We are all watchers. We watch our phones. We watch our tablets. We watch our TVs. Hopelessly distracted, we sometimes have to remind ourselves to watch our children and our pets, too.
Clearly, a revolution is underway in television and we are both the beneficiaries of this revolution as and the lab rats for an entire industry. Led by Netflix, there are half a dozen major streaming services jostling for attention, while four other giants (NBC, Disney, Warner, Apple) are about to join the crowd.
But given this spread of time (11 hours per day watching, per Nielsen) and choices (some 520 scripted series in 2018 alone), what do we like to watch? Newsday put that question to readers in a survey last fall.
The results indicated that Long Islanders tend to like what they always have, and tend to watch by the same means they always have, too. That's not to say streaming series haven't made major inroads — they certainly have. Yet given a vast number of choices, LIers tend to settle on just the few, and the familiar. "The Big Bang Theory" and "This Is Us" recurred in this survey, for example. "The Real Housewives of New York City" and "Stranger Things" did not.
A statistical bias, perhaps, or simply respondents' refusal to acknowledge that they live by the pronouncements of Luann de Lesseps? Perhaps that, too. But fringe TV, or offbeat TV, or outrageous TV failed to gain much traction.
I spoke recently with eight Long Islanders by phone or by email about what they love to watch. Here's what they had to say:
TONI PRESSIMONE, OAKDALE
Pressimone is former secretary to U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Platt, while her husband, George, was a lieutenant with the Nassau County Sheriff. Both now retired, they also are avid watchers — Toni considerably more. Something of an expert, in fact, on TV, she's familiar with most broadcast dramas, but Pressimone's current favorites are a couple of relatively new ones: "'Manifest" and "New Amsterdam," both NBC. ("I also like 'The Good Doctor,''' she adds.) Busy "with the grandkids and my sister's children," she'll rely on her DVR to collect episodes, and she will watch every one. "I like the cast," she says of "Manifest," and professes a fondness for "Amsterdam's" Ryan Eggold: "There's something very appealing about [him]."
She admits to a predilection for network TV dramas, sitcoms much less so, while "The Bachelor" "drives [me] crazy."
VINCENT KISH, BALDWIN
Kish, a freelance writer, and his wife, Carol, a medical biller, are strictly TV people — and that means no streaming and precious little computer grazing, either. Phone? He's got a flip model, so that settles that question.
In an email, Kish said, "Our favorite show right now remains 'God Friended Me.' It's just a nice show with wonderful themes — helping others, forgiveness, etc. The cast has an obvious chemistry. Each week there is a different challenge and new group of guest stars, so the show remains very fresh. There is the mystery of where the friend requests are coming from. Is it some hacker, or is it really God? And if it is God, there's the added element that, in lieu of a burning bush or a voice from the sky, He's using social media to communicate. Also, my wife and I are always partial to shows that are filmed in the NYC area."
CAROL GILLIAM, FREEPORT
Gilliam, the black-heritage librarian at Roosevelt Public Library, is what might be called a TV nester — comforted by just a few shows, content to ignore the rest. "I'm not really into the reality shows [and] I don't have Netflix," she says. "Of course, there are different PBS specials, like 'Finding Your Roots' that I'll watch, and great black history programs — I'll always look at those kinds of things."
But her two favorites are among the oldest continuing shows on TV: "Dateline" and "48 Hours" "I like mysteries, and lot of the stories [on both shows] are about someone who has killed someone and they haven't solved the crime yet, or had solved it years later — that whole forensics thing of how they come of find out how the murder was committed fascinates me. "
Her husband, Craig — brother of former Pittsburgh Steelersquarterback Joe Gilliam, whose father, Joe Sr., was a legendary Tennessee State coach — is a "big fan of the History channel," but because he is a "retired football coach and my son plays basketball, I really enjoy looking at basketball, specifically college."
March approaches, Gilliam's favorite time of the TV year.
ERIC STRAUCH, EAST NORTHPORT
Married a little more than four years, Strauch, an accountant, and his wife, Ilana, are expecting a baby, and when not fixated on the Mets (or "sadly, the Jets"), he's fixated on TV.
His favorite show, easily, is "Game of Thrones:" "The show has everything," he said via email."Most of all it's the complexity of the story. There are so many characters all with a different path. The show does a fantastic job balancing all of the stories and developing the characters. Also, the battle scenes are always epic (nothing competes with the Hardhome battle)."
The Strauchs are omnivorous viewers, or "TV junkies," as he bluntly puts it. "Our favorites (old and new) are 'Breaking Bad,' 'Sons of Anarchy,' 'The Sopranos,' 'Fargo,' 'The Office,' 'The Newsroom,' 'The Leftovers,' 'Narcos,' 'Banshee,' 'Mr. Robot,' 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' [and] we really like all the Netflix Marvel shows (especially 'Punisher' and 'Daredevil')."
VIRGINIA MULCAHY, LONG BEACH
Mulcahy — who has "three grown children and four amazing grandchildren" — is a hybrid viewer. Her favorite network show is "Young Sheldon," but adds, "Since responding to the survey I’ve discovered 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.' " She says she is now "obsessed" with the Amazon series.
She adds, "I also enjoy 'The Big Bang Theory,' 'Grey's Anatomy,' 'New Amsterdam,' 'Shark Tank,' 'Madam Secretary,' 'America’s Got Talent,' 'American Idol,' " among others, but also says, "My viewing habits have changed a bit since I’ve discovered streaming."
DORI COHEN, WOODBURY
This defense lawyer with the Nassau Legal Aid Society and mother of two "watches so much more TV than I used to because there are a lot of things out there." But instead of consuming anything and everything, Cohen is part of an unusual and growing breed: She's the type of viewer who is constantly playing catch- up.
Her favorite show, for example, is "Breaking Bad." She had never once seen the series during its five year-run, and same with "Homeland," which she is also currently binge-watching. ("Almost done," she says.)
A few years ago, "I went through a lot of changes in my life, going through a divorce and going to law school, and watched zero TV." Things settled down, and along came Netflix. She does her catching up there, and adopted "Ozark," another favorite.
JEFF KORN, PATCHOGUE
A speech therapist who retired after "30 years in the South Country School District but continuing my private practice with children and adults," Korn says that his passions are "animals, sports and movies and good TV."
Naturally, that means "Better Call Saul," his current favorite: "It took the 'Breaking Bad' universe and, as a prequel, expanded upon it and made the characters deeper and more interesting (which is saying a lot). The writing, directing, acting, cinematography and every other aspect of the show is as good as could be."
JAMES CAROLLO, AMAGANSETT
Born in Brooklyn, raised in Bethpage, Carollo — formerly an insurance executive with CNA, retired 15 years now — is what might be termed a cafeteria viewer. He's a "Better Call Saul" fan — his current fave — but also a fan of "Game of Thrones," "Billions," "Ray Donovan," "Taboo," "Ozark" and the first two seasons of "This Is Us." He watches via DVR or Netflix, and admits that his tastes are often dictated by mood: "The fact that we have Netflix and Amazon and all these other avenues determines what we choose — what I watch and when I watch it.
"It's so personal because each night is different," he says. "I may not want to watch the same show because I'm not in the mood to watch it. Even 'This Is Us:' That show was emotional to me and there a very few shows I get emotional about. But some nights you don't want to do that. Some nights are 'Game of Thrones' nights. . . . 'The Americans' was just a terrifically acted show and you can always be in the mood for 'The Americans.' "