1. Talking About TV Habits
Olivier: Do you watch much TV?
Kasia: Not really. I used to, but now I’m too busy, and I don’t have the time. Sometimes I put something on in the background while I’m doing other things, like cooking or cleaning. You?
O: I go through phases. Sometimes I get really into a show, and I binge-watch it over a few days, or I’ll have weeks where I watch a lot of TV in the evenings. But, at some point, I get tired of it and I take a break for a few weeks.
K: So you’re either watching TV all the time, or not at all?
O: I guess! I get addicted to things easily.
K: I’ve never really understood the whole binge-watching thing. I’ve never been *that* into a show. I can watch one, two episodes of something, but then I want to do something else.
O: That’s a better way to do it. It’s fun to watch a really good show, but sometimes I feel guilty, like I could be doing something better with my time.
Do you watch much TV? In the dialogue, you heard several phrases you can use to talk about TV and your TV-watching habits. Look at four sentences.
- I go through phases.
- Sometimes, I get really into a show.
- I binge-watch a show over a few days.
- I put something on in the background while I’m doing other things.
Do you know what these mean? Are any of them true for you? ‘Go through phases’ is a general phrase. You can use it to talk about many things. It means that you have times where you do something a lot, and then times when you don’t do it much. So, if you say ‘I go through phases’, and you’re talking about watching TV, you mean that there are times when you watch TV regularly, and times when you don’t. Maybe one month you watch a lot of TV, but the next month, you hardly watch any.
If you ‘get into’ something, then you become really interested in it. If you get into a TV show, you start watching it, and then you like it and you want to watch more. You can use ‘get into’ for other things. You could say ‘I got into photography when I was a teenager’, meaning that you developed a strong interest in photography at that time.
‘Binge-watch’ means that you watch a lot of episodes of a TV show in a very short time. Maybe you watch a whole season of a show in one or two days. A ‘binge’ has the idea of something unhealthy.
Finally, if you put something on in the background, you aren’t really watching it. Maybe you’re half-watching, or you’re listening but not watching. What about you? Look at four questions:
- How much TV do you watch?
- What was the last show you really got into?
- Have you ever binge-watched a show?
- Do you like to put TV on in the background when you’re doing housework?
Could you answer these questions? Try it now! Make sure you answer with a full sentence. Try to use the language from the dialogue and this section. Pause the video and make your answers. How was that? Could you answer fluently? If not, remember that you can always review the dialogue and the section again.
Let’s look at our next topic from Oxford Online English to help you learn how to talk about TV in English.
2. Different Ways to Watch TV
Kasia: Are you watching anything good at the moment? I’m looking for a new show to watch.
Olivier: There’s this medical drama I’ve been watching. It’s on Wednesdays at nine o’clock. You should check it out!
K: ‘On Wednesdays’? You mean on actual TV?
K: Wow! You still watch broadcast TV? I haven’t connected my TV aerial for years.
O: So, you just stream everything?
K: Yeah. That’s weird. I mean, no one I know watches broadcast TV these days.
O: I guess I’m a bit old-fashioned. I like having a choice of channels. Mainly, I’m a big sports fan, so I get a cable package. That way, I can watch football and basketball games live.
K: That makes sense. Still, having to watch something at a specific time seems so inconvenient. I like being able to watch what I want when I want.
O: I have a set-top recorder, so I can record things and watch them later. Plus, you can skip the ad breaks.
K: Ad breaks! I had forgotten about those. Most streaming services don’t have any ads. So, you never stream things? You’ve never used Hulu or Netflix or anything like that?
O: No, never. I just don’t have much interest.
How do you generally watch TV? In the dialogue, we talked about two different ways to watch. Do you remember? You can watch broadcast TV, meaning traditional TV where you choose a channel and watch programs on a schedule, or you can watch TV on a streaming service, like Netflix or Hulu. You also heard some different advantages of these two ways to watch TV.
