As I do every January, I started a diet with the new year. I’ve also resolved to wake up earlier, exercise more, and be more productive on every personal and professional front. This, of course, is exactly the opposite of what the experts tell you to do, because you will inevitably fail in at least one – and most likely all – of your endeavors. But I do it every year anyway. There’s just something about starting over at 1, with a fresh clean page in the date book . . .
The new year also marks the return of a few of my favorite TV shows: Downton Abbey (final season!), Shameless and Suits. I’m looking forward to Bill Maher’s reappearance in January, especially with the presidential campaigns and primary seasons kicking into high gear, and John Oliver’s in February, in both cases after extended holiday hiatuses (“hiatii”?). John Oliver actually had a great little web-exclusive teaser about how the key to your New Year’s resolutions is managing your disappointment when they break down (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxM3tvHowaM%5D). [An aside: I’m warming up to Trevor Noah’s iteration of The Daily Show, which also returns this week, but sadly there will never be another Jon Stewart (although Stewart himself is set to make a reappearance on TV in 2016 in some form of another, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with).]
When it comes to returning dramas, however, the TV powers-that-be seem to revel in torturing us with cliffhangers and forcing us to wait months – in some cases, nearly a whole year! – for answers. The epitome of this is Game of Thrones (my love for which I trumpeted while Season 5 was in full swing – see “Fandom”, 5/12/15), which isn’t set to return until April after ending with Jon Snow’s shocking is-he-or-isn’t-he death way back in June!
I remember, when I was a kid, September was the key month when all your old favorites TV shows would return after their summer breaks – only three major networks, remember! – and you’d also look forward to seeing what new shows there would be. But I don’t recall any suspenseful endings, per se – the first time I can remember being left hanging at the end of a season with a “what will happen!” shocker was “Who killed J.R.?” on Dallas. Rather, it was looking forward to watching the new season of The Brady Bunch to see how the kids had changed, or what new songs they’d be singing on The Monkees or The Partridge Family.
Some old favorites will also be returning after the fallow holiday period: Grey’s Anatomy (which I still enjoy, especially as they manage to continue to find pretty boys to add to the cast, the latest being the gorgeous Giacomo Gianniotti – where did HE come from?); Elementary; and my new favorite, Limitless. But there is never enough time to check out new shows, no matter how highly recommended (Life in Pieces) or well reviewed (I read so many “10 best” lists on which I knew NOT A SINGLE SHOW! How embarrassing!). I keep thinking I might be able to binge-watch a full season of something. I most recently tried it with You’re the Worst, which is only a half-hour show so I figured I could get through them more quickly. I did like the show, with its quirky anti-love story and dry-as-dust humor, but I couldn’t establish a routine and they didn’t have all the episodes free on demand, so I’ve effectively abandoned it. Lately I’ve seen a bunch of interesting trailers and ads for original content on Netflix and Amazon Prime and Hulu – yikers! – that I’d actually have to pay more for than my already sky-high cable bill. So much to watch, so little time. It’s even worse during hockey season, when there are a few games every week to occupy my TV-watching hours.
And don’t get me started on the huge list of movies that I’ll never find the time for – if I can even manage to find the films, in whatever medium they might be available. I’ve been debating reinstating my Netflix account, which I allowed to lapse a couple of years ago – again, because I had no time to watch the movies that were accumulating in my queue. There isn’t a very broad selection of streaming movies, either, and I don’t want to get movies on DVD because then I’d have the added hassle of having to send them back when I’m done (which might be weeks or months after receiving them). I do have a Blu-ray player but I don’t think I’ve ever used it! Besides which, the movies I want to watch are mostly documentaries and indies, as well as classic punk cult films like Smithereens, Times Square and Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of Western Civilization, which were not on the Netflix roster last time I checked.
So, I have limited time to watch TV or movies – what about reading books? I just reserved the latest John Irving novel, Avenue of Mysteries, and I’m so excited to read it because I love everything he writes, but when am I going to squeeze it in? I do get nearly a full hour to read, each way, when I take the train into the city once a week, but the Irving book, if I get it in hardcover, will probably be too large for easy transport. I’ve been reading the last available book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, which I can chew in small pieces, and I definitely want to finish it by the time GOT starts again in April. I also just picked up a cool graphic novel I’ve wanted to read, I Was the Cat, written by Paul Tobin, illustrated and colored by Benjamin Dewey (Oni Press, Inc., 2014). Graphic novels are also good options for reading in little niblets. But having a couple of hours to just immerse myself in a novel? That’s a luxury I don’t often have.
As if there wasn’t enough media overload to torment me, now there’s podcasts – when am I supposed to find time to listen to THOSE?? Because I’m fortunate enough to work from home, I’m able to follow a couple regularly – I never miss Marek v. Wyshynski or The George and Tony Entertainment Show – but there are so many podcasts out there that I’d like to try, covering every conceivable topic. I just haven’t figured out how and, most importantly, when I can devote my more or less undivided attention to them rather than just having them be background noise. Music is best for background; podcasts require too much of my focus to be part of a multi-tasking repertoire.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll need to live to 150 just to catch up with all of my lists of TV shows, movies, books and podcasts! How do people find the time? I envy and admire them.