MONEY productivity

6 Tricks to Keep From Vegging in Front of the TV After Work

couple on couch watching tv
Getty Images

We’re too pooped to do anything but work and watch TV

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual survey of how America uses its time last week. Compared to 2003 when the survey started, we spend more time working and watching TV. We are sleeping a bit more these days, but that extra shut-eye and screen time comes at a price. We spend less time socializing, eating, and engaging in religious or volunteer activities.

“I think that people are working a lot harder and there’s just a lot more that they’re expected to do,” says Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. “I think it may just be overload. It’s easy just to veg out and watch TV when you feel like everything at work is just in overdrive. There’s a tendency to not want to be exposed to it when you get home,” he says.

Cohen and other experts say there are some things you can do, though, to resist the siren song of the recliner at the end of the day. Follow these and you might find that you have to start DVRing those nighttime shows.

Plan ahead before you leave the office. “Take time toward the end of each day to plan ahead for the next day,” says James Craft, professor of business administration at the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. Doing this before you leave work will keep you from starting the day stressed out, or getting absorbed in reality TV to escape the stress the night before. Craft suggests identifying a few specific goals or tasks that must be done that day, then gathering the contact info, files, documents, or other material you’ll need to jump right in.

The same pre-planning trick also works for after-work activities. “Schedule activities in advance so you have a plan of commitment,” Cohen says.

Cut the caffeine. “Reduce coffee and sodas to keep you going at work,” advises career coach Todd Dewett. You don’t have to give it up entirely, but cutting back — especially in the afternoon — will help you avoid crashing right when you get home. “Instead, for one third of your caffeine consumption substitute a short walk,” Dewett suggests. “This is a great way to cognitively rejuvenate without caffeine.” Earlier research has found that taking walks during the workday boosts well-being and motivation, so it has a double benefit. Even five minutes can do the trick.

Give yourself something to look forward to. “A person needs to have something to do that they enjoy, is different, and that they can anticipate,” Craft points out. “That way, they’re not just going home with nothing to do but flop down and watch TV.” Put something you like to do on your schedule like any other appointment and that Law & Order marathon suddenly looks less appealing. For example…

Make plans with other people. Most of us are less likely to bail on a planned activity when other people are participating, too. “Include friends and family in physical activities,” says Chris Boyce, CEO of corporate wellness company Virgin Pulse. “Suggest that everyone goes for a walk after dinner instead of zoning out in front of the TV,” he says. Even if it’s not strenuous, the activity is good for you, and spending time socializing instead of sitting in front of a screen will recharge your mental batteries, he says.

Kick the habit. “People get used to telling themselves that they’re exhausted and just don’t have the energy for anything else except television,” says Joseph G. Gerard, assistant professor of management at Western New England University. Sure, TV engages without demanding anything from you, but spending your evenings in front of a screen can become a habit before you even realize it. “It’s easy… to get caught up in a favorite show or two,” Gerard says. “A lot of people don’t realize when they fall into bad habits.” Experts say it takes several weeks to break a habit, so plan for a couple of months of TV alternatives, he advises. If you stick with it, you’ll probably find that vegging out has lost its appeal.

Put down the phone. A lot of the expert advice to find another engaging activity is a moot point if you’re going to be bent over, tapping on a screen. It’s not necessary to go into full-on detox mode; just put the devices down somewhere for two or three hours in the evening so you can do other things without interruption. “When you’re always attached to your phone, you’re going to sit on the couch. You’re going to be less active,” Cohen says.

 

TIME

See 10 of Aunjanue Ellis’ Most Indelible On-Screen Roles

'The Help' actress has pledged to not act in Mississippi—her home state—until the current state flag is replaced and doesn't include Confederate imagery

TIME Television

Read TIME’s Original Review of Seinfeld

Seinfeld
Andrew Eccles—NBC/Getty Images Michael Richards as Cosmo Kramer, Jason Alexander as George Costanza, Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine Benes, Jerry Seinfeld as Jerry Seinfeld

As the show begins streaming on Hulu, revisit our first take on the show about nothing

Wednesday is a big day for Seinfeld fans: rather than rely on late-night reruns to get their fix of the beloved sitcom, they can now binge watch the whole thing on Hulu.

