Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Monday, September 16, 2013

how I horrified Ross Douthat


It was easy. I just confessed that I don't watch Breaking Bad.


Or maybe the crazy thing is that I don't watch the show but still read about it, I'm not sure — Ross seemed pretty distraught and I didn't want to insist on clarification.

But given some of the feedback I've received, maybe I should clarify my own position. First of all, an important fact I didn't mention in my previous post: until I moved to Texas a couple of months ago, I hadn't had cable TV for nearly a decade. So for much of that time my access to our era's most-celebrated TV shows (The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, etc.) was iffy: only some were available on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, and intermittently, and at variable prices. But I could have found a way, sure: so why didn't I?

The answer is very simple: often I would think to myself, Do I want to start watching Show X? — and then my answer would be, No, I think I'd rather read. That's all. That's the full explanation. When faced with a choice between watching a TV show or a movie and reading a book or even the articles in my Instapaper queue, I almost always end up choosing to read because, as I noted in my previous post, reading is just what I do.

But I'm not at all sure that my choice is always the best one. The more I learn about Breaking Bad the more I wish I had picked it up somewhere along the way, early enough that I wouldn't have a great deal of laborious catching-up to do. (And before I read so much about it.)  But that ship has sailed, I think.

I bring all this up because I think it's worth noting that over time we all develop what I might call a default medium — that is, when looking for entertainment, each of us tends to gravitate towards one medium or medium-plus-genre as the first choice. (So not just "reading" but "mystery novels" or "newspaper journalism"; not just "TV" but "nature documentaries" or "dramatic series" or "sitcoms.") Defaults can be overridden, of course, but they can be strong, and I suspect they get stronger with time.

2 comments:

  • I don't watch many movies or shows either. My default medium is having a sporting event on TV while poking around online, sometimes with the computer also playing music.

    I'm not at all sure that my choice is always the best one.

  • I don't know if it's too late. I think most of these shows are better digested when they aren't released according to the network schedules. I'm glad I was able to catch up with THE WIRE long after it had aired (and yes, it really is as good as its reputation).

    I'll probably catch up with BREAKING BAD in a year or so, when it's all available on Netflix and I can bend it to fit my schedule, rather than the other way around.

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