A major story junkie in any form—books, tv, movies, you name it—it’s been hard to adjust to the idea that I can download and watch an entire series in a few weeks instead of the years it took to produce and air the show originally.
My first experience with tv gluttony was with 24. My husband and I watched the season two opener where Jack says, “I’m gonna need a hacksaw,” and decided we needed to see season one. A trip to the local WalMart later we were watching episodes back to back on DVD.
It set a bad precedent.
Now with video on demand services like Hulu, Netflix, and DirectTv I can easily download and watch entire series without even changing out of my bathrobe.
But like an addict chasing a bigger high, after watching binge watching several tv series I missed the first time around, I’ve come to a disappointing conclusion.
Most of the time, waiting a week for the next episode makes the story better.
Heresy, I know, but it’s true.
Take The Sopranos, for instance. Highly acclaimed, award winning, on most people’s best ever lists, it was a series I didn’t watch when it was airing on HBO because I had young kids in the house and didn’t want random f-bombs landing in Grandma’s living room. Years later the language is still coarse, but the kids no longer care what I’m watching since they’re too busy with their own lives. They are also the kind of kids who cringe when I say hell. They’re far more likely to censor me for watching it than have any interest themselves.
So over the last week or so I’ve watched the first season and a couple of episodes of season two. The acting is good, the writing is snappy, production values are high—but my finger is itching on the fast forward button and it’s not just the scenes in the Bada Bing Club that have me speeding through an episode.
I’m bored. I want to get on with the story already. All the lingering conversations over coffee and food are killing me; I don’t care about Tony’s fantasies with women, Christopher’s ambitions as a screenwriter, or Meadow’s teenage angst. With about 86 hours of tv to get through, I want things to move along much faster. It doesn’t help that I know it ends with the screen going blank with Tony Soprano’s implied death. I’m seriously considering abandoning the series in favor of reading episode synopsizes to find out how it gets to the end so I can get back to pretending to clean house and cook. And that’s tragic.
When you have a week to think about what happens next, to wonder what clues are hidden in seemingly random conversations, to shake your head over Livia Soprano’s machinations or Carmela’s no-nonsense approach to life, the pacing’s beautiful.
But instant gratification means no downtime to ponder or reflect because the answers are waiting in your video cue.
To finish the series, I’m going to have to limit myself to an episode every so often. No more marathons of three or four episodes an evening.
And that’s tough when you’re a story junkie.
Way back in caveman days when I was a kid, I used to dream about a magical place where you didn’t have to wait a week for the next episode of your favorite tv show. In this fantastical place not only could you see an entire season back to back, but if you missed an episode because the Boss of the TV decided he’d rather watch Let’s Go Fishing or some football game, it was no big deal. You didn’t have to try to catch it on the summer repeats; it was there, waiting for you whenever you were ready.
Of course, some shows never got a summer repeat. I’m still traumatized by missing the series finale of MASH. It took me twenty years to catch it on a rerun. Can you imagine? We’ve come a long way, baby.
Back in college when VCRs became cheap enough for people to own, I thought I’d won the lottery. I had three ratty VHS tapes I rotated through, recording shows over and over until the images were grainy and spotty. It was awesome. I could record shows and fast-forward through the commercials, perfect for my ADD/OCD viewing style.
When DVRs came along, I thought people were finally getting it. No more crappy tapes. I could watch one show live and record another or even record two shows and watch a third from the day before without sparing a single moment on ads for things with wings or class action lawsuits.
But with more channels and content available than ever before, I often had to make hard choices over what got recorded and what didn’t because of scheduling conflicts and limited disc space. I became the Queen of Programming, a.k.a. the DVR Disc Space Nazi to the rest of the family.
You’ve seen it? Delete it!
What do you mean, you were gonna watch it? If you didn’t find time in the last two weeks what makes you think tomorrow’s gonna be any different?
Nobody needs 20 episodes of The Brady Bunch, not even Alice. You get two, tops!
We all have our crosses to bear.
A couple of months ago we upgraded our DVR system with mega storage capacity and the ability to record five programs at once–and that’s just the family room. I doubt I’ll ever have to choose what doesn’t record again. You wanna store 30 episodes of Shake it Up? Fine. Just don’t expect me watch it with you, especially now when you can watch your show in the family room and I can watch mine everywhere else. Recorded shows now play on my iPad, my laptop, smart phone, and any other computer or tv in the house. Tell me again why I need to get out of bed?
But, wait! There’s more!
With so many shows available to download on demand, I’m going back and watching series that didn’t make the record list the first time around. Not shows. Entire series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Sopranos, House of Cards, Mad Men, Merlin… It’s a long, long list.
Magical? You bet. But to a story junkie, it’s like an endless supply of Columbia’s finest. It makes downloading books at 2 am via Amazon look like near beer.
Like a Weight Watchers escapee at an all you can eat Vegas buffet, I better pace myself. Maybe waiting a week for the next episode wasn’t so bad after all.