It’s been more than 25 years since the show premiered in 1989, but interest in Jerry & co. shows no sign of flagging—something that TIME’s critic Richard Zoglin might not have predicted when he reviewed the show back in 1992. (Yes, it took more than a year for TIME to give Seinfeld more than a blurb review, but in fairness it took a while for the show to find its footing, too.) The characters’ tendency not to talk about their deeper feelings or concerns—one of the show’s signatures—meant, Zoglin guessed, that even viewers who loved to tune in for a half-hour a week wouldn’t really get attached.

Still, even when it wasn’t clear that Seinfeld would become a classic, it was obvious that something was working:

Stand-up comics can get chewed up fast in TV. First they are squeezed dry of material by Letterman, Leno and the other talk-show bloodsuckers. Then, if they grow popular enough, they are plucked from their solo job and awarded a sitcom. There, major pitfalls await them. Some are exposed as Johnny-one-notes (Kevin Meaney in Uncle Buck); others are simply unable to make the transition from joke telling to character building (Richard Lewis in Anything but Love). Only a few — Roseanne Arnold, Tim Allen — succeed without selling out. One of the brightest members of that small club is Jerry Seinfeld. The Long Island native was perhaps the quintessential yuppie comic of the ’80s: his larky, laid-back observations about the trivial pursuits of modern life — buying candy at a movie theater, riding with your dog in the front seat of the car — were funny, recognizable, nonthreatening. Now he is the centerpiece of NBC’s hottest sitcom.

Read the full review, here in the TIME Vault: Comedian on the Make

MONEY Advertising

Shark TV Fest Hilariously Admits It’s a Blatant Shark Week Rip-Off

On “Ambush Alley,” a group of Black Tip Sharks swim just beneath the water's surface, South Africa.
Aquavision TV Productions—National Geographic Channels On the Nat Geo Wild show “Ambush Alley,” a group of Black Tip Sharks swim just beneath the water's surface, South Africa.

"It's the same friggin' sharks anyway."

The Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week” has become a colossal event, not only in terms of being a ratings and marketing bonanza, but also in its role as the inspiration for a larger frenzy, so to speak, of shark-related merchandise, attractions, and entertainment.

Naturally, Discover Channel’s cable TV competitors have tried to get in on the sharktastic action with shark-related programming of their own. But no “Shark Week” imitator has done it quite as blatantly, or hilariously, as the Nat Geo Wild channel’s event dubbed “SharkFest,” which just so happens to kick off on Sunday, July 5, the same day as “Shark Week” begins.

AdWeek called attention to the new “SharkFest” promo, which features comedian Rory Scovel owning up to the way Nat Geo Wild is overtly trying to muddy the waters and steal “Shark Week’s” thunder. “We want you to confuse the two. And you will. And we don’t care—because it gets us ratings,” Scovel says. “We’re going to continue to do it” in the hopes that you “accidentally watch us.”

Most importantly, Scovel points out, viewers shouldn’t care whether they’re watching the sharks chomping seals and menacingly bumping up against shark cages on the Discovery Channel or Nat Geo Wild. “It’s the same friggin’ sharks anyways,” he says. “Sharks cannot sign an exclusive contract with a network … we’re pretty certain on that.”

Scovel then tosses out a couple awesomely lazy and honest slogans:

“SharkFest: Yeah, maybe it’s not our idea. Who cares? Just watch it.”

“SharkFest: It’s on the same time as the other thing. On Nat Geo Wild.”

Watch the whole promo here:

The ad isn’t just funny, though. It’s quite possibly brilliant. “The idea came up of being more transparent about viewer confusion during Shark Week. We thought it would be funny to own that and be playful with it,” Tyler Korba, Nat Geo Wild’s creative director for on-air marketing, explained at the PromaxBDA Brief blog. “If you can’t have fun doing TV, you shouldn’t be doing it.”

Viewers are going to know the channel is ripping off “Shark Week,” so the thinking is it’s best to get that out of the way—and even poke fun at themselves. “It’s a little bit of aikido,” said Korba. “Once you’ve called it what it is, once you’ve owned it, you’ve turned a potentially awkward thing into a strength.”

TIME Netflix

Why Activist Investor Carl Icahn Dumped His Last Netflix Shares

Key Speakers At The Robin Hood Investors Summit
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview at the Robin Hood Investors Conference in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014.

Carl Icahn announced on his Twitter Wednesday that he’s sold his last Netflix shares.

Icahn Enterprises, which owned about 1.4 million Netflix shares at the end of 2015’s first quarter, made the move after Netflix announced approval of a 7-for-1 stock split, according to CNBC.

Per the publication:

The split will come in the form of a dividend of six additional shares for each outstanding share, Netflix said. It is payable on July 14 to stock owners of record at the July 2 close. Trading at the post-split price will start July 15.

