me. Where do I find the time to watch this new show before the next season of the other show comes out or the new show by the showrunner from that other show I liked premieres??? As a child of the ‘80s and a child and adolescent of the ‘90s, a show had its timeslot. You either made time to watch it, taped it or caught the episode(s) you missed during summer reruns, or never saw the episode. I liked that. Because I either made time to see the show or I didn’t. Now watching a new show feels like navigating an impossible puzzle. How do I shift all the ever-moving items which fill my finite existence to make time for this show? It used to be a question of what I wanted to do at 9:00 pm – watch this show or not. Now that question haunts my every waking hour.
On that note, I should mention my anxiety plays a part in this. I’ve often read people with anxiety disorders (like me!) tend to favor returning to shows they know and love as opposed to exploring an endless revolving door of new content because there is less anxiety when you know what’s coming. I’d never thought of it that way before but heck yes that’s me. It compliments my Analytical Part which loves to deconstruct every piece of a show, too.
Given the choice, I also often prefer to read. A novel, a nonfiction book, a stack of comics – whether I’m reading it for the first time or the fifth time, I almost always prefer to sit down with a book in my free time. Or I write. I enjoy TV. I love going to the movies. And there are plenty of shows and movies I’ve watched and rewatched. But there’s only so much time in life and, on any given day, reading or writing’s what I usually prefer.
It’s not that I don’t ever want to watch anything new. Looking at the shows I chose for the featured image of this piece, I am very excited for Stranger Things 4 but, because I’m me, I wanted to rewatch the other seasons before I began and REMEMBER TIME? Well, that affected my Stranger Things rewatch and I’m still just in the middle of Stranger Things 2 (oh Bob, how I loved you…) because time. Similarly, The Patient looks absolutely amazing and something I’d love to watch (and something which most likely will reward rewatches) but where is the time? When do I start it? What don’t I do so I can watch that instead? Bah.
I’m sure The Handmaiden’s Tale is as brilliant as everyone says but I wanted to read the book before I watched the show and now we’re FIVE SEASONS IN so that ship’s probably sailed. I predict the same will happen with Sandman. I have no interest in Andor and I’m ok with that. Of all the shows in the featured image, I’m most excited about The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. It’s very “on brand” for me. I enjoy the films and the books (I hesitate to say “love” as I know people love Tolkien the way I love Doctor Who and Marvel so I feel awkward saying “I love it” because my brain likes to overthink things) and the premise of the show seems really exciting!
Most of all, Briana and Krysta have been writing about it a lot over on their site, Pages Unbound, and – because I love their writing and they are two of my best blogging friends – it makes me more excited to check it out than I would’ve been otherwise. In the last month, they’ve written eight pieces on it! Briana’s written “Why I Am (Finally) Excited to Watch Rings of Power,” “My First Impressions of ‘The Rings of Power,’ Episodes 1 and 2,” “Who Is ‘The Stranger’ in ‘The Rings of Power?’: Here’s My Prediction,” “My Thoughts on Galadriel in ‘The Rings of Power’ After the First Two Episodes,” “Thoughts on Episode 3 of ‘The Rings of Power,’” and “My Thoughts on Episode 5 of ‘The Rings of Power.’” And Krysta’s written “A Quick Guide to the Second Age of Middle-Earth Before You Watch The Rings of Power” and “Why I Am Excited About The Rings of Power – Even Though I Wasn’t Planning On Watching.” I can’t remember the last time they’ve written so much about one show/character/novel/story/topic so quickly. (Note, I’ve linked all the pieces so, if you’ve seen it, you can read them! Also, now they’re handily here for me once I finally get around to watching it ;D.) Even if I had no interest in watching the show, their output alone would’ve lit the fire of intrigue within me.
So…why haven’t I started it? When I look at the finite amount of time my life holds, my natural inclination to favor stories I’ve seen before, my desire to revisit and further get to know/explore/deconstruct the shows I love, the anxiety of trying to find time to watch (and commit!) to a new show, and the time I’m already devoting to reading and writing, well there’s only so much time for TV left. And most of that time is already spoken for. When I turn on my TV I am almost always watching (and rewatching!) something I love and want to know better. I’m furthering a relationship, as it were, instead of looking for a new fun fling. For a new show to grab a bit of my time, I have to believe it will be good enough to warrant taking time from…
Watching and Rewatching Doctor Who (2005-present)
There is no story of any kind in any medium – novel, comic, movie, TV show, play, concept album, camp fire tale, etc. – that means more to me than Doctor Who. Period. If I could only participate in one fictional universe for the rest of my life I’d leave Marvel, DC, Ghostbusters, and Star Wars for Doctor Who in a heartbeat. It’s fun. It’s funny. It’s cheese-tastic. It’s exciting. But it’s also intelligent, heartfelt, and moving. The brilliance, depth, nuance, and heart inherent in this show’s sixty year history is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. When my life is hardest, I turn to Doctor Who for the strength to buoy myself. When my life is happiest, I turn to Doctor Who to celebrate. The only limit to the stories told in is the imagination of the writers. No genre, type of character, or narrative style is off limits. I even have a wall of Doctor Who art in my house so I can physically surround myself with the spirit of this show.
