No, not that! get your mind out of the gutter. This post concerns the changing way that we watch TV. When I was growing up, we only had 4 channels, although we were fortunate enough to have a VHS player. The idea that you could pause live TV, or automatically record an entire series to watch back later, would have been pure Science Fiction.
Of course, with the advent of TiVO and the relative cheapness of DVD box sets, the TV viewing experience has changed. Gone are the fiddly days of trying to ‘timer record’ a program on the recalcitrant VHS player. Banished too, is the disappointment of missing the live broadcast, after all, you’ll just watch it on catchup, right?
I remember the days of watching a single episode of a given series each week, the interim period between episodes allowed for reflection and anticipation for the next one. Nowadays, TV shows like Fringe are consumed in ‘binges’, and like a drug addict I pronounce myself ‘addicted’ and then ‘mainline’ some more Fringe or Dexter goodness.
It seems to me that the makers of TV shows, such as the aforementioned Fringe and Dexter have realised this, and designed each show to end with an irresistible cliff hanger. Never mind that it’s work tomorrow and clearly bedtime, I must know what happens next!
‘Lost’ was a champion show in this regard and would ‘tease’ viewers with hints of an answer, forcing them to plow through entire seasons in search of it. Sadly, for many, the magical mystery tour hits of Lost (that would be spread over many seasons) would be far more enjoyable than the final denouement that left many addicts not just in a state of withdrawal, but in a state of anger that it had all been for naught.
I do like the view-on-demand, all-you-can-eat television – but acknowledge that the pleasure of a series consumed in measured portions has its attractions. It’s good to ‘look forward’ to next weeks episode sometimes. Maybe the binge-hit gives intense enjoyment for a short while, but taking more time to mull things over can be more rewarding.
I’ve recently become aware that some people ‘tweet’ whilst watching TV shows. They feel the need to ‘share’ the TV watching experience, which I find to be a very strange thing indeed. Sure, I can understand wanting to talk about an episode after it has broadcast, but during the show? I don’t think that I could focus, but then, I can’t multi-task.
Another trend that passes me by is ‘mobile TV’, who would want to watch a TV show on a tiny i-phone sized screen? I just don’t see how mobile phones enhance the television experience, either as a medium for watching or for tweeting, and are just distracting.