I work with some fabulously geeky people in my day job. Hours seem to go by quicker if, say, you’re in the middle of listening to a defence of Alien prequel Prometheus or you’re impressing your colleagues with your flawless (…) rendition of Single Ladies. However, when it comes to the inevitable conversations about the latest and hottest television shows, I’m often left with the bitter, tangy taste of FOMO in my mouth. Fear of Missing Out, of not getting aboard the hype train and being left out of fun, benign conversations because I happen to not have a Sky Atlantic subscription.
And it’s not just the otherwise benign work conversations that tend to leave me feeling like this. For example, earlier this year, in the midst of Poldark fever, it seemed like you couldn’t go anywhere without the media making you question your life choices if you weren’t watching it. And even if you did give it a try – like I did – and didn’t like it, it still felt like you were missing out because it was something that you seemingly couldn’t escape.
Poldark has definitely not been the only television show that played in to that FOMO feeling. Here are three examples from my own experience over the past few years…
At least twice a year, a television show will come along that’s so well-crafted and taut with tension and masterful storytelling, that for about an hour every week the entire of Twitter seems to turn into a running commentary on the show in question. ITV’s Broadchurch, a tense whodunnit set in a sleepy British coastal town, was one of those shows. It had the suspense, it had the cast (Olivia Colman and David Tennant being the leads) and, most of all, it had all the right ingredients to get the nation talking about the mystery at its centre.
Why did I not join in? Much like last year’s smash podcast hit Serial, I had no idea what it was or when it was on until the penultimate episode aired. What’s that, you say? Should have bought a TV guide? Should have put a series link or watched it on catch-up? Yeah, basically any of those, really.
Matthew McConnaughey’s thespian renaissance hit its peak with HBO’s masterful crime drama about a pair of detectives and their pursuit of a serial killer over the course of seventeen years. It was moody, it was broody, and boy, it was beloved. True Detective was a show which caught so many people off guard with its brilliance that it quickly got renewed for a highly anticipated second series.
It’s another example of Peak Twitter Hype – I only heard about True Detective from catching several tweets and retweets from people declaring it The Best Thing on TV in 2014. It sounded fantastic, were it not for the little (and familiar) catch that it aired on Sky Atlantic. So if, like me, you were on Freeview, no McConnaughey for you.
The first time I’d heard of Breaking Bad was when I found the season one DVD at my local DVD shop back home. I gave the little blurb on the back a glance before deciding that, no, a science teacher getting a cancer diagnosis and deciding to turn to making drugs to pay his medical bills didn’t exactly sound like a grand old time. Clearly, I was in the wrong because judging from the Mount Everest of heaps of reverence that Breaking Bad got in the next five years (specifically in the run up to the big finale in 2013), it felt like I’d said “nah, thanks” to the opportunity of resurrecting Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper all at once.
Breaking Bad (along with The Wire, which ended a few months before this show started) has often been hailed as one of the best television shows there ever was. The legacy it left (not to mention the sheer amount of BB-themed merchandise still in shops) will be felt for a good long time. And it certainly feels like it played its cards right and didn’t once slack in pace over its five year run, which is admirable in itself when you think of certain other TV dramas which took a dramatic dip in quality (*cough* DEXTER *cough*).
But I did miss the Heisenboat first time around. And my God, have I been made to feel like a Heisenbugger for it (in exactly those work conversations I was describing earlier, in fact).
If you’re not watching, reading, listening or going to the Latest Big Thing, amidst a mass of people who are, it can feel pretty damn lonely. It sucks to feel like you’re being shamed for not doing something everyone else is out there doing too. But here’s the thing – you don’t need to be doing them. Fear of Missing Out is a state of mind. Not everyone is destined to experience the same things in life, in the same ways, at the same time. It’s okay to miss out sometimes. It’s okay to give that gig a miss or take a rain check on going to that art exhibit. The reason why you’re feeling the FOMO is because when something strikes a chord with people, it can strike pretty hard. People will spread the word, magazines will rhapsodize, Twitter will link you to a million think pieces and before you know it, your nan will be asking you what the heck this Orangina Black thing’s all about.
But if it’s not struck a chord with you, for whatever reason, it’s okay. As I mentioned, I gave Poldark a go, out of curiosity and just couldn’t get into it like everyone else seemingly had. It’s okay not to feel it. It’s okay to not want to “give it time so it’ll grow on you”. TV is TV. Something else will come along that will get your attention and will be the thing you want to set aside an hour a week to watch. And if you do regret not watching the show the first time around, there’s always the box set. Or Netflix, or catch-up.
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