Watching and Rewatching Harley Quinn (2019-present)
If someone were to ask me where to begin with Harley Quinn, I’d point them to this show. Originally a DC Universe streaming original, it’s now on HBO Max and this alone is worth the subscription fee (though HBO Max also has Doctor Who so that’s a lot of mileage for me). This profanity, insanity, and hilarity-laden show (along with Tee Franklin’s accompanying Harley Quinn: The Animated Series comics) is the most beautiful, authentic, and healthy depiction of love – for ourselves and with another – I’ve ever seen in pop culture. The writing is as quick as it is intelligent and the social commentary is as biting as the jokes. This is also the single best superhero show I’ve ever seen. It not only understands its characters but it understands what the superhero genre can do and be.
On Twitter, I always see those “Ten Films to Know Me” or “Ten TV Shows to Know Me” or “Ten Albums to Know Me” tweets floating around. In writing this piece, I’ve realized my answer’s not that hard. In all honesty, the only shows you need to watch to know me are Doctor Who and Harley Quinn.
Or rather, as I’d hope you’d get to know me by chatting with me and forming a real relationship, how about I say this instead? Everything that is most important to me (outside of the people I love, obviously) – all the themes, ideas, messages, and meaning – as well as all the stories which move me the most – filling my heart and stirring my soul – are found in Doctor Who and Harley Quinn. They hold what matters most to me.
But I don’t just watch Doctor Who and Harley Quinn so a new show is also vying for time with my…
Watching Classic Doctor Who (1963-1989)
There were 695 episodes of Classic Doctor Who released between the show’s premiere in 1963 and its cancellation in 1989. Given how deeply I love Doctor Who, it was only a matter of time until I got BritBox and began watching those shows for myself. Then Covid and lockdown hit and new streaming services made a lot of sense. Now that I have it, I’d cut Netflix and Hulu long before I’d ever cut BritBox! These episodes can be weird and clunky, slow-moving and super low budget at times…but it’s all Doctor Who, it’s all good, and I’m here to stay for all of it. I can guarantee as soon as I finish all those 695 episodes I’ll begin my first rewatch of it, too.
Rewatching a Handful of Shows From My Youth and Young Adulthood
Are you catching the importance of rewatching for me yet? Well, that didn’t just begin in my adult life. As a high school and college student, I coveted DVD sets of shows I loved so I could watch them again and again. Those seasons of Scrubs, Seinfeld, The Office, The King of Queens, Community, and Gilmore girls still sit on my shelf and receive regular rewatches. Going back a bit further, I collected the seasons of Highlander the Series on VHS tapes! I’ve not revisited Duncan MacLeod’s story in years, though maybe I should…
Watching and Rewatching the Marvel Cinematic Universe Shows
The MCU produces content at a pace which feels impossible to keep up with. But I’m loving what they’re doing! Ms. Marvel is the most beautiful story the MCU’s told in it’s fourteen year history! She-Hulk: Attorney At Law is the most fun the MCU’s ever been and I hope it goes for six or seven seasons! WandaVision is an incredibly moving reflection on healing from trauma. The Falcon and the Winter Solider is a profound-yet-comedic globe-trotting buddy vigilante story. Moon Knight is…a show. Keeping up with these shows, let alone rewatching them to know them as I want to, is practically a full time job.
And, naturally, Watching ALL OF DOCTOR WHO BECAUSE IT’S THE BEST
Right now I’m in the middle of watching the Fourth Doctor’s Era for the first time, rewatching all the Thirteenth Doctor’s episodes before I weep my way through her regeneration next month, and watching all River Song’s episodes in her order, not the Doctor’s. I mean, did anyone not see this coming? OF COURSE I’m ending with Doctor Who. Doctor Who fills MY WHOLE HEART.
So there you go. To everyone who ever has or ever will ask if I’ve seen a certain show, this is why I probably haven’t. But please continue to ask me! I love talking about this stuff! And I love hearing what everyone else is passionate about! But know, before the question is asked, my answer will probably disappoint you XD. Unless you’re asking about Doctor Who or Harley Quinn! I long ago lost track of the number of times I’ve rewatched modern Doctor Who all the way through and I’m getting fuzzy on my number of Harley Quinn rewatches, too. So if you’re asking about them then you are in luck.
Speaking of which…have you seen Doctor Who: Legend of the Sea Devils or Harley Quinn S3 yet??