The pressure of modern tv shows: ‘watch before you die’ or you miss the hype


BENGALURU: One of the perils of modern urban life is the number of things to ‘catch up’ on. All the names and references, the movies and TV shows. The ‘films to watch before you die’ and the ‘once-in-a-lifetime TV experiences’. It sometimes gets a bit too much. Especially considering much of the content we consume – tweets, memes and videos – revolve around popular culture.

Growing up in a small town did not help matters for me. Life in Bhubaneswar revolved around meeting friends at chai shops in the evening, discussing the state of the world, and retiring home when the sun set. The only English movies that I watched were the ones regurgitated by Star Movies, and a few unmentionable ones when the cable operator felt adventurous. Music was limited to Bhajans and film songs played by radio jockeys on rainy nights.

It was only when I moved to a ‘city’ did I realise how much ‘catching up’ there was to do. A course in journalism exposed me to the black hole of all the books, movies and TV shows that I had missed out on in life. I had no idea that Papa Roach was a rock band – I assumed it was a kids’ television show.
There were books that I had to read, and ‘TV shows to watch before I died’. I somehow dislike the tone of such articles; setting imaginary deadlines for people before their death. The next few years of my life were spent in locking myself in my room and ‘catching up’. Since I had an interest in reviewing films and film criticism, I found myself constantly lost when references were dropped in articles.

Which was when I fell trap to one of the most common phenomena in our urban lives today – THE HYPE. The Hype is an event that takes place in a seemingly harmless manner. A friend is chilling with you and casually brings up a movie or TV show. You are asked if you’ve watched it and you shake your head. ‘What?’ comes the condescending shock – ‘You haven’t watched THAT show? Oh my god! You MUST watch it’.

What follows is a modern, digital form of shaming. Like the moment in Mahabharata when little Ashwatthama is mocked for not having tasted milk. You find yourself promising to the other person that you shall watch the show. A casual discussion has somehow turned into an unbreakable vow. You end up feeling like Bheeshma, having taken up a terrible vow that will end your life. You are then told by the friend that it is the GREATEST show ever made. Ever. The fact is never corroborated with facts and figures, it is the accepted truth.

That is how I was emotionally blackmailed into watching the Game of Thrones. It has been my longest relationship with a show, even surpassing my Harry Potter phase – which appeared and zipped past before I knew it. Every year, I watch the show every Monday for a month, and spend the rest of the year discussing the show and its many theories.

With the last season of the show beginning this week, I have decided to retire from this field. The series will be my swan song of ice and fire. It has been eight years, and I’m sure there will always be movies that I must watch before I die.(The author is a writer and a stand-up comedian)


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