TV can be a wonderful break away from the mundanity of the everyday. But, was that only back in the day? Is everything all just a little bit - “Have you seen X TV show? What do you mean you haven’t watched it yet?!” - these days? It can be overwhelming.
To prove our point, let’s take a trip back down memory lane. Being a ‘90s kid (complaints on a postcard, please), the talk of the TV show town during the decade are still being discussed today. Iconic shows such as ‘Friends’, ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, ‘Xena: Warrior Princess’, ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’, and ‘The Simpsons’ all began then. ‘The Sopranos’, which first aired in 1999, has often been regarded as one of the best TV series of all time. And yet all of them, in their own right, are still analysed, obsessed over, and watched in 2021.
From an Irish perspective, ‘Reeling in the Years’ kicked off in 1999, which looked back at life in the ‘80s for Ireland and the rest of the world - and here we are still obsessed with it to this day. A special shout out to that ‘Glenroe’ theme song too, which will always haunt our Sunday night fever dreams.
And this is just one decade, and eight different TV shows. The tip of the iceberg. If we cast our minds further back, to the ‘80s and beyond, TV was a time for giddiness, enjoyment, and a chance for us all to sit around and watch what was on the box that evening. Sure, there were arguments over the remote, but you still sat and watched 'Sex and the City' whether you wanted to or not.
There was nothing like the thrill of going into school or work the next day to pick apart the TV schedule from the night previous. Running in to dissect what had happened on 'LOST' on RTÉ 2, or whether anyone had seen the latest guest on 'The Podge and Rodge Show' was the order of the day.
Nowadays, however, those moments have all but gone. Sure, terrestrial TV still exists but there's been a dramatic overhaul in how we watch it. Let's say you miss an episode of 'The Great British Bake Off' - what do you do? Go onto the All 4 player. It's that grey area of timing your day, which we all used to do back then, that is both a blessing and a curse.
While it's truly groundbreaking that we can now go about our busy days knowing that that specific episode will be there to watch when we're ready later in the week (praying that we manage to avoid spoilers), it also thrusts us down that rabbit hole which we are all guilty of doing - endlessly scrolling as we choose what we're in the mood to watch.
Research conducted by entertainment.ie in October 2020 shows that eight out of ten people who visit our site have an on demand subscription. Netflix easily came out on top with 95% of those surveyed saying that have a subscription to the service, while half of the people surveyed have more than one on demand account.
In March last year, Disney+ launched into the Irish market, joining the ranks of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, NOW, Hayu, and other on demand/terrestrial TV subscriptions like Sky, Eir, Vodafone, and Virgin Media. This means there are currently at least 10 paid subscription services available should you be looking for either an on demand or TV subscription.
Does the market feel a little overwhelming as a viewer? Absolutely.
This past March, another streaming service entered the fray over in the States; the previously titled CBS All Access rebranded itself as Paramount+. Rumour has it that the service is looking to launch in Europe later this year.
If you only have one service that you pay for (whether by choice or by limiting your spending each month), chances are that you're missing out on shows on other platforms that have people abuzz. Even if it's not a new TV series or movie, but one from years ago that you missed out on, with all of the new content currently hitting our screens, those must-watch picks slowly get kicked further down your "must watch" list. Will you ever get around to watching them? Or will you give into the pressure of watching a new series that you never heard of that your friend said was "totally you"?
Furthermore, does anyone remember much of these shows, really? Once you've binged on one series over the course of a weekend, how much of it will you actually remember before starting a new one? In some way, we've all become feral TV savages, always on the hunt for our next meal. We're not given any time to digest what's unfolded before us, and yet we're already lining up what will come after.
But this isn't our fault. TV companies need to stay relevant. They need to create that groundbreaking series that breaks the fourth wall, or that hollow reality show that we can't help but be hypnotised by. We also need to justify our purchase. If a streaming platform isn't delivering the goods each month, are we going to keep paying for it? Of course not.
Bringing quality into the equation (having to sit through a TV series that you're trying to get into, but just aren't, is painful), there are still thousands of series in the world today, with thousands more the horizon. For every golden nugget (for example, 'Ozark'), there's at least three or four average to abysmal TV series waiting in the wings. But even the trash takes a while to be taken out, oftentimes being favoured over the treasure.
The bare-bones is this - we're swarmed with choice. Too much choice. Our timelines are flooded with original series, adaptations, reboots, and spin-offs, all created to line the pockets of the wealthy business people.
These series are created with us, the viewer, in mind. But are we not the ones who are losing out in all of this, both financially thanks to multiple subscriptions required and emotionally due to the effort to just keep up?
Imagine how nice it would be if we all just subscribed to one sole subscription service where everything was available... We'll keep on dreaming.