It’s been about two weeks since I finished Peaky Blinders and my life has been in shambles ever since. What does one do when there are suddenly no more episodes to be watched after that was all you did for five weeks straight?
It was the first thing you put on when you woke up and the last thing you tuned into before bed. You used to watch with your laptop open staring into each other’s eyes as you drifted off to sleep like you were newlyweds. You watched when you went to the bathroom, when you hit the treadmill, and even in the background of your work Zoom meeting when you were “taking notes.” Sure, you got fired a week later because you were unprepared, but as long as there were more episodes, all was ok.
But now it’s over. The show you just finished was your entire life and it’s just…done. Now you’re supposed to just go right back to normal? I don’t think so; there are wounds to heal.
That’s where I’m at in life right now. I’m hurtin’. After seeking therapy through social media and doing some reading online, I found out I am suffering from what most people my age experience about six times a year: PSD (Post-Series Depression), which is when you finish a show and ponder what the meaning of life really is.
It might be the worst thing I’ve ever had to deal with. Yes, I currently have friends in the hospital and others who have no clue how they’ll pay rent but those seem irrelevant compared to what I’m going through. They don’t even belong in the same ballpark as the emotional pain I am experiencing through my PSD.
In his recent Netflix special, comedian Tim Dillon said it best: “You find a show, you find another show, and then you die.” That is a well-lived life in 2020. What else is there to do really? Read? Uhhhh, no thanks. I didn’t even watch the award-winning Parasite because it would’ve required me to use my reading brain for the subtitles.
To think about what life was like before the internet—or even television in general—is mental torture. While our days used to consist of outsmarting potential predators and trying to find our next meal, technological advancements eventually made boredom a thing and created a modern lifestyle that revolves around watching television for hours on end while ordering Chick-Fil-A through Postmates on our iPhone.
With everyone continuing to remain sheltered at home due to the current situation, television consumption has increased by an estimated 712% based on the uptick in the frequency of people on my Twitter feed talking about what they’ve watched.
Quick PSA: binging a show *is* accomplishing something
— Sammy Rhodes (@sammyrhodes) April 17, 2020
I just finished binging a show… what do I do with my life now?
— Ingrys Arevalo 💯🇸🇻 (@IngrysArevalo) May 20, 2020
Binging a show the second time to notice all the nuances >>>>
— this is a pure soul account (@Dee_Ar_Jay) May 20, 2020
I need a new show to binge watch.
What are y’all watching these days? Oh and my shrink told me the other day that she read a report saying people who binge watch TV are more anxious and depressed. I felt like disagreeing with her but I didn’t. I should have told her how I felt
— Keri 😷 & Greta 🐾🐾 (@keriqbaum) May 15, 2020
I read somewhere that when you're anxious, you default to watching familiar shows because that way, there's no surprises. Anyway, I'm watching The Office, Schitt's Creek, Disney movies, and Cool Runnings, what are you watching?
— Lucy Crabtree (@LucyCrabKC) May 16, 2020
Here’s the thing: we’re all stuck at home doing nothing and TV is all we have. Tim Riggins is our friend. Brooke Davis is our girlfriend. Harvey Specter is the cool older brother we strive to emulate. Those are the only people we really feel connected to right now (if you don’t know any of those references, you’re frankly not someone I would want to be friends with).
There has never been a better time to binge-watch shows because it’s the only thing we have to connect with others. You can’t call your grandma every day to see how she’s doing. That will get old quick. “Ohh, you’re feeling lonely because they won’t let you leave your room to play bingo, grandma? Yeah, yeah, whatever, what are your thoughts on the latest episode of ‘Dave?’ I’ll call you in a month.”
As a result, television shows have become the basis of basically all conversation. It’s entertainment, sure, but the real reason we all watch is to talk about it with others. I mean would you seriously waste your time watching a show about dragons if it didn’t give you something to talk about at a party? For a while, you could just bring up Game of Thrones at a social gathering and you were suddenly the cool guy.
Aside from helping you prepare for the most dreaded thing on Earth—small talk—you also want to be able to provide good recommendations at the drop of the hat to look cultured when a friend is in need and (I should stress this) specifically asks you for something to watch. You always want to be a trusted source for recommendations: a sommelier of TV, if you will.
People love to give show suggestions, and if you do your homework by binge-watching, your friend count will skyrocket. There may be nothing humans love more than to give a good recommendation. That feeling of suggesting a show to someone who then watches and approves of your pick is like no other.
Everyone knows that your spot in the social hierarchy of your friend group is based on liking something first and then telling people about it, but that means you need to do your homework and watch at least as many shows as this guy (and even he is still looking for help).
DUDES i need a new tv show to watch!!!!!! here is what i have seen already: pic.twitter.com/oUTtWnN2zU
— JACOB WHITESIDES FAN (@iDreamMagcon) May 3, 2020
Sadly, there’s a darker side to this game: unsolicited recommendations. Whether you’re in the middle of a show or in the process of finding one, people are always throwing their opinions your way for what you need to watch next. “Ohh, you haven’t seen ‘Ozark’ yet? Dude. Duuuuuuude. You have to see it. Finish whatever you’re watching and then watch ‘Ozark.’” How many times have you had that conversation with someone whose opinion you absolutely don’t trust? Probably a lot.