Here’s a question: can you think of two advantages of watching broadcast TV, and two advantages of streaming? In the dialogue, you heard these:
- I like having a choice of channels.
- I can watch football and basketball games live.
- I like being able to watch what I want when I want.
- Most streaming services don’t have any ads.
If you watch something live, you watch it as it’s happening, in real time. ‘Ad’ is short for ‘advertisement’ or ‘advert’. ‘Ad’, ‘advert’ and ‘advertisement’ all have the same meaning. Also, they’re all countable nouns. Be careful not to mix these up with ‘advertising’ which is the abstract noun, and is uncountable.
Can you think of any other advantages of broadcast TV or streaming services which weren’t mentioned in the dialogue? Try to think of one more advantage for each. Pause the video if you want some thinking time! What did you think of? Of course, there are many possibilities! Here are four ideas.
- Broadcast TV is usually free, because it’s supported by advertising.
- Broadcast TV has more news and current affairs programs.
- Streaming services produce their own exclusive shows and films, which you can’t watch anywhere else.
- Many streaming services let you watch TV shows from other countries and in other languages.
Did you get similar ideas? Do you agree with these points, or not? What about you? Do you watch broadcast TV, streaming services, or both? Which is better for you, and why? Practice these phrases to talk about TV in English. Pause the video and try to answer these questions with at least three full sentences. Take your time, and practise your answer several times, until you can speak fluently. Could you do it? Great! Let’s move on.
3. How to Describe a TV Show
Olivier: What kind of thing do you watch?
Kasia: It depends. Sometimes, if I’m tired at the end of the day, I’ll just put on a sitcom, or a cookery show or something. If I want something more serious, I like drama series, and some documentaries.
O: I like comedy a lot, too. Do you ever watch stand-up?
K: No, mostly just sitcoms, and a few cartoons like Bojack Horseman and things like that.
O: Bojack Horseman? What’s that?
K: It’s a really dark animated comedy.
O: What’s it about?
K: It’s about a horse who used to be a famous TV star, and it’s set in a world where animals live together with people, and… You know what? It’s a little hard to explain. But, it’s really good. You should check it out.
O: Who’s in it?
K: Lots of people. Will Arnett, who was in Arrested Development, and Alison Brie. A lot of other big-name actors, too.
O: Is it funny?
K: Yeah, it is, but it’s dark. It’s quite sad sometimes.
O: Hmm… Maybe I’ll take a look. Where’s it on?
K: It’s a Netflix production, so I think you can only watch it there.
In the dialogue, you heard several questions you could use to ask someone about TV shows they watch. Look at the questions. Can you complete the missing words?
- What ________ of ________ do you watch?
- What’s it _________?
- Who’s _________ it?
- ________ it funny?
- Where’s it ________?
Can you remember the answers, or can you work them out? Let’s look together.
- What kind of thing do you watch?
- What’s it about?
- Who’s in it?
- Is it funny?
- Where’s it on?
Could you answer these questions for yourself? We’ll look at how to answer in a minute; first, let’s check the meaning of the questions. What does ‘who’s in it?’ mean? And what about ‘where’s it on?’ ‘Who’s in it’ is asking about the actors. You’re probably asking whether the show has famous actors. You can use the preposition ‘in’ to talk about acting in a show or film. For example, you can say: ‘He was in Arrested Development,’ or ‘Robert de Niro was in Heat.’
‘Where’s it on’ is asking about where you can see something. You can use the preposition ‘on’ to talk about where or when a show is happening. You can use it for other things, too, like films at the cinema, plays at the theatre, or concerts. Now, think about the first question: what kind of thing do you watch? You could answer this by saying:
- I mostly watch crime series.
- I watch a mix of documentaries and medical drama.
- I watch a bit of everything.
What about you? How would you answer this question? Next, think of a show you really like. Look at the questions from the dialogue.
- What’s it about?
- Who’s in it?
- Is it funny/exciting/original?
- Where’s it on?
