I spent the spring of 2008 studying abroad in London. It was an excellent semester, one of those life-changing experiences that taught me about the world, about myself, about growing up and surviving on my own, and I wouldn’t trade that semester for anything. It was also a three month period in which I allowed myself to be almost completely consumed by Doctor Who fandom.
This was in the fourth series of the show, the last full year with David Tennant and Russel T. Davies, with Catherine Tate as the Doctor’s (best?) companion Donna and periodic appearances by various ex-residents of the TARDIS, most notably Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler, one of my all-time favorite television characters, whose tragic exit from the series at the end of its second year still leaves me a bit heart-achey. The show was having a truly fantastic season, and for the first time I could watch it on my TV every Saturday, in its first run, in its country of origin. This often involved acrobatic feats–to achieve anything resembling a clear picture I had to carry the antenna around the room, hoisting it into the air, balancing on one leg, standing on chairs and occasionally tables, and readjusting any time the wind changed, not to mention terrifying the relative strangers I called flatmates–but it was thrilling. My show. Live.
But by the time series 4 came to an end, late in July of that year, I had been home for a couple of months. The show was still excellent, and my love for it hadn’t changed, but the thrill of being right there was gone. After a particularly emotional finale I was drained. I couldn’t even think about the show. A friend diagnosed me with “fandom burnout.”
Even our hobbies–maybe especially our hobbies–can be exhausting. Caring about something with enthusiasm–which is, as you know, my modus operandi–requires effort, time, emotion. I may prefer the exhaustion of a marathon viewing or a long conversation about character motivation to the exhaustion of homework or a long night at the office, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t wear me out. It’s possible to burn out on the stuff that gives us pleasure.
So I was a little relieved as this latest TV season started to run down a few weeks ago. Sure there are still a couple episodes of Girls left, and Mad Men finishes its season this Sunday, but I’m not struggling to get through overloaded Thursday nights anymore. Keeping up with everything I watch, as much as I love it, can start to feel like a full-time job.
Now, though, it’s summer. There’s still television to watch–you already know how excited I am for Bunheads, and even more so now that I’ve seen the outstanding pilot–and I do plan on watching The Wire, continuing with a very slow O.C. rewatch I’ve been working on for months, and probably taking up some sort of project with my roommate–last year we rewatched all of Scrubs, but we haven’t yet made any decisions about this summer–but I also plan to step away from the screen a bit. Spend my evenings at the gym, or curled up with books. Use the weekends to explore the city a little more. I have plans for this summer and they don’t include spending all of my time awash in the artificial glow of the TV.
I think it’s good to take a break, even from the things you love. It’s healing, refreshing, and when you come back after some time away there’s a new enthusiasm. I will be thrilled when TV comes back in the fall, not just because I’m waiting to see how various cliff-hangers turn out, but because I genuinely love television, especially in that first rush of new episodes, new stories, new time-slots and series and characters that arrives each fall. Come September I’ll be burnt out on summer (and hopefully not too sun-burnt), ready to dive in with all new fall TV (spoiler alert: I’m going to be obsessed with The Mindy Project).
For now I’m going to relax a little. I’m going to listen to “Call Me Maybe” very loudly on repeat as I train my body to run more than a quarter-mile at a time, and I’m going to spend some sticky Saturday afternoons in Central Park with a book and a bottle of water. That seems like the best possible cure for TV burnout.