Photo: Getty Images and Penny Whitehouse
Photo: Getty Images and Penny Whitehouse


I can’t watch every box set and it’s causing me constant low-level guilt

It would take Elizabeth Day four days and 20 hours to watch The West Wing. So what should she do: live with the FOMO or put a week aside?

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By Elizabeth Day on

I’ve just started watching this new box set. Not sure if you’ll have heard of it. It’s got dragons in it and a whole load of sex and there’s a bit where a beautiful blonde woman eats the heart of a raw stallion. It’s called Game Of Thrones. Apparently, it’s pretty good once you get into it.

Yes, OK, alright – I’ve never seen Game Of Thrones. Let’s pause here for a moment, so you can all take a sharp, collective inhale of horror and then move on.

Allow me to explain.

I didn’t get into it when the first season aired because fantasy war dramas were never really my bag. By the time the second season hit, it seemed as if everyone was already obsessed and I began to feel left out. Then I began to feel defensive about being left out, so I became dismissive.

“Oh, yeah, Game Of Thrones,” I’d sneer. “Isn’t that basically Dungeons & Dragons with orgies?”

But, despite my best efforts, everyone went mad for it. Before I knew it, it was the sixth season and the whole world went into meltdown when a guy called Jon not-the-newsreader Snow died. Or maybe he didn’t die. I don’t know. Haven’t got there yet myself.

At this stage, you realise you’ve completely missed out on some crucial part of the cultural zeitgeist. You start to be excluded from conversations and friendship groups because you have nothing to contribute. The same thing happened to me with Breaking Bad. And The Wire. And Transparent. And – whisper it – Mad Men.

On the one hand, you know you ought to catch up. On the other, the effort of it seems overwhelming – you’ve left it so long! There are 50 episodes! If you watch one every hour, without breaking to sleep or eat, that would take you just over two whole days. The West Wing (yet another endless programme that passed me by) would take four days and 20 hours. I mean, who has that kind of time?

I should be grateful for the abundance of high-quality, interesting drama. Instead, whenever there is a new, hot title everyone is raving about, I face a dilemma

This is box-set malaise. You might be familiar with the feeling. It’s a modern condition, one that is exacerbated by sheer volume – on-demand streaming companies such as Netflix now churn out new must-watch series quicker than you can say “Amazon Prime”. I should be grateful for the abundance of high-quality, interesting drama. Instead, whenever there is a new, hot title everyone is raving about (yes, Stranger Things, I’m looking at you), I face a dilemma: do I commit to the new thing, or will that simply take valuable time away from the back catalogue of classics I really ought to consume first?

It’s exhausting. And I feel so guilty about it. It’s like that time I didn’t read Harry Potter because… well… there were so many adult novels to be read, weren’t there? Did I really want to be one of those grown-ups on the Tube in the mornings, flicking through a children’s book about quidditch and muggles? (Answer: no.) Now everyone else has raved so much about Harry Potter that I feel there’s almost no point in discovering it for myself. Besides, I still haven’t read War And Peace.

I suspect there’s an underlying psychological fear at play here. Every time someone tells me I really should watch something, my immediate response is no. Partly, it’s because I’m worried that I won’t like it as much as everyone else – that, at some level, I just won’t get it. I know that Orange Is The New Black is meant to be amazing, for instance, but I gave it three episodes and it just didn’t do it for me. There. I’ve said it.

But you can’t live like that forever, gradually cutting yourself adrift from mainstream culture like the guys in Lost (never seen it). So I’ve caved in and bought the first season of Game Of Thrones. The only way I could cope with being so behind was to find another GoT virgin. I'm now watching it simultaneously with my boyfriend’s sister, so that we can WhatsApp each other at key moments.

I’m four episodes in. It’s OK, but I’m told it gets better. And when I’ve got through the remaining 46, I’m sure I’ll take great delight in telling everyone else they really have to watch it.


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Photo: Getty Images and Penny Whitehouse
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