I think banging a nuclear bomb with a rock is risky. We’ll find out for sure in February when the final season of Lost begins. I enjoy this TV series tremendously and am really looking forward to watching the new episodes, but, it will probably be the last time I watch a dramatic series on network TV ever again. The way I watch TV has changed majorly in the past few years.
I love a big story. So, a television series that tells a big story, over a multitude of episode, or better yet, a multitude of seasons, will surely capture my attention. Season long story arcs, tales with a beginning, middle and, hopefully, end, epic storytelling; these are the things that entice me to invest my time in a television series. If I find a television series with all these factors you can be guaranteed, week in and week out, to find me settling at the proper time and station to watch the newest episode. And if that wasn’t possible, my VCR would be primed and programmed to capture anything I had missed on tape.
Deep Space 9, X-Files, Buffy, Dark Angel, Smallville, 24, Heroes, Prison Break (the first season), and Lost; I watched them all. The only problem with watching so much TV is after a while it begins to feel like you are watching so much TV. I started to experiment with time shifting. I stopped watching most of what was on and recorded it instead. Then, on a night shift at work, where there wasn’t much to do but watch infomercials, I would put a tape in the VCR and after eight hours had past I was caught up on all my television watching for the previous week. My evenings were freed up so I could waste them in other ways besides watching TV. When I watched my recordings I was multitasking, working my job, being entertained and most importantly being paid, all at the same time.
All good things must end. My VCR broke and VHS tapes became obsolete. What evolved in its place was the DVD, and from that wonderful invention came DVD box sets. I started collecting the old shows that I had enjoyed in years past and when everyone else was watching Fred, Lynn and Toni Marie on the local suppertime newscast. I would slide in a disc and spend that hour revisiting the stories that I had enjoyed before. But now I could enjoy them in ways I never previously experienced. Crystal clear picture, surround sound, wide screen and commercial free, with no faded station logo in the top corner. Plus, finally, without the one thing that irks me to no end when I watch anything on TV today, those banner ads that flash up on the bottom of the screen using animated graphics to promote other shows that I have no desire to watch or products that I have no desire to buy. It was almost like seeing these shows again for the very first time.
Then came Battlestar Galactica. A TV show I knew would be good but couldn’t watch, due to not having the right cable package. So in order for me to enjoy such an amazing show I had to get it on DVD. To this point the only shows I watched on DVD where series that I had seen before. This was the first time I ever watched a series cold, straight out of the box. I discovered this to be a very interesting and surprisingly enjoyable way to watch a show. Once a year you have a couple weeks where you immerse yourself in the series. Once done, life goes on, then the next season arrives, and once again you have your fix. There are no long wait between episodes, no out of continuity reruns. There is no “joining this program already in progress” because the US president decided to declare war on somebody or a college basketball came had to go into overtime. Best of all, if an episode ends with the words saying, To be continued, you can laugh out loud and say,”You got that right mister!” for you only have to wait as long as it takes to press the play button again. The only drawback to this is a season cliffhangers, It takes you an actual year to see it resolved. No big deal, when you wait 28 years for the final episode of Star Wars, what is 12 months, really? Lost has ended seasons three, four and five with John Locke being dead, a three year cliffhanger, so now that I think about it, a 12 month wait isn’t so bad.
Discovering this new way to watch TV made me question things. Why waste my time throughout the year watching TV from week to week? Since I couldn’t come up with a good answer to this question I stopped watching almost entirely. Now, I will watch some new shows in September and January when all the new pilots air to decide if something looks interesting to me or not. If I see something I enjoy I’ll stop watching it altogether. If the show is canceled after a couple of weeks, no big deal, I didn’t waste any of my time with it in the first place so I never really missed anything. If the show goes on to becomes a hit, then the following summer, when that season is released on DVD, I’ll pick up the box set and enjoy it at my leisure. That’s how I enjoyed Fringe and Dollhouse this year and next summer I am hoping to enjoy Flash Forward the same way.
The only exception to this way of enjoying a TV series is Lost. The final season, beginning February 2nd will be the only episodic TV series this Spring that I’ll be watching with all the commercial breaks, station logos and flash banners. That’s because I don’t think I can last another year waiting to find out what in tarnation is going on with that mind boggling island and if John Locke is truly dead.
This is the way I now watch TV and it works for me, but, unfortunately as a result, I have now broken network TV. Since I no longer watch the old fashion way, I no longer see the commercials. Ad revenue drops, sponsors pull out and shows get canceled. Because, of how I watch TV, Jay Leno comes on at ten. Game shows that nobody can win come and go. Another show with Law & Order, CSI or NCIS in the title makes figuring out TV guides even more confusing. Shows with Doctors and Nurses clog the airways, making us wonder with so much medical knowledge on screen how can our healthcare be in crisis? It’s because I watch TV the way I do that reality is manufactured for us with characters we love to hate. And because of me, unless it’s a spin off, remake, re-imagining or has siblings enough to fill out your own personal sports team it won’t ever get made. Because I only watch series TV on DVD, we are constantly being asked to vote, text, e-mail, choose to enter or play along in an exercise of virtual godhood determining the fate of one wannabe out of thousands and creating a celebrity monster for the next 15 minutes.
Yes, I admit it. It’s my fault TV is the way it now is. Blame me, I can take it, I have big shoulders.
I am like Juliet, in the bottom of the Swan, hitting the jughead over and over with a rock. The way I watch TV is like me thumping the network with a rock of my own and eventually there is going to be one thump too many and in a silent flash everything will fade to white.
Everyones’ lives will be changed.
So what will we all do when network TV vanishes forever because I no longer watch TV the way they want me too?
I have DVD’s you can borrow.