Welcome to my life. After watching 30 episodes where Tommy Shelby does whatever the hell he wants and solidifies himself as the coolest character I have ever laid eyes on (beating Riggins by a slight margin), I’m confused as to what to do now that it’s over.
At the same time, that doesn’t mean I suddenly want people to start giving me unsolicited suggestions on what to watch next. It’s like they’re all trying to draft me into the various television cults they belong to; as if I finished Peaky Blinders and put out some distress signal they’re responding to by singing the praises of Billions and Succession and so many others. I’m over it.
My coworkers keep flooding our group chat with messages urging me to watch The Sopranos. My brother’s telling me I really need to watch The Wire. My doctor is saying I should watch what I eat. It goes on and on. I got so tired of the constant recommendations that I did the unthinkable and gave up looking for a show completely. I did what anyone would do in my frustration: I just started watching nothing but movies and documentaries for a few weeks. It was nice and a much-needed change of pace.
Things were going great until I began to feel the effects of not having a show to call my own. I felt like an outsider. When the topic of shows came up with friends during our weekly virtual poker game, I disclosed I currently was not really watching anything. It took a lot of confidence to admit but I was proud of what I was doing.
I still got some weird looks, though, so I left the FaceTime call immediately using the classic “bad connection” excuse. It was like when the World Health Organization director was asked about Taiwan and suddenly the connection was “disrupted” so he moved right past the question. That was my plan and it was working pretty well until I hopped back on the call.
At that point, the interrogation began. I stood my ground and admitted I wasn’t currently watching a show only to feel like seven years of friendship evaporated in an instant. “So, what should we talk about then?” one friend quipped, followed by a roar of laughter. I was humiliated. I felt like someone who had a flip phone.
They tried to be nice, but I knew our days of smooth conversation were over. I got the “Ohh ok, how’s that going?” pity question followed by them clearly starting a separate group chat without me. I was an outcast. I felt lonely, despaired, and without a lack of purpose. What was I going to talk about in a social setting? Yeah, social settings aren’t really happening at the moment but they’ll be here soon enough and I need to be prepared.
It was fun while it lasted. Not knowing what I was getting into on any given night as I went to bed was a rush. But after I saw the look on my friends’ faces that fateful day, I knew I needed to rejoin society. I would like to say I didn’t cry in the shower, but I also don’t like lying to my readers.
What was even left of the world? When I finished Peaky Blinders, it was like getting out of a long term relationship. I enjoyed being single for a while and having my share of steady one-night streaming stands but now I realized I wanted something more. I wanted to feel again.
It’s been a struggle but I’m proud to say I’ve been slowly getting back onto the TV show scene. I downloaded some of the apps like IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes to try to find the right match. Yes, friends have continued to throw out suggestions but I know none of them know me like Netflix or Hulu. I listened to them but I take their suggestions with a grain of salt, as there’s no algorithm in their little brains picking out the perfect show for me based on my history.
Over the past few weeks, I have noticed that there are three types of “TV Show Watchers” you’ll run into when in the same position as myself and figured I’d put together a quick guide to make it easier for others who might be navigating the same landscape.
1. The Repeaters
If you’re like my roommate or my brother, you don’t care about new content. You know what you like and that’s that. You’re like my grandpa at McDonald’s. He refuses to get anything other than what he has been getting since 1967. It’s been the same order since he first went. Even though I try to explain to him that they have since updated and improved the menu, he still wants his single cheeseburger. Simple. Plain. Even eloquent, in a way.
They know what they like and wonder why they should ever take the risk of being disappointed by trying new things. I respect it. But this group cannot give out quality recommendations because they have no basis for an opinion. If you live in my house on any given day, you’ll see my roommate watching How I Met Your Mother or my brother watching The Office. Ask them why and they’ll tell you it’s because they like it and it’s good “background music.” It’s incredibly fair, and even though they’re both good shows, I’m not looking for background music if I’m going to commit to something.
2. The Experimentals
These guys are the best. They just barrel through shows. They finish one and jump into another on the same night. They don’t get super attached to any specific series because they know in today’s world, there will always be the next great one on another streaming service. They’ll also finish basically anything they start and provide great, honest, and unbiased feedback.
3. The Hesitants
This is where I fall and I think a majority of the population falls into this group as well.
You spend hours and hours “researching” shows and trying to make sure you pick the right one after finishing another. We need some time off for our mental health but also to do some digging before deciding what’s next. We take the time to watch some YouTube videos at night, maybe even going through a few different movies to pass the time, but deep down we know we will hit play on a pilot that seems intriguing at any moment. These people get the highest volume of recommendations thrown their way, and while some can help, most of it is just white noise.
This may only be a “me” thing, but if I am going to invest 60 hours of my life into a new show, I need to know it’s good. As someone who falls into the “Hesitant” category, this has made my journey a bumpy one. It has not been easy trying to fill the Shelby-sized hole in my heart but I know there must be something out there. I’m currently watching Seinfeld, which is definitely great but the episodic sitcom model just doesn’t really do much for me.
With lockdowns slowly ending and my show knowledge quickly disappearing, I’m feeling the pressure. I know any day now I will be forced to attend some lame graduation party on the deck of some family member’s backyard and I pray I’ll have my new talking point when that time comes,. But as someone who takes pride in picking the right shows, I don’t want to rush into anything.
Yeah, I’m anxious but this is life, man. You finish a show, you find a show, you die. Sometimes I wish it were that simple.