Too spoiled for Breaking Bad: The golden age of television

By Andrew Boschert / Columnist

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I still haven’t watched all of “Breaking Bad.”

It’s not that I don’t have time. Heck, even the boredom that saturated winter break didn’t push me over the edge.

It’s not that I don’t have the means to watch it. These days, it only takes an Internet connection.

It’s not that I can’t get over the hype. I understand why most people throw their heads back in admonishment after hearing I haven’t seen the series from start to finish. The episodes I’ve seen have been engrossing.

So why haven’t I finished one of the most critically acclaimed TV shows of the last decade?

I’m spoiled.

Being a television fan has never been more palatable. Our position in a “Golden Age of Television” is a vast understatement. At the risk of sounding like a Luddite, things weren’t always this way. We 20-somethings are fortunate enough to have largely avoided the “dark ages,” before the integration of streamable televison content, when it was a cycle of identical “family value” sitcoms. 

For decades preceding the advent of on-demand video services like Netflix, family and friends had a uniform taste in television. Watercooler conversations on Monday would always include the same handful of shows. No one was flummoxed at having missed an episode, much less an entire series.

Despite the crumminess of TV in retrospect, it was something Americans all had in common. It was the great common denominator, and we all loved to talk about it. When a truly great show like “Seinfeld” came around, it was all anyone would talk about.

Now, great television doesn’t come around once every five years or so. It’s ubiquitous. 

Netflix alone has a massive stable of acclaimed TV such as “House of Cards,” “Peaky Blinders,” “Derek” and “Orange Is The New Black,” all of which would have received cable television accolades 20 years ago. 

As a result, cable has been stepping up its game, too, peppering its lineups with cinematic-quality flicks.  

This isn’t even taking into account the explosion of YouTube or live-stream sites like Twitch that allow you to experience playthroughs of a game by another person. Entertainment hubs seemingly cater to every niche. 

But there is a discernible downside — everyone is a snob.

I don’t hold particular qualms with snobbery. My standards for movies, in particular, are brazen, outspoken and high. 

Let’s face it: discerning viewers lead the uptick in quality and quantity we see now. 

If I hear another groan for not watching “Game of Thrones,” however, I might have an aneurysm. 

I know it’s good. I know I’ll like it. Yes, the dragon girl does seem cool. I’m sure King Joffrey was infuriating. I just haven’t seen it.

Nearly every other day, a friend tells me I “have” to watch another new show. What’s worse, most of them continue to talk to me about the plot or characters like I have seen it. 

I get it. I have a friend who, for whatever reason, refuses to watch “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.” It’s utterly infuriating. I know how much he would enjoy it, even though he rejects the recommendation. 

While I would normally say this is just a simple case of contrarian-itis, it’s more than that. “It’s Always Sunny” has nine seasons on Netflix. Out of nine seasons, with each episode at 22 minutes long, there’s quite a bit of content to digest. Do I really expect him to watch more than 38 hours of TV just so we can quip back and forth?

We can’t be so indignant when someone’s taste is different, especially since everyone, from grandma to the president, has developed an individual taste in TV. Yes, Netflix has a wide variety of great shows to watch, but we can’t expect viewers to spend hours upon hours delving into every category — it is simply too time-consuming. 

So, while it’s great to share your favorite shows with friends and family, we are lucky enough to live in a time when people can watch a wide variety of shows.

When people tell me that “Mad Men” is boring, I have to remember to hold my tongue. I’ll stop trying to make a case for “Archer” to people who “just don’t get it.” It’s exhausting.

Just stop telling me that I need to watch “Breaking Bad.”

Andrew Boschert writes about a variety of topics, including pop culture and college, for The Pitt News.

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