In high school, I tried to get all of my friends to watch The Wire to no avail. Telling people that it was the best regarded TV show of all time was no match for “My brother says Heroes is amazing” or “all of my friends are watching Dexter”.
Several years later, I experienced a similar situation when many of my friends were obsessed with Game of Thrones and waiting for the release of the next book and season. Despite yearning for more content, none of these individuals were willing to check out the similar but better regarded fantasy series, The Kingkiller Chronicle.
With only a limited amount of time available to consume, each book/movie/tv series someone watches is a strategic choice; is this book/movie/tv show better than all of the alternatives out there? Here are four general rules that I have developed to get the most out of my media consumption:
1) Trust The Experts
While your friends might have good recommendations of what to watch, the aggregation of the world’s opinion displayed on the internet is likely going to be better. In order to make your list, check what the best-regarded movies, tv shows and books are. Go to IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, Goodreads etc and find out what has the best reviews. This does not mean you should aimlessly just watch the highest rated movie you haven’t seen, but find out what your preferences are, what you don’t like, what reviews you trust and figure out what you want to watch. Even if you want to watch a “dumb comedy”, the reviews will help you separate the tolerable from the garbage.
2) Make A List
The biggest reason why people consume subpar media is that they have no idea what to consume at any given moment. Even if someone knows that a certain TV show or movie is great, they aren’t thinking about it when they are deciding what to put on. What they are thinking about is what they scroll across on Netflix, what their friends are talking about, what just came out, or is convenient to watch. To get around this problem, make a list of all of the movies, tv shows, and books you want to consume. Then whenever you feel like watching a new TV show, movie or book, instead of consuming what’s convenient, go to the next item on your list. Nobody should ever voluntarily watch a bad movie.
3) Go International
Almost every country in the world produces their own movies and tv shows, yet most Americans only watch cinema produced in one language from one city. With how globalized culture is these days and how cheap it is to produce entertainment, there is stunning cinema being made not only in rich Western countries, but also all over the globe. Hollywood may still reign supreme, but if you’ve already seen The Godfather, Pulp Fiction and Shawshank Redemption, there is a huge selection of international classics for you to catch up on. Do you really think that the Germans, Japanese, Norwegians, Israelis, French etc. are so incompetent and culturally distinct that they cannot produce movies and television shows you would enjoy?
4) Avoid New
Nobody goes out of there way to watch random movies from 2010 with mediocre reviews that they haven’t seen before, yet they will go out of their way to watch a new movie that in 5 years will be regarded the same. New books, new tv shows, new movies have hype; they have people talking about them, they have positive reviews being advertised to you, they have excitement. Even something without any hype isn’t tainted by bad reviews yet. If something is worth checking out, it will still be there a year from now. Wait for the hype to die down, wait for the reviews to come in and wait to see how it holds up over time. My rule of thumb is to try and wait one year before making a determination on if something is worth consuming. The obvious exceptions to this are new media part of a series that you have been anxiously waiting for or if the media is so topical that you need to consume it right away.