How to Avoid Getting Sucked In by Fall TV

Along with colder weather and a new school year, the fall brings the return of most TV shows. Once the shows premiere, it’s easy to waste hours you could otherwise be using. Here are my strategies for enjoying the shows I like without getting sucked into stuff I have no interest in watching.

Choose Your Fall TV Shows before They Air
I used to subscribe to TV Guide and would eagerly flip through the new fall premiere guide. I paid special attention to programs that had good buzz. That’s one way I found West Wing, which is one of my favorite shows of all time. Once I knew what I wanted to watch and noted the premiere dates in my calendar, I could tune in at exactly those times.

Don’t Turn On the TV before the Show Is On
There are four shows I currently enjoy. Three of them are on Sunday, so I tune in to them when they start, and then turn the TV off afterwards. The other show I like is on Monday. Again, I turn on the TV when it starts and then turn the TV off afterwards. I also enjoy the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. We watch the 8PM broadcast, usually only the first half of each show, and read email for the last half. We’re never tempted to watch the follow-up shows because we’ve already left the room.

Tune Out the Commercials
If you have a DVR, skipping commercials is easy. If you don’t, then you have two options: tape shows to watch the next day and fast-forward, or leave the room when commercials are on. We don’t have a DVR, so we just go to the bathroom, refill our glasses, or answer email while the commercials are on.

Wait Until a Show Has Buzz
It used to be that you had to watch a show from the beginning of the season or you wouldn’t understand it if you tuned in later. Now you can wait until a show develops buzz, and you know it will survive cancellation. If a show you were tentative about turns out to be a hit, you can easily find those episodes online so you can catch up.

Wait and Rent the Whole Season
A lot of people are opting not to watch broadcast TV at all, and instead wait until the whole season is available on DVD so they can watch it all at once. I did something similar with season 1 of Weeds, which I discovered on Demand, and the first part of season 1 of Heroes, which I watched online.

Don’t Turn on the TV Looking for Something to Watch
You can always find something to watch, but it might not be good. Instead, keep a book handy so you can read a chapter rather than turn on the TV. Once you sit down with the intent of just watching something, you’ll probably watch the next thing and the thing after that.

How is this related to personal finance? Well, if you don’t see commercials, you’ll be less tempted to buy stuff you don’t need. You’ll also be happier not seeing infuriating commercials or political ads. When you’re not watching TV, you can use that time you would otherwise waste doing things to improve your mind or even developing a money-producing hobby. This is not to say I don’t like TV. I love TV. I get excited when the shows I want to watch are on, and I do enjoy a little down time in front of the tube. What I don’t like is realizing I’ve just wasted several hours on stuff I don’t care about at all.

What are your strategies for avoiding TV you don’t want to watch while watching the shows you do?

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