27 September 2010

(Not So) Guilty Pleasures

Every fall, post premier week, I get pulled into a slew of conversations about everyone’s new guilty pleasures of the season. Inevitably this leads to the admission that I don’t have any. Don’t get me wrong, I watch TV, I watch A LOT of TV. In fact I watch more television than anyone else I know, (will admit to). I just can’t find it in myself to feel guilty about it.

Between new and returning shows, my household watched some twenty-one guilt-free hours of primetime television last week. With this week’s new shows, that number will increase to twenty-five hours; add in October premiers and it could reach thirty hours. That’s more than a full day of shows and it doesn’t count any of the news programs I watch faithfully, or the half-hour comedies he watches online.

By November that number will change again as certain shows fail to live up to expectation and others are abandoned by their networks, leaving us somewhere around the twenty hour mark, but let’s say twenty-four just to stay positive. Twenty-four hours of television a week—that’s a part time job—and one only made possible with the use of a DVR and 32 inch monitor that makes Hulu worth watching online. If we watch that much television and will admit it, how much are others really taking in and crossing their fingers about?

I have to admit that over half our television time is combined with computer time which is how much of this is possible. I do research, check email and social sites and even write as a show sparks an idea or a deadline looms on the horizon. I’ll also read or workout during commercial breaks and scenes with characters I don’t particularly like, so a lot of multitasking to be had. Perhaps that’s why I don’t feel guilty about watching television as whole. We also watch zero “unscripted” reality television which doesn’t leave a lot to feel guilty about.

I know things like Survivor and The Bachelor are edited and slightly scripted, but I make the distinction because we do watch fully scripted/narrated reality shows like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on Food Network, nature and science shows on Discovery and the eclectic mix of mental phenomena that is the History Channel and History International. All of these shows have a research basis as details and desserts make their way into my stories, but we love them because where else can you discuss the merits of brining and the likelihood of parallel universes on the same weekend with the same confidence in each topic due to the easily digestible facts broken down and served up for maximum retention? If only school had been so accommodating. *smile*
I think as a household of readers, who talk primarily to other readers, we stand out for our watching habits because few people do both so robustly. But if you look at the abundance of paranormal fiction and sci-fi/fantasy that we read, the paranormal fiction and sci-fi/fantasy that we watch makes more sense. We also watch House and a rather startling number of procedurals, but personally I find a fantasy element to the technology and mental prowess used to solve cases, so it fits right in from my perspective.

I think the difference between television being a guilty pleasure and pleasurable hobby is whether or not you feel you should be doing something else instead. We don’t give up other things to watch and since we extend from fan into fandom with many shows, the conversation is just starting when the show ends for the hour. We’re invested in many of the series the same way we are in the books we read and the conversations, theories and story inspirations that come from our shows make every hour seem worth it.

Now I have had my guilty moments. Supernatural is a favorite show and one I’ve heard others describe as a guilty pleasure since they watch less for the story arc and more for the attractiveness of the main characters. I watch for both so I don’t feel that hour is better served elsewhere. However, the twenty-plus hours spent in a two day marathon of season 5 in preparation for season 6…yeah, I so should have been doing other stuff and it felt wonderful! Besides, my season 5 dvds didn’t show up until the 22nd, what was I supposed to do?

So how much television do you all watch? Do you have any guilty pleasures you tune into every week? Do you feel more guilty about the time you spend watching TV than the time you spend reading? And should guilt ever play a factor in any pleasure that’s healthy and doesn’t take from family, friends and productivity?

Ooh, What's On Tonight Ramble ~ Done

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