We added some adjectives to the third question, because you’ll need different ideas depending on the show. Can you make four sentences, answering these questions, to talk about a show which you like? Let’s see a sample answer:
- I’m watching a sci-fi show called The Expanse. It’s about human society in the future, when people live all over the solar system, and the tensions between different factions. The main story is about the discovery of alien life on one of Saturn’s moons. It doesn’t have any big-name actors in it; I haven’t seen most of the cast anywhere else. I think it’s quite original, although the story takes some time to get really interesting. I watched it on Netflix, but I think now it’s only on Amazon video.
What about you? Try to make an answer like this, talking about a TV show you like. Use the questions to give your answer structure. Either write your answer down, or say it out loud. Or, do both!
Could you do it? Try as many times as you like. For now, let’s look at our last section to talk about TV in English.
4. Talking About a TV Show You Dislike
Kasia: Are you watching the new Game of Thrones season?
Olivier: No, actually. I gave up on it a while ago. Why, is it good?
K: Yeah, I think so. Where did you stop?
O: About two seasons ago. I liked it at the beginning, but I felt like it went downhill in later seasons. Some storylines just made no sense, and there was a lot of padding.
K: Really? I think it’s just got better with time. The season they’re making now is the last one, and I think it’s the best yet. The plot has so many great twists. Normally, I can guess where a story is going, but with this, it’s full of surprises.
O: Personally, I thought it was quite predictable. One problem was that it got too melodramatic. Every episode finished with a huge cliffhanger, like a bad soap opera.
K: Well, they had a lot of plot threads to resolve from earlier. I think they’re doing a good job with it. I hate it when shows leave storylines hanging and don’t explain things properly.
O: I am a little curious to see what happens with some things, but probably not enough to watch it again.
K: I can tell you if you…
O: No—no spoilers. I might change my mind.
K: You should! If you don’t like a TV show, what reasons could you give?
You heard several points in the dialogue. Do you remember them? Look at some phrases you heard:
- It went downhill in later seasons.
- Some storylines made no sense.
- There was a lot of padding.
Could you explain the meaning of these? ‘Go downhill’ is a conversational phrase meaning ‘get worse’. If you say ‘I liked it at the start, but it went downhill later’, you’re saying that the quality of the show got worse with time. If something makes no sense, it isn’t clear or understandable. If you say ‘some storylines made no sense’, maybe you mean that the characters made unrealistic decisions, or problems were solved in a very unrealistic, fantastical way. ‘Padding’ means something which is added just to fill time. If a TV show has a lot of padding, there’s a lot of empty content, which doesn’t add to the story or the characters. Of course, you could use these sentences in different ways. For example:
- It went downhill after the end of season one.
- Some storylines didn’t go anywhere.
- There was a lot of boring dialogue.
Finally, let’s look at three more useful words you saw in the dialogue. Look at three sentences. Can you explain the highlighted words?
- Every episode finished with a cliffhanger.
- They had a lot of plot threads to resolve.
- No spoilers!
A ‘cliffhanger’ is a dramatic ending to an episode, where you really want to know what happens next. Often, a cliffhanger means that the episode ends right in the middle of a key story moment. ‘Plot threads’ are like storylines. Many TV shows have many characters and plot threads, which go in parallel to each other. Generally, you want a show to resolve all its plot threads, meaning that every storyline has an ending. Otherwise, a bad show might leave storylines hanging, meaning you never find out what happened.
Finally, a ‘spoiler’ is when someone tells you about the story of a film or TV show before you watch it. Sometimes, TV reviews or articles will include the words ‘spoiler alert’ at the beginning. This is warning you that you shouldn’t read it if you don’t want to find out the story for yourself!
Here’s a final task for you. Can you describe a TV show you really like? Say what kind of show it is, what it’s about, and why you like it. Put your answer in the comments on YouTube, and you can get some feedback and corrections on what you learned to talk about TV in English!
Thanks for watching!