I Can’t Take the Drama

I‘ve written about how I’ve pretty much given up TV. This is nothing new. I haven’t started watching a new show, or continued watching an existing show for two years now. When the Internet explodes with some spoiler bombshell about a television show, I generally have no idea what its about, although I may have heard of the show.

Sometimes, however, the brain needs a break, and by break, I mean something completely mindless. This has occurred more frequently in the last month. I don’t know if this is because of all of the mental energy I spend reading and writing, or if is the result of daily stress, or just a side-effect of getting older. Whatever the reason, I find myself needing to tune out for a while. And so I’ve turned to television.

After the kids are asleep, Kelly and I will watch a show or two. It is almost always one of three shows, always a repeat, and always a comedy. Usually it is either The Big Bang Theory (no real surprise there); How I Met Your Mother; or Modern Family. We laugh together, and I feel relaxed and refreshed afterward.

One thing that I can no longer take, however, not even for two minutes are television dramas1. Even hearing a drama on in the background will force me to relocate, or fish out my noise-cancelling headset. Comedies release tension and allow me to relax; television dramas do the exact opposite. I was thinking about why this should be and I came up with a few possibilities:

  1. There is enough drama in real-life so that I don’t need it seeping into my relaxation time.
  2. I no longer find dramas entertaining. These days, it seems that almost all dramas have been forced to become serials, as opposed to series. Story lines last entire seasons and some are designed with multi-season story arcs built-in. Gone are the days of Magnum P.I. when you could be entertained by any single episode, without having to first watch the 50 that came before.
  3. In the effort to get the highest ratings, dramas up the melodrama to the point where it is just unbearable. Story lines seem to be based entirely on edge-cases these days, with no happy middle ground.

It’s too much for me. There is enough drama in life. Add to that the drama I experience in my reading, to say nothing of the drama I create in my writing, and I think I’m pretty much finished with television dramas for good. This trend of binge-watching seasons of dramas on NetFlix and other streaming services fills me with cold dread.

I recognize that I might be missing out, but I just can’t take the drama. As interesting as the Internet made Breaking Bad sound, I’ve never seen a single episode, and I’m almost certain I never will. On the flip side, the time that I would spend watching these dramas has been filled with other things; more time to hang out with the family, and time to write every day.

While I usually avoid making sweeping assumptions, it seems to me that I can’t be the only one who feels this way about this trend with dramas. Perhaps I am now in the wrong demographic, but it seems to me that the pendulum has to swing back at some point. I wonder if it ever will?

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  1. Which, for Puckish reasons, I’ve taken to pronouncing in such a way that its rhymes with “gramma.”

12 thoughts on “I Can’t Take the Drama

  1. I understand your resistance, but since you mention Breaking Bad specifically:

    It is a brilliant show – probably the best of the last 20 years, and there are many things a writer can learn from it. Virtually every episode is a master class in storytelling, characterization and plotting.

    So, if you ever fall to the temptation to watch it, that’s your Justification Card.

  2. I can’t do many of the drama shows, especially the high violence ones. Definitely can’t bear reality tv. Some of the dramas do hook me, however, like Blacklist and Elementary. I think it depends on how intriguing I find the characters.

    I, too, prefer comedies to unwind. Big Bang Theory (who can resist!) and Modern Family are our current two favorites.

    Overall, I’m trying to limit tv watching — so easy to eat up a big chunk of one’s life just sitting there mindlessly watching!

  3. I feel much the same about US TV. You guys get quite a raw deal – and I know because we get loads of it here in the UK too. The quality of UK drama is exceptionally good at the moment, and I find it very relaxing.

  4. Try “Almost Human”. It’s a SciFi-Cop Show with a lot of good comedy elements in it. It only has a very superficial red line going through all episodes which you don’t need to follow and you only need to see the first episode to get a sense of the basics. All other episodes stand on their own. It’s just a good buddy-movie style story, nice and easy.

  5. Michael, I think it has less to do with the quality of story-telling than my available reservoir of tolerance for drama in general. It seems to me that the gimmicks used to advance story telling in dramas today sap the reservoir more quickly than, say, reading a book or writing does. And I find myself thinking more about the storytelling than what’s going on in the show. (I’ll say things to Kelly like, “See what just happened there? That’s going to setup some line of dialog later in the show, watch and see.”) I’m not saying the comedies are high-minded. They distract me brain enough to help me relax.

  6. Like a clever fish, I’ve learned to avoid the hook. I’m not sure how I do this mechanically, other than to say that I simply flip a metaphorical switch in my head, and think, “Ah what the heck, I give up, I’m just not watching the show anymore.” At first it might be tough, but I’ve quickly found that the universe does not come to an end if I don’t watch the next season of Sherlock and find out how and why Holmes faked his own death. It’s just not that important to me in the scheme of things.

  7. David, I have no doubt the show is brilliant. But my reservoir for television drama has run dry. Even the brilliant stuff is too much for me. But I will keep the show in mind, if that reservoir is ever filled again. 🙂

  8. Jamie,

    Always great to read another post. I think I totally agree with you…. (And now I’m going to completely contradict myself) except for Agents of Shield…
    It’s detached enough from reality that it feels more relaxing. As far as non-fiction drama goes, I can’t take it.

    Suggestions for hanging out drama free without having to watch something: stream a radio episode of “This American Life” or “A Prairie Home Companion”. Andrea and I do this often and love it.

  9. I could not agree more! I used to like dramas and then my life in the last few years gave me enough drama to last a lifetime (death of a close loved one, several chronic illnesses myself, black mold in our home, a child w/ a health problem even the specialists are baffled by, etc).

    So I have given up TV, too, but if I’m going to watch something (which is VERY rare), I have to agree, it will be “Big Bang Theory.” I’ve seen all the episodes pretty much until this season. They’re just waiting for me on Tivo when I can finally stomach TV again. But they break the rules with me. That show is just plain funny!

    One alternative I’ve found that I enjoy are TED talks on YouTube. There are so many of them you can be pretty selective. I like to learn, being “entertained” is something different.

    I’m not sure if TV has changed all that much or just I have. But I can’t even stomach the news anymore (says the formal journalism student).

    Living life is enough. Keeping things simple is my focus. Enjoying my family and my passions and finding what truly makes me happy are where I’d much rather spend my time. 🙂

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