CNBC reported, too, that Netflix stocks dipped slightly after Icahn’s message on the social media service.

Here’s Icahn’s Twitter message announcing the decision:

Netflix has expanded in recent years becoming not only a streaming service for television and film, but also a developer of new movies and TV shows.

MONEY pay TV

Hulu Subscribers Just Got a New Perk

Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson and Michael Sheen as Dr. William Masters in Masters of Sex (season 3, episode 1) on Showtime
Michael Desmond—Showtime A scene from Showtime's "Masters of Sex"

If you already pay for Hulu, you can now get cheaper access to certain cable shows.

Streaming media provider Hulu has just announced a new deal that will allow current subscribers to get a discount on Showtime’s new standalone service.

The offer shaves $24 off the annual price of Showtime’s platform, an HBO Now-like service that will serve as an alternative for viewers who want access to the network’s popular shows—like Masters of Sex, Nurse Jackie, and Homeland—without paying for a cable package.

The service, which you can try out free for 30 days, normally costs $11 per month, but Hulu Plus subscribers can get it for $9. All told, a Hulu and Showtime subscription together would cost a little more than $200 per year.

If you don’t find Hulu’s offerings to be generally worth paying for (say, because you use rabbit ear antennas to watch network TV for free), but you do want to be able to watch cable shows and movies, check out our guide to choosing the perfect combination of streaming services—and never paying a cable bill.

TIME Television

First Transgender Contestant to Appear on the U.S. Version of Big Brother

"I'm the Beyoncé of my life story"

The American version of Big Brother will welcome its first transgender “houseguest” on the upcoming 17th season, following in the footsteps of its British cousin.

Transgender contestant Nadia Almada won the fifth season of the U.K. show and now Audrey Middleton, a digital media consultant from a small town in Georgia, will aim to repeat that feat on the American version, Variety reports.

Born Adam, the 25-year-old Middleton applied to be on the show on the CBS website as a loyal “superfan” and was open about her transgender identity in her application.

In her bio on CBS, she says that she “loves to get dressed up and look fabulous head-to-toe, but also isn’t afraid to get dirty.” She also says that she enjoys “fabulous hair, lashes, makeup,” and is “the Beyoncé of her life story.”

Middleton plans on discussing her transition throughout the show and on the premiere episode of the season, Variety says. “I think there’s a chance I could be a misunderstood hero, but I’m going to be a hero,” she said in her introduction video.

[Variety]

TIME Television

Game of Thrones Finale Sets Ratings Record

8.1 million viewers tuned into season five's shocking sendoff

The Game of Thrones’ epic season finale drew the show’s largest audience ever.

The episode—which set the Internet abuzz with reactions—drew 8.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen “live plus same-day” estimates, despite coinciding with the NBA finals in most parts of the country. The fifth-season sendoff saw ratings 13% higher than last week’s episode (7.14 million) and last season’s finale (7.09 million).

And if your Twitter feed seemed like it was exclusively Game of Thrones-related content, that may be because it was. The finale also landed atop the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings weekly list, with 436,000 relevant tweets seen by 5.1 million people.

[Variety]

TIME Television

7 Times Game of Thrones Drew on History This Season

Just because it's got direwolves and dragons doesn't mean it's not realistic

Spoilers for Game of Thrones follow

If you watched Season 5 of Game of Thrones with a vague sense of déjà vu, you’re probably not alone. There were a lot of things this season that felt strangely familiar, or about as familiar as anything happening in a dragon-filled, White Walker-infested fictional universe can feel.

But if you experienced that sense of recognition, perhaps it’s because several plot points this season seem to be inspired by real-life history, or at least by myths so ancient they almost count. Here are 7 moments from Game of Thrones Season 5 that may have been inspired by those events; some of these have been hinted at by Martin himself, others are just parallels we’ve noticed as outside observers.

Either way, the resemblance is uncanny.

