The newest Nielsen numbers are in, and lo and behold, in America we watch an average of 34 hours of television a week, almost as much as another full time job. It’s only a 1% increase from last year, but it’s still a ridiculous number, and it makes me wonder, what the hell are people watching?
People always ask me if I just sit around watching TV all day for my job. The answer is no. With the amount of work I have to do, I have to be very focused on what my “leisure” time consists of. I may watch 3-5 shows a week, and on some weeks, I might even get through an entire season of a show all at once, like how I did twelve episodes of Boardwalk Empire last week. But even with this, I’m nowhere close to this 34 hours, and granted I don’t have a family, but that number just seems absurd to me.
The article I’m citing notes that there are now six cable shows about auctioneers or pawnbrokers on TV now, and all of them are considered hits by their networks. There has been a shift in many channels to cater more toward casual viewers, meaning people who will watch anything with the slightest amount of drama. The Discovery Channel, The History Channel and The Learning Channel are no longer about learning at all, rather they focus on crafting a show after every vaguely interesting job in the country, though they’re reaching new levels of absurdity with niche programs like “Swap Loggers” or “Ice Road Truckers.” It’s also no surprise that in a culture where 30% of the population is obese, there are multiple shows about making cakes on the air that score big ratings.
Reality TV is a big part of this increase as there are simply MORE shows to consume now that require almost no thought. The opposite is true too however, as channels like FX, TNT, USA and AMC are stepping up where the main networks are failing to give us quality programs on a weekly basis, not to mention pay channels like HBO, Showtime and Starz doing the same thing.
But even still, 34 hours? If that’s one person, I guarantee they weigh 300 pounds, if it’s a family, their kids need to be signed up for sports and doing their homework. Even as a voracious consumer of media myself, I have to say there isn’t 34 hours of TV worth watching every week, and you’re wasting huge amounts of time devoting most of your non-work waking hours to these shows.