There was a time not long ago when the contents of my DVR consisted only of 2 episodes of Teen Wolf. As of this week, that has all changed. The DVR now has to maintain a very carefully cultivated schedule of series recordings (prioritized in order of importance, of course) and keeping up with them will basically become a full-time job, in addition to the actual full-time (and then some) job I already have.
To give you an idea, here is my planned fall viewing schedule. Keep in mind that the number of shows listed here practically doubles when you factor in the mid-season, summer, and Netflix shows I watch, which I have chosen not to list for simplicity’s sake and also because the full list would make me look like a crazy person.
Mondays: The Originals (CW)
Tuesdays: New Girl (Fox), The Mindy Project (Fox), Person of Interest (CBS)
Wednesdays: The 100 (CW), American Horror Story (FX)
Thursdays: Bones (Fox), The Vampire Diaries (CW), Scandal (ABC), How to Get Away With Murder (ABC), Parenthood (NBC)
I actually find this schedule to be totally doable. Only Thursdays are problematic, but that is to be expected.
The first step in not letting yourself be overwhelmed by the return of fall TV is to prioritize. Most of the time, it is not likely you will be able to watch everything live or even the night it airs. For me, Scandal is a top priority because the show is such a social media phenomenon that you cannot expect to log onto the internet and not be spoiled if you haven’t seen it yet. It is the only show of the fall where I plan to actively avoid Twitter during the east coast airing. Shows can also be priorities for other reasons. Anyone who knows me or follows me on Twitter knows I have been a huge champion of The Mindy Project from the beginning, and it has become one of my absolute favorite shows currently on the air. My roommate recently congratulated me because during last year’s season premiere, he saw my one lone weekly tweet about how everyone should be watching this show, but this season he saw many more of our friends tweeting about it. My work here is done. I prioritize this show because it makes me happy, and I genuinely look forward to it more than almost anything else. Also, my inclusion of Person of Interest is slightly cheating because it’s the show I work on, and while that definitely makes it a priority, I usually see the episode several times before the actual broadcast, making the DVR recording of it more of a formality.
In addition to having prioritizes, you need to just accept that there will be weeks, or even months, where you fall hopelessly behind, and your DVR lingers near the 80% full mark, and you start wondering if your friends would really care if you canceled the brunch plans you’ve had for 3 weeks just so you can relieve some of your DVR anxiety. This is going to happen, and it will be fine. There will inevitably be a blissfully empty weekend day or sick day where you can devote a few hours to catching up, and in the meantime, life will go on. For example, I know that I am basically never going to be able to watch all 5 Thursday shows on Thursdays. As discussed, Scandal takes top priority. I regularly shame co-workers who come to the office on Friday without having seen it, and I need to follow my own example. Vampire Diaries used to be a top priority for me, but that changed with its very underwhelming fifth season. This will be my first (and, sadly, last) season watching Parenthood as it airs after marathoning the early seasons over the summer, so I am looking forward to getting to participate in social media conversations about it for the first time. Bones is a sentimental favorite. I watched the pilot live when it aired in 2005 and have never missed an episode, and it is hard to believe that it is going into its TENTH season. You may have noticed that How to Get Away With Murder is the only new show on the list. I was personally underwhelmed by this fall’s new shows, although I did very much enjoy an early screener of the HTGAWM pilot and am looking forward to tuning in for episode two. In Shonda we trust. If I hear, however, amazing things about another new show, I will definitely think about catching up later. But the bottom line is, if I was only able to watch Scandal on a Thursday, it would be okay. I would be stressed, but it would be okay.
Another important part of keeping your television viewing under control is not being afraid to let shows go. This fall, I have dropped Modern Family and Homeland– both shows I used to enjoy greatly that gradually lost the magic for me. The way I can tell that it’s time to give something up is if watching it begins to feel like a chore or an obligation. These shows are always the last thing left on your DVR at the end of the week, and the only reason you watch them is so that you can see that beautiful “0% full” (I actually don’t know if I have ever seen that). If you give something up only to hear from your friends that it got back to being amazing, you can always catch up! But it is important to remember that the point of television is to enjoy watching it, and if a show is no longer firmly in this category for you it does not deserve your time.
When considering your fall TV schedule, I also think it’s important to have a balance of different shows to match your different moods. Each show I watch fulfills a different TV viewing need for me (although I will say that nothing has filled the Smash-sized hole in my heart since its departure). I have Mindy when I want to laugh. I have Scandal when I want to be shocked. I have Parenthood when I want to cry. I have American Horror Story when I want something that is batshit crazy in the best way possible. Bones is basically a comfort food for me- I have spent 9 seasons with these characters, and they basically feel like my friends (does that sound pathetic? It might be pathetic). For a TV fan, fall can be the most wonderful time of the year, as long as you don’t let the DVR anxiety get the best of you.