But more and more, the streaming era is also coming to be defined by a constant, overwhelming feeling of excess. (Netflix has been at the forefront of this content deluge, and last month’s manic release schedule suggests that the company has little interest in slowing down.) There are too many shows, most of them drag on for too many seasons, and even the ones that once seemed to have quite definitively ended (et tu, Roseanne?) are now returning in rebooted, zombified forms. And even though we haven’t yet found a way to add more hours to the day, there’s still this impossible cultural pressure to watch all of it, to cover the bases on every possible water-cooler conversation (especially since these conversations are now happening incessantly, and publicly, on social media). At best, this means there is an unprecedented number of good shows to choose from, but at worst it also means that “catching up on TV” has come to feel like a second-shift job, far from the relaxing diversion it once was. Half the time I’m watching something anymore, I’m thinking about what I’m supposed to be catching up on next, usually with the begrudging feeling of a chore. I miss when TV felt less like washing the dishes.
Thank heavens when I grew up there was no streaming, no DVRs, and just--count 'em--four TV channels.