This Was The Year I Gave Up On The "It" Show

Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/ HBO.
I'm supposed to like the HBO series Girls. It's a show about twentysomething women trying to make it in New York City with a liberal arts education and limited real-world skills. That's basically my LinkedIn tagline. The show is full of quips, it's super-quotable, and everyone I follow on Twitter and Instagram loves it. So I watched the first episode. And the second. I binge-watched the entire first season with my roommate walking by to ask why my expression looked so pained when I was ostensibly watching something for entertainment. But it wasn't entertainment for me; it was the TV equivalent of kale. It was the show I was supposed to watch. In 2016, I'm not doing that anymore.

I've always been appropriately apologetic about the bad TV I embrace — and there's a lot of it. On a Friday night, I might flip between teen aliens having feelings (but not facial expressions) set to angsty '90s pop in Roswell to teen vampires having feelings set to mid-2000s indie pop in The Vampire Diaries to — god help me — Teen Mom. But in any kind of TV-based conversation, I always had a few "it shows" to drag out so I could prove I like Important Pop Culture. I loved Mad Men! I loved the power dynamics and the historical references, not just the (multiple) instances of comically out-of-place gore. I can name a solid 70% of The Game of Thrones characters from last season and possibly even spell the names of up to five. But even with these bits of social currency, the conversation invariably moves to shows I apparently just have to watch. Because I will love them. Because they are the best and everyone must love them.

With Netflix comes the pressure to like shows that I could have opted out of simply because between 1990 and 2013, I was basically allowed to watch the Disney Channel and Little House on the Prairie. With steaming options, I've had to think long and hard about why, exactly, I don't understand the obvious comic brilliance of Seinfeld. Because explaining I saw half a rerun about vomiting up a black and white cookie and thought, I'm out, does not suffice.

Friday Night Lights
has become a boomerang show in my queue, because every time I decide, definitively, that whether or not these peoples' eyes are clear and hearts are full and I don't care if they lose, another person insists I need to watch it. The pitch is exactly the same, whether it's coming from a twentysomething guy or sixtysomething woman: "It's so amazing, and it's really, really not about football." And I understand what they're saying — there are larger themes at play, there's family tension, love triangles, and class divides over the backdrop of football. But I can't help watching and thinking that these characters could get rid of a lot of stress if they just skipped the whole football thing. Maybe get really into debate team or something less dangerous. This frame of mind does not make for a great viewing experience.

These are far from the only "must-see" shows I sat through. Thanks to peer pressure stronger than anything I felt in middle school, I've pushed through episodes of Broad City, read think piece after think piece on Breaking Bad, and tried to understand both seasons of True Detective. I can already sense the pressure to get into hyped 2016 series, like AMC's Preacher and HBO's Westworld. I'm never going to stop trying new shows. But my pop culture resolution for 2016 is firm. No matter how many friends gush that such-and-such is the best show ever, no matter how many sites dub it the show to watch, if it's not my thing, I'm not doing it. I have plenty episodes of 30 Rock I need to rewatch, anyway.
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