Gone are the days of endlessly flicking through the free to air channels, trying to find something to watch on TV.
It was the vintage pastime of an analogue world, where the whole family shared the one TV set and siblings would tear each others’ eyes out for control of the remote.
Now every man and his dog has a streaming service subscription, or at least a device that does catch-up.
What a blessing it is to live in a world where it’s rare for you to be gritting your teeth as some bored family member or roommate surfs the signals, subjecting you to an infuriating mashup of soundbites from news bulletins, cooking shows, a repeat of Neighbours, another news bulletin…
Maybe this is a petty complaint but when you’ve just settled in on the sofa, and you’re just getting into whatever David Attenborough doco is on, it almost amounts to a homicide defense if someone changes it for no good reason. I submit to the jury that the defendant was provoked by the victim, who prevented her from finding out what happens to the baby wildebeest.
With the arrival of on demand and catch-up you could curate your TV diet to your tastes.
Unshackled from the trappings of frequent ad breaks and schedule clashes, we are no longer at the whims of the network executives and what they wanted us to watch. Your favourite show premieres new episodes on a Friday night, but you promised a friend you’d catch up over drinks? Fret not, for Freeview Plus and its cable counterparts were here to save the day.
And when the networks realised that people were always more likely to pick and mix their shows from different channels and pirate whatever wasn’t available, they put them online so we could access them as we please.
It’s the best of times, and the worst of times. Because now, instead of having four prime-time options full stop, we have millions of choices. Our beloved streaming providers are throwing so much at us every week that finding something good to watch is become a needle in a haystack.
We are truly living in the Golden Age of Content, and it’s making us more paralysed by indecision than ever. Instead of putting up with channel surfers, we’re grappling with our own lack of commitment.
How often have you spent more time looking at the title selection screen than actually watching an episode? And with so many services competing for our attention, the anxiety of trying to find something worth our time is more heightened than ever. So what can you do about it?
The first step to recovery is to get to know your options ahead of time. Stay up to date with the new releases and do your research – some cursory Googling should do the trick.
Monitor your social feeds and if a friend is posting about something that piques your interest, take a note of the title to come back to later. Always keep a queue and a few backups for when a binge session goes awry. You never know when you’ll be disappointed by an over-hyped show!
And try to have some foreknowledge of when you’re most likely to have a lot of time in front of the TV. If you know you’ve got a slow weekend coming up, have something in mind ahead of time.
Meanwhile, I’m still waiting on Netflix to introduce a ‘randomise’ button to end my misery once and for all.