Mom used to make me eat my peas so I could watch The Drew Carey Show on Wednesday nights. It aired at 7, so I better get chomping.

Today, I’ll drink mixes based on pea protein. Also, I have no idea why anyone would watch The Drew Carey Show. I guess it was the comfort of something regular and routine. I’m sure I watched a lot of television growing up, but I only remember really going out of my way to see Drew Carey. No taping, no DVR, no streaming – just the broadcast on Wednesday nights with commercials. I was either there, or I was eating peas.

The other day I counted up that I was keeping tabs on upwards of 15 different programs. From the stuff that airs on network (via Hulu) to premium cable to Netflix. We cut the cable when we moved into our new house. We’ve been reliant on TV-via-internet for a while now which gives us some flexibility in what we watch and when we watch it.

When the math was said and done, we’re looking at about 12 hours of programs a week to keep up on. Looking at the queue today, we have 11 unwatched episodes of Fox’s New Girl. We used to watch it religiously (Nick Miller is my spirit animal), and then a sour run of episodes left us with a feeling of “why bother”ness. Barring intense illness, we will never catch up on that show.

Then I kept mixing up which characters were in what show. The timelines, the nights they aired, and who was dating who – what happened last week?

Then – fuck it. What am I actually missing here? So I declared my own little private TV bankruptcy. With all this programming to catch up on, we were eating meals in front of the TV, compromising bedtimes and books that had to be read. Laundry was unfolded and the housework went to the fray – all for the fictional lives of others. At 12 hours a week.

Like the exclusionary diet principle – when you remove everything and only start to add back a little at a time the focus starts to return to what you’re consuming. Then you can start to see how really good, or really bad, the programs are that you’re watching.

And there are rules to this:

  • If you have a second screen going (your phone, tablet, laptop) where you’re checking Facebook or email or texts, then whatever is happening on your first screen isn’t that important and is probably a show you can chop.
  • No bingeing. I know you can, but should you? Television has almost always been written to be episodic – to account for time between episodes and for each episode to be taken in with a totally fresh perspective. If they wanted to tell a season-long story that was meant to be watched in one sitting, they would have written an epic movie.
  • Limit the studio audience. Maybe this is just me, maybe I have horrible audio on my television. The sound of the live studio audience present at the filming of something like The Daily Show or Saturday Night Live is rather hard to take. The producers like it because it brings an energy to a show. Afterward, I just feel exhausted.
  • None of these rules apply to Game of Thrones.