No matter what the reason — vacation, sickness, unemployment — there’s a reality that anyone who has ever been home on a weekday has had to face: Daytime TV is awful. Oh sure, staying home from school and watching all the TV might have sounded grand back when you still believed in The Tooth Fairy, but like many things you learn once you grow up, the dream isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
And it’s weird, because so much else is going right in TV these days in terms of actual entertainment. There are a ton of great shows being produced, whether they be part of the major networks, cable, premium networks or one of the various online streaming platforms, and, depending on how much you’re willing to pay, you’re likely never to run out of things to watch.
Which is good, because there’s really nothing to watch on TV before the evening news. There’s plenty of content, because the networks need it, but scrolling down your options in your program guide is likely to leave you more bewildered than excited.
But let’s say that all you have is a remote, a cool beverage and an afternoon of free time; what should you watch? Keep these power rankings in mind to achieve maximum entertainment.
6. Court Shows
If you were going to describe the daytime daypart in one word, it seems like the most appropriate word would be “unreal.” Daytime TV is a window into an alternate reality where it feels like everyone is acting all the time, the majority of them not doing it well. How petty do you have to be to get into a situation that can only be resolved by a television judge? These people can’t possibly be real, can they? The number of court shows that air on a given day is staggering, and none of them are good. Think about how much you hate jury duty; why would you watch a trial, no matter how petty, you’re not even getting paid to watch?
5. Talk Shows
It’s amazing that people still watch daytime talk shows when Twitter exists literally to give fools a platform for their awful opinions. Sure, maybe if you’re at home every day for reasons, you grow attached to the various hosts and they become like your family; fine, do you. But if you’re just dropping in for a day or two, all you’re getting is the mildest of hot takes from the various collections of washed-up actors, celebrity chefs, sportswriters and other assorted “names.” No one is going to say anything too controversial, and on the rare times they do, it’ll pop up — you guessed it — on Twitter for your viewing pleasure.
4. Soap Operas
When we talk about art forms that are slowly dying, it might be wise to include the soap opera. There was a time when millions made them part of their daily routine, and God forbid they miss their “stories.” Now, you can count the number of soap operas still on the air on one hand. Sure, you can jump in to see the latest drama and watch actors you don’t recognize stare off into the middle distance, but getting into a soap opera in 2016 just seems like you’re setting yourself up for heartbreak. Watch once so that you understand what soap operas are, but watch again at your own risk.
3. Game Shows
Game shows aren’t what they used to be, to be sure, and that’s a shame. Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune and The Price Is Right are still fighting the good fight, and Family Feud is good for a viral moment or two, but it’s just not the same without the Press Your Lucks, Win, Lose or Draws and Shop ’til You Drops of the world. Still, it’s nice to know that all the random knowledge that you have stored away in your brain could, maybe, one day lead to your winning some cash and fabulous prizes. Answering along with game shows will also make you feel real smart, and we all like to feel real smart now and then.
Confession: I have an irrational love of infomercials, so your mileage may vary. To me, they are utterly fascinating. Consider the life choices you have to make so that one day you have to wake up, stand in front of a camera and try to sell someone a pan or a ladder or a weight loss cure. There’s a lot of bad acting in the world of daytime TV, but the people on infomercials are the real-deal pros; go look in a mirror and pretend to be excited about a ladder. You can’t do it. What you can do is look in amazement at the various cooking gadgets, exercise gear and more that someone thought needed 30 minutes of spotlight time. Just keep your wallet in your pocket.
1. Anything involving lie detectors or paternity tests.
If you’ve never done the math in your head to calculate how often someone was having sex because they’re on TV awaiting the results of the 31st paternity test they’ve had done on their child, you just haven’t lived. Understand: Watch enough Maury or anything similar, and eventually you’ll decide that all these people are liars looking for a free trip to Connecticut, but that doesn’t change the fact that these stories of cheating and denial are endlessly entertaining. Yeah, you’re going to get something lame every few weeks, like people who were “geeks” but now they’re “hot,” or some sort of hidden-camera thing, but for the most part, you’ll get to enjoy a never-ending parade of people who a) would be better off not in the relationships that they’re in and b) need to learn how condoms work.