Not Missing 'Mad Men'

So Mad Men is done. I’m glad. I didn’t think the show was nearly as good as others did. I started becoming increasingly bored around season 3 or 4. Now I don’t have to think about it.

But this really isn’t about Mad Men, but rather time and entertainment. I watch very little of anything. What I do watch (usually a couple hours per week, tops), has for a long time been a mix of movies and TV series. I’ve seen some really excellent TV in the past few years (The Wire, The Shield, Breaking Bad, Black Mirror, Sherlock, The Fall). But I’ve also started to question the ROI of TV, even for the good shows.

When I finish a show like The Shield I think, “Wow, what a great show, that was really worth it.” And then I finish a movie like A Separation and think, “Wow, what a great show, that was really worth it”. In both cases I’m satisfied at the time. But then I start reviewing the time invested:

The Shield: 66 hours
A Separation: 2 hours

I could have watched 33 movies in the time spent watching The Shield. So how do the experiences compare over that time? I think I overly inflate the quality of TV episodes in retrospect. If the show was good, the whole lot gets a good grade. But if I think back to stupid subplots that went nowhere and irritating characters that hung around for a season, then I start to recall the tiresome stretches. There are plenty of boring movies too, no matter how hard I tried to mine ratings and recommendations to avoid them. But some key difference exist that suggest movies are a better choice:

  • A movie offers a relatively new experience, as compared to the next episode in a TV series.
  • Movies are usually structured to resolve, not leave one salivating for the next episode
  • There is no series investment (i.e. my yawning through three seasons of Mad Men because I’d already watched the previous four).

To be fair, movies also require a longer continuous chunk of time. They also require more mental energy to lock on to the new characters and plot. When I’m exhausted and just want some relaxation or distraction, a TV show is often desireable.

I’m happy Mad Men is done, and I’ll be happy when House of Cards is done too. At that point I’ll be TV debt free. I’ve already started watching more movies, though it seems like TV series are nearly unavoidable when choosing what’s next to watch. I’ve not written off TV, but I’m going to very cautious before signing up for more long-running shows.

ah… blog post is done. What to do now? Hmmm, “The Blacklist”. I’ve heard that’s pretty good…