  • Melisandre / Rasputin

    Game of Thrones, HBO
    HBO; Getty Images

    If the idea of an ambitious mystic who manipulates a gullible ruler into destroying his kingdom and legacy doesn’t ring a bell, you haven’t read enough Russian history. While much of the source material for Game of Thrones comes from medieval Europe, Martin may not draw exclusively from that era. And Melisandre seems to take after Rasputin, who held great influence over Tsar Nicolas II and his wife, Alexandra, just before the Russian Revolution. Rasputin was a Russian mystic who first gained the confidence of Tsarina Alexandra and then the Tsar himself, thanks to his ability to ease the suffering of their son Alexei, who suffered from hemophilia. Just like Melisandre, Rasputin encouraged the Tsar to lead his armies in battle—in World War I, another wintry hellscape—which proved to have disastrous consequences for the Tsar. Eventually, partly because of the corrosive effect of Rasputin’s influence, the entire family was murdered in the Russian Revolution. One big difference is that Rasputin made the Tsar’s son Alexei feel better, while Melisandre condemned Stannis’ daughter Shireen to death.

  • Olly / Brutus

    Game of Thrones, HBO
    HBO; Getty Images

    Jon Snow’s shocking murder bears a striking resemblance to Julius Caesar’s. Both were stabbed repeatedly, with each knife held by a different colleague. And just as it was for Caesar, Jon receives his final blow from one of the people he trusted most: Olly, the farm boy who watched the Wildlings slaughter his parents. Olly had been Jon’s protege, just as Brutus had been Caesar’s trusted friend (at least in Shakespeare’s retelling of the assassination) but both turned murderous after their mentors assumed too much power. In Jon’s case, it was the unilateral decision to let the Wildlings south of the Wall; in Caesar’s case, it was when he named himself “dictator in perpetuity.” No wonder everyone seems to be tweeting, “Et tu, Olly?”

  • Fighting Pits / Colosseum

    Game of Thrones, HBO
    HBO; Getty Images

    In Mereen, and elsewhere in Slavers’ Bay, slaves fight to the death for cheering audiences and a chance to gain their freedom. In Ancient Rome, slaves and fighters fought as gladiators in the Colosseum for the same reasons. The fighting pits even look like the Colosseum, down to the subterranean chambers where the fighters wait for their turn.

  • Loras Tyrell / King Edward II of England

    Game of Thrones, HBO
    HBO; Getty Images

    Loras Tyrell and King Edward II of England were both handsome, both considered excellent fighters, and both brought down by their scandalous affairs with men. Loras Tyrell was imprisoned by the High Sparrow for his fooling around. King Edward II was widely rumored to be romantically involved with his squire and companion Piers Gaveston, despite his marriage to Isabella of France, who is remembered as a cruel but beautiful queen. (Remember that Loras was betrothed to Cersei, who is nothing if not beautiful and cruel.) Edward II’s romance with Gaveston strained his relationship with the barons he ruled and caused tension in his marriage to Isabella–Gaveston reportedly even wore jewelry that Edward had given her. These factors, along with a series of wars and invasions, probably led to Edward’s abdication in 1327.

  • Valyria / Pompeii

    Game of Thrones, HBO
    HBO; Getty Images

    Remember when Jorah Mormont took Tyrion Lannister through that spooky ghost city full of Stone Men during the kidnapping-slash-road trip? That was Valyria, the capital of the Valyrian Freehold, once the most powerful civilization in the world and ancestral home of the Targaryens and their dragons. Valyria had been destroyed hundreds of years before the story begins, in what looks like it must have been a massive volcanic event. Tyrion recites a poem about that disaster, known as the Valyrian Doom, as they row through the ruins: “They held each other close and turned their backs upon the end / the hills that split asunder and the black that ate the skies / the flames that shot so high and hot that even dragons burned.” It’s impossible to ignore the comparison to Pompeii, an ancient Roman city that was completely destroyed when nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted, killing almost every inhabitant of the city. Even the imagery of citizens who died as they “held each other close” is eerily similar to the bodies found during the excavation of Pompeii. No dragons, though.

  • Shireen / Iphigenia

    Game of Thrones, HBO
    HBO; Getty Images

    O.K., so this one’s not technically history—but you still might learn about it in history class. Stannis Baratheon isn’t the first warrior-king to sacrifice his daughter to win the favor of the gods. In Greek mythology, Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia in order to implore the Gods to change the wind patterns so he can sail for Troy to fight the Trojan War. Both Stannis and Agamemnon are told by prophets (or, in the case of Game of Thrones, it’s Melisandre) that the only way to ensure victory is to sacrifice their daughters, and both Shireen and Iphigenia are unaware of their fates. And in both stories, the daughter’s sacrifice leads to the demise of her mother: in Game of Thrones, Shireen’s mother Selyse hangs herself after witnessing her daughter’s death, in Greek mythology Iphigenia’s mother Clytemnestra murders Agamemnon for killing their daughter, and is then murdered by her own son as revenge.

