Perhaps it started with the recent crime thriller Fortitude, when a young woman afflicted with a mysterious, psychosis-inducing illness hacked her mother’s stomach open with a fork, vomited into the gaping wound and left her for dead on the kitchen floor.
Maybe it happened when I was binge-watching True Detective on DVD, with its recurring image of a murdered prostitute tethered by her wrists to a tree, pagan symbols painted on her broken body and a ritualistic crown of antlers and tree boughs on her head.
Or, more likely still, it had its genesis in season three of Game of Thrones, during the infamous Red Wedding scene, with its unexpurgated orgy of stabbing, throat-slitting and crossbow bolts to the heart.
To be honest, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I began to grow weary of over-the-top TV violence – the realisation dawned upon me gradually, like the slow, insistent drip-drip-drip of Chinese water torture – but one thing’s for sure: I just can’t take it anymore.
There’s no doubt we’re enjoying a golden age of TV right now: Hits such as The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, True Detective and Game of Thrones arguably rival great works of literature in the complexity of their characters and the scope of their ambition.
But it seems curious that these series so often involve scene after scene of graphic, gratuitous violence, to the point where it feels almost routine.
So routine, in fact, that each new series seems to push into darker, weirder, more disturbing territory in a bid to outdo its predecessors and keep its audience glued to the screen.
It’s as if the concept of high-quality drama has become conflated with the need to shock, disturb or just gross out viewers.
To be sure, people have long had an appetite for a bit of fake blood and gore with their entertainment – anyone who has studied Greek drama or Shakespeare at high school can tell you that.
But there is something a mite discomforting, even creepy, about the way the camera lovingly lingers on every slashed throat, bashed-in skull or dismembered corpse in today’s TV shows.
The fact that the latest special effect techniques render these grisly images more lifelike than ever only makes things more confronting.
In the internet age – where the most gruesome and disturbing real-life images are just a mouse-click away – it appears that we’re so inured to violence on our screens that we feel short-changed if anything – anything at all – is left to the imagination.
Maybe it’s because the challenges we face in the modern world – terrorism, climate change and widening economic inequality – are so overwhelming that we hunger for ever more twisted distractions to avoid facing up to the altogether scarier, messier, more uncertain task of trying to fix things.
Or it could have something to do with the fact that life is increasingly sanitised. For most of us, thankfully, death, pain and bloodshed aren’t things that we have to deal with in our day-to-day lives. Violence is something that titillates, rather than horrifies.
Whatever the reason, it seems a pity that it’s increasingly difficult to find high-quality drama that doesn’t rely on shock tactics to captivate its viewers.
For my part, I’ll be turning to an older, gentler era of entertainment when I snuggle down on the sofa to watch my next box set this winter.
I’ve raided my parents’ DVD cabinet for box sets of childhood favourites such as The Good Life, Rumpole of the Bailey and To the Manor Born. Is it fashionable? You bet it’s not. But at least I’ll be able to unwind at the end of a long day without a severed head in sight.