I Watch TV at 1.5X Speed and I’m Not Sorry

All the cool kids know that TV speed-watching is the future – everyone else just needs to catch up to our pace and get with the (sped-up) programme.

Cartoon woman running while swiping her phone
Photo: Chloe Lewis

Time is money, people! We’ve got busy lives these days, and even busier brains, and it’s hard enough to keep up with who’s prime minister, let alone get on top of our ever-growing TV Watch Lists.

So, much like 27% of people according to a recent YouGov survey, I watch a lot of TV at a higher playback speed. It’s easy – BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube and Apple TV all have the option to watch shows at up to 2X the regular speed – so why wouldn’t you?

Yes, we’ll all have some off-limits shows that we want to savour in real time. Mine are Doctor Who, Line of Duty, and something tells me Strictly wouldn’t quite have the same charm if all the contestants were flailing their limbs around in double time. But these are the rare exceptions, the kinds of TV shows we want to thoroughly lose ourselves in.

These days however, TV often seems to be a quantity over quality game, with ever-expanding listings and subscriptions filled with shows that are more at the “yeah, it was pretty good” end of the scale than the “would-skip-my-grandmother’s-funeral-to-watch-the-next-episode” end. (Sorry, Grandma. I just had to find out who shot Phil.)

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And that’s okay – not all TV can be as absorbing as Baked Alaska-gate or Bob Mortimer explaining the rules of Theft and Shrubbery – but that means programmes are padded out with exposition, moody silences, or shots of documentary interviewees having their mics attached to their jumper before the interview for some reason, and I can’t watch that. It requires a patience and a complacency that the modern world doesn’t allow for any more. The threat of nuclear Armageddon has never been higher, people, so get to the good stuff or get off the stage!

So I hit the 1.5X speed button. Otherwise, in the gaps between the slow dialogue and unnecessary artistic shots of local scenery (we get it, you have a drone), I start to think about things like LGBT hate crimes being on the rise, boatfuls of desperate families dying in the English Channel, and Global Warming’s recent upgrade to Global Boiling meaning my child might live to see the world become uninhabitable. So I speed the programme up. Fewer moody silences = less thinking time.

Maybe the creators find this insulting, but at least this way I’m actually watching their art, instead of keeping half an eye on it while doom scrolling on my phone. Because that’s the real problem: social media has eaten into our free time and swallowed our attention spans whole (besides, did you even watch the show if you didn’t Tweet about it?) making my generation into neverending, FOMO-obsessed consumers of content. The generation that doesn’t – and can’t – switch off. 

As fast as we’re consuming the content – be it TV shows, trends or the ever-accelerating 24-hour news cycle – they’re dishing out new stuff at double the frequency, so is it any surprise we’ve resorted to watching it at double the speed? 

So yeah, I watch TV at 1.5X speed most of the time. I wish I didn’t have to. I wish my brain and the world in general these days didn’t go at 1.5X speed either. But – much like the dead air of TV shows – let’s just skip over that, not think about it too much, and keep on watching.