The Subway Watchers: The TV Shows People Watch During Their Commute May Surprise You

For close to a year, one straphanger has kept a running list of the content consumed on mass transit

By Chris Harnick Sep 04, 2019 11:00 AMTags
Watch: Kate Flannery Spills on Crazy "The Office" Fandom

Riding the subways of New York City, I'm often daily crammed into somebody's armpit on one side, another's backpack on the other and face-to-face with somebody in front of me. The breathing room? It's nonexistent. Eyes are bound to wander to lit up screens, especially those with moving images on it, as everyone tries to remain in their own world. As somebody who watches TV for a living, I'm always curious what others are giving their time to.

Peeping what they're watching on the subway, in a non-obtrusive way, has been a game I've been playing since I saw somebody watching a long-canceled show in November 2018.

Sure, you can question the politeness of this almost daily act, but it happens. And let me tell you what I've seen.

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Limitless: This show started it all. I saw somebody watching the one-season CBS drama starring Jake McDorman and Jennifer Carpenter years after it was canceled and it boggled my mind. How did they find this? Why are they watching it?
America's Got Talent
The Office
The Office
Miss Congeniality
Grace and Frankie
Abducted in Plain Sight: If you haven't watched this, you should, but be prepared because it's a wild ride.
Black Mirror
Making a Murderer
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

The Office
Leaving Neverland: A bold choice for the subway.
The Office
The Office
Some type of women's volleyball game
The Office


The Good Fight: This was the one time I wanted to comment on what somebody was watching. It took everything in me not to try and talk to this person because Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart is magnificent.
Late Night with Seth Meyers
Some baseball game or highlights
Lorena: This is Amazon's miniseries about Lorena Bobbitt.
House of Cards
The Blacklist
The Avengers: The movie, I think it was the first one.
The Tudors
The Silence:
The Netflix movie starring Stanley Tucci and Kiernan Shipka.

Jane the Virgin
America's Got Talent
The Flash
RuPaul's Drag Race
A ping pong tournament
The Chef Show


The Office
The Office
Stranger Things
The Office
Lila and Eve: The movie starring Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez from 2015. It aired on Lifetime eventually?
The Magicians
Jane the Virgin
13 Reasons Why
Tales of the City: Ellen Page's hat was instantly recognizable.

What's my big takeaway from this? Just how popular The Office still is. The NBC comedy ran for nine seasons from 2005-2013 and is one of the most-watched shows on Netflix right now. NBC paid big bucks to get it back for the new streaming platform its launching in 2021.

"The Office has become a staple of pop culture and is a rare gem whose relevance continues to grow at a time when fans have more entertainment choices than ever before," Bonnie Hammer, chairman of NBCUniversal DTC and digital enterprises, in a statement when the move was announced. "We can't wait to welcome the gang from Dunder Mifflin to NBCUniversal's new streaming service."

According to The Hollywood Reporter, NBCUniversal paid $500 million to get The Office for five years on the new streaming platform. Half a billion dollars!

Kate Flannery, Meredith on The Office and a Dancing With the Stars season 28 contestant, said she loves how ubiquitous the show has become.

"It's crazy, people go to sleep to it every night. They leave it on all the time…People say they work all day from home and they just leave it on, so it's like we're kind of in this weird subconscious situation," Flannery told E! News. "It's crazy. I love that people still care about the show and that they're so invested in it."

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)