Gupta: Preparing for fall primetime

By Ragini Grace Gupta

With school in session and a crisp chill in the air, the start of fall TV shows is just around… With school in session and a crisp chill in the air, the start of fall TV shows is just around the corner. While true and trained primetime television patrons have already scoped out their options, set up each day’s viewing schedule and familiarized themselves with integral characters and continuing storylines, there is still time if you haven’t started yet.

There are at least five main players in terms of channels — even more if you’re a high roller and have networks like HBO and Bravo. This means there are at least five shows playing at any given time after 8 p.m. — but sadly, there’s only one of you. And unfortunately, you can’t have somebody watch a show for you and truly enjoy it for all it has to offer.

There are a few solutions. First, you could get DVR, but that requires some cash and digital cable. Second, you could catch reruns later in the week. Unfortunately, they’re generally on a Friday night, which means they’ll cut into your social time. And surely someone will have spoiled it for you by that point. Ultimately, the fact is that you’ll have to be discriminatory in the shows you watch.

Picking shows is not child’s play. Like a large purchase, it requires an investment of resources, like time. There is also a cost to picking a bad show. While you waste time watching a mediocre show, you’re missing award-winning shows on other channels. So pick wisely.

There are a few key things to consider when picking programs. Ideally content is most important. Maybe there were some ads that caught your eye during the summer. Check those out to see if the actual plot lines and characters are as thrilling as the ads made them out to be. TV websites are great for this. While you’re there, check out the other shows that are airing on that channel. Hopefully you’ll pick up a few more viable candidates.

A word about continuing series — ask yourself how much you liked the last season. Did you watch because nothing else good was on or was it truly a core-shaking experience? Is the series just dragging on now or does it still have some meat in it? Get rid of any junk in the entertainment closet you’ve got in your brain so you can make room for the new stuff. There are only so many hours of primetime in a week.

So you’ve got the players, now you’ve got to arrange them on the field. The best shows run during the week between 8 and 11 p.m. Technically, you could regularly watch 15 shows. But let’s be sensible. You’d probably mix up characters and storylines if you watched that many. Programs will also start to look alike because there are only so many worthwhile plots. Last year, the similarities between The CW’s Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill were annoying.  Around the same time, cancer struck moms in both shows. In both finales last spring, main characters were shot. TV watchers want variety!

Plus, you have other obligations, like night labs and those 6-8:30 classes, which are sure to eat into coveted tube time. If you can switch out of those time slots, it may be wise to do so — it’s a worthwhile sacrifice. There are also meetings and team practices. It’s up to you to decide which shows and which obligations are more important.

If you follow multiple series, mark them on your schedule, at least at first, to make sure they don’t conflict with each other or with academic or social engagements. Picking multiple shows on the same channel decreases the physical possibility of having multiple shows playing at the same time, but increases the likelihood of similar story elements. Take the shows you shortlisted in the beginning and any continuing series you have deemed worthy of your future commitment and put them into a schedule to remind you of when you must be in front of the telly.

And finally, make sure to put a cap on the hours you spend in front of the boob tube. While it’s fine to schedule in your “faves” during the week, try not to neglect your own life’s drama in exchange for HBO’s. And above all, avoid TV show marathons or risk finding yourself wondering where the past 10 hours of your life have gone.

E-mail Ragini at [email protected]