Do You Suffer From DVR Deficiency? Wrestling the Sunday Night FOMT Paradox

FOMT! (HBO)

FOMT! (HBO)

Back in the old days, the only thing you could watch on Sunday nights was 60 Minutes. Maybe The Simpsons, if your parents were cool. (Old days, in this context, refers to the mid-90s.) Now our weekends are cut short by a mounting anxiety attack over what to watch once the sun goes down on the Sabbath day: True Detective or Cosmos? Girls or Lindsay? Looking or…watching the paint dry on the wall because who the hell wants to watch Looking? Shameless or The Walking Dead? Resurrection or The Voice?

Sure, we have DVRs, but they can only record so much. And it’s getting to be a problem, thanks to social media and something I’m calling FOMT, or “Fear of Missing Television.”

David Carr’s essay yesterday, “Barely Keeping Up in TV’s New Golden Age,” was a rallying cry for all of us who feel like they’re starting their week already behind on water cooler conversation.

On the sidelines of the children’s soccer game, or at dinner with friends, you can set your watch on how long it takes before everyone finds a show in common. In the short span of five years, table talk has shifted, at least among the people I socialize with, from books and movies to television. The idiot box gained heft and intellectual credibility to the point where you seem dumb if you are not watching it.

Mr. Carr was perhaps more prescient than he even knew, since no less than 24 hours after his article went online, people on Twitter were losing their freaking minds because HBOGo, the streaming website for streaming the premium cable’s content in real time, crashed when too many users tried to simultaneously watch the finale of the cult show True Detective. Call it a win for those of us who had to listen to friends self-righteously claim to “not own a TV” for years, knowing all this time that what they really meant is that they were watching on their laptops.  

And what’s it all for? That a few of us got to talk about the Lawnmower Man’s amaaaaaazing British accent and witness the grossest sex scene in television history? Not really, since the number of people bitching about not being able to watch True Detective far outweighed those who actually felt comfortable talking about the program without fear of being chastised for “spoilers.”

In the end, does it even matter if we watched Rust Cohle or Neil deGrasse Tyson talk about the stars? If we found ourselves equally repelled and transfixed by the depth of narcissism in Lindsay Lohan and Hannah Horvath? We are all TV experts now, and missing an episode, even delaying it by several weeks, has the equivalent shame associated with haven’t having time to read The Flamethrowers or the weekend Times. Deep down we know it might not be possible to consume all the media, but there’s something about FOMT that makes us feel particularly slothful: that the former idiot box has somehow surpassed our mental bandwidth.