  • Cersei / Jane Shore

    Game of Thrones, HBO
    HBO; Getty Images

    Cersei’s hideous walk of shame in the Season 5 finale wasn’t completely made up– that kind of public humiliation was a common medieval punishment for women who were found guilty of adultery or other sexual transgressions. But Martin has said that Cersei’s particular penance was inspired by Jane Shore, the mistress of King Edward IV of England who was forced to walk the streets as a harlot after Richard III took power. Richard was likely punishing Shore for conspiring against his rise more than having sex out of wedlock, but he still forced her to walk around in her undergarments, with bare feet, in 1483. In other circumstances, medieval women found having sex with someone who wasn’t their husband were forced to do the walk naked, as Cersei did.

    Read more about the link between Cersei and Jane Shore here: The True History Behind Cersei’s Game of Thrones Walk of Shame

TIME Television

The True History Behind Cersei’s Game of Thrones Walk of Shame

What King's Landing has in common with Arthurian legend, 14th-century France and 15th-century England

Contains spoilers for the season five finale of Game of Thrones

When Game of Thrones has Cersei Lannister take a naked walk of penance after her imprisonment at the Sept—an act that actress Lena Headey has said is so humiliating that nobody would ever deserve it—part of the point is that she’s all alone. In a crowd of the clothed masses, she is naked. A ringing bell draws attention to her plight. She leaves a single trail of bloody footprints. But, despite all that, she’s not actually alone: Cersei is part of a long history of medieval “walk of shame” participants.

George R.R. Martin has cited one particular such walk as an inspiration for what happens to Cersei: Jane Shore, a mistress of King Edward IV of England, who did her penance in 1483. Edward had fallen and Richard III—against whose rise she had conspired—took the throne that year. Though Richard’s reasons for hating her were largely political, her punishments were tied to her harlotry. So, as would have been a common punishment for adultery, she was made to walk through the city in her undergarments, with bare feet.

But, though there’s an obvious link between Jane Shore and Cersei, the history goes back even deeper, according to Larissa Tracy, author of Torture and Brutality in Medieval Literature. “[Jane Shore] wasn’t naked,” Tracy points out. “The naked part is very specific to adultery.”

In particular, Tracy points to the customary laws of 13th- and 14th-century France, a time and place in which that kind of public shaming was a prominent punishment. Though conviction for adultery had tough standards—the couple had to be caught in the act—the naked walk of shame that followed such a conviction could pretty much ruin a person’s life. The punishment was often for the woman alone, Tracy adds, though in rarer cases the man involved could also have to do public penance as well. In some accounts, trumpets are used to herald the passing of the penitent, so that everyone in the town would come out to see. “The goal is to create a lasting stigma,” she explains. “In the middle ages, your legal standing was largely determined by your reputation and by your social standing in the community.”

Because of legal reliance on the concept of fama—Latin for fame, or reputation—a person’s status in the community could be permanently shaped by past sins. Only a person who was already of ill fame, for example, could be subjected to torture in order to force a confession. (Torture is another link between King’s Landing and Old France: starting in 1215, when the Church moved away from the concept of trial by ordeal, torture was often used in France to elicit the kind of confession that Cersei makes to the High Sparrow.)

“The whole point is that everybody would know,” Tracy says. “That would taint their reputation for the rest of their lives.”

Another historical-mythological parallel can be seen in the literature of Guinevere and Lancelot. Though many people with casual knowledge of Arthurian legend think of Guinevere and Lancelot as romantic heroes, Guinevere was already married to King Arthur when she fell for the knight. Throughout the many iterations of the legend her reputation varies, and though their love is sometimes chaste there are also versions from as early as the 12th century in which her adultery becomes a key part of her story. In a number of tellings, she’s accused of adultery and has to publicly atone for it. (And it’s not just the humiliation that ties Guinevere to Cersei: remember that the cousin with whom Cersei committed adultery, the affair for which the punishment is being inflicted, is named Lancel.) In some cases, she’s actually condemned to being burned at the stake, only to be rescued at the last minute. The reason for that even harsher punishment for Guinevere is one worth keeping in mind of Game of Thrones fans, as Tracy points out: “When the Queen commits adultery, it’s treason.”

Cersei has yet to stand trial. If it doesn’t go well, the city and the High Sparrow seem unlikely to overlook the fact that her incestuous affair with Lancel was also a treasonous act against the King—and, if that happens, she could be looking at a punishment that makes a walk of shame look like a walk in the park.

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