‘I will be resisting the urge to watch so much TV’: the thing I’ll do differently in 2023

Sitting in front of the screen became a safety blanket during the pandemic. But I can’t keep existing within the confines of my flat

For two years, I watched a minimum of 24 TV shows every week. From Strictly Come Dancing to The Crown, BBC Four documentaries on canals and the latest ITV crime thrillers – I would park myself in front of my screen daily, sit back and consume it all.

More than just an obsessive hobby, this was my job on the Guardian’s TV desk as one of their preview writers. It had all the trappings of a childhood fantasy: I was getting paid to watch shows all day, weeks before they came out to the public, then writing up pithy summaries for the paper. My younger self would have been stunned by the prospect of his favourite pastime being turned into work – perhaps all those years he spent watching Neighbours after school and Eastenders in the evening were finally paying off. With the telly for company, work could be more fun than shuffling paper in an office, collecting your paycheck and living for the weekend.

And it was glorious. Truly, watching TV for a job felt like being let in on one of life’s greatest jokes, a dreamy existence marred only by the prospect of having to awkwardly skip through sex scenes while viewing shows on my enormous monitor in the middle of the day in the Guardian’s open-plan offices.

When the pandemic arrived, though, things changed. With TV already occupying so much space in my life, once I was sent home for the foreseeable future, it became all-consuming.

The glut of the TV schedules poured forth: Normal People, I May Destroy You, It’s A Sin, Neighbours (still), all providing entertainment to keep me occupied while I slowly melted into the sagging fabric of my sofa. Since I live alone, these shows became more than just a simple distraction – screens became a vital bridge to the outside world, and the Covid-free narratives on TV offered an escape from the chaos of reality.

Yet, as the saying goes, too much of one thing is good for nothing. With shows for work and shows for pleasure, the TV called to me like a paralysing temptation in the corner of the room, offering a chance to check out and channel-surf into oblivion. And once the world began reopening again into the intimacy of real-life interactions, bringing with it the anxiety of adjusting from our “new normal” back into the old one, the TV increasingly felt like a safety blanket with which to avoid change.

Change, though, is necessary. While everyone around me was finding their way back into the unpredictability of the outside world, I began to see that life couldn’t keep existing within the safe confines of my flat. To get me out there would mean letting go of my safety screen.

The conscious uncoupling has now begun, since I left my job on the Guardian TV desk late last year to pursue freelance writing full-time. Twenty four shows a week, I realised, had become less of a fantasy and more of a slog that sucked the pleasure from viewing for its own sake.

Moving into 2023, I’ll now be resisting the urge to watch anything and everything while I work from home and instead take on a new adage to guide my habits: quality over quantity.

I’ll be putting off the binge watches and following recommended series more slowly to let their stories sink in – realistically, that will mean an episode a day rather than a season over a weekend. And between those viewing hours there is a world to explore – time to reconnect with friends and family, get back to live gigs and shows, and hopefully make some stories of my own that are just as tantalising and exciting as those escapist onscreen fictions I once lived for.


Ammar Kalia

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
‘Instead of living in fear of climate catastrophe, I’ll do something about it’: the thing I’ll do differently in 2023
I veer between waking at 3am in terror to raging at people who have paved over their gardens. But none of us are entirely powerless

Emma Beddington

30, Dec, 2022 @10:00 AM

Article image
‘I will try to stop worrying about everything’: the thing I’ll do differently in 2023
Anxiety dominates my thinking about work, social engagements, the stupid day-to-day admin of being a human – and it doesn’t achieve anything

Tim Dowling

28, Dec, 2022 @4:00 PM

Article image
‘I want to get off WhatsApp and call my friends instead’: the thing I’ll do differently in 2023
I’ve replaced real conversations with texted chats and I miss speaking to the people I love

Annie Macmanus

26, Dec, 2022 @10:00 AM

Article image
‘I will reflect on my own death – and try to conquer my fears’: the thing I’ll do differently in 2023
I don’t want to be mawkish or indulgent. But I want to consider my mortality in order to live well in the years I have left

Monica Ali

27, Dec, 2022 @10:00 AM

Article image
‘I don’t like my relationship with my phone – and I want to change it’: the thing I’ll do differently in 2023
I’ve already disabled my Twitter account and want to learn to stop scrolling and be more present for my family

Raymond Antrobus

30, Dec, 2022 @4:00 PM

Article image
‘I’ve hit 60 – I’m officially an old fart and I’m going to embrace it’: the thing I’ll do differently in 2023
People have started to offer me their seats on the bus. But I don’t mind. Far from denying my age, I am going to flaunt it

Simon Hattenstone

29, Dec, 2022 @10:00 AM

Article image
‘I would get out of breath running five metres – it’s time to get fit’: the thing I’ll do differently in 2023
I’d do anything to get out of PE lessons at school. But now I’ve turned 30 and I need to get over my fitness-phobia

Hannah J Davies

26, Dec, 2022 @4:00 PM

Article image
‘I’m going to stop making excuses and start socialising again’: the thing I’ll do differently in 2023
I love my friends – I just have an awful habit of staying in and listening to podcasts in bed instead of meeting them for coffee. But not any more!

Amy Trigg

29, Dec, 2022 @4:00 PM

Article image
Kate Humble on walking – and how to improve it: ‘The rhythm is really good for your brain’
The TV presenter thinks our newfound love of walking will persist after lockdown. She talks about hiking around Britain’s coast, the joy of newborn lambs and the true meaning of liberation

Emine Saner

24, Feb, 2021 @10:00 AM

Article image
Everything’s more fun with my cherry-red keytar – the Christmas present I’ll never forget
After a difficult few years, I started playing with a band and now feel as if I am living life in full colour again

Helen Pidd

23, Dec, 2022 @12:00 PM