Big confession I’d like to make: I’m way, way over the upper middle class’s current infatuation with television. This is probably more just curmudgeonliness, or an in-born contrarian impulse than anything else, but I’d still like to say a few things.
For one, I’m tired of boring conversations about binge-watching. I don’t think most people who start them realize just how boring the are to listen to. Imagine if we talked about books the way people like to talk about TV now:
Reader: Yeah, so, the other day, I started reading this book, it’s called David Copperfield. Have you heard about it?
Listener: Wait, is that, can I get that on Amazon?
Reader: Yeah, totally. They’ve got ALL the chapters.
Listener: Oh, is it any good?
Reader: I mean, first I read like one chapter and I was like, you know, this is SLOW, it’s SO SLOW. I’m like “where is this GOING?” Because all it was was just like, you know, about this guy, and how he was born and who his parents were, but then, I just started getting INTO it, you know, and I read like SEVEN CHAPTERS all last night.
Listener: Oh my god I’m TOTALLY like that too, when I start reading, I just like, I can’t read ONLY a chapter.
Reader: Yeah and you know what else- I’m totally WAITING to read the next chapter. Sure, it came out yesterday but I just like, keep them on my nightstand until I WANT to read them you know?
In other words, I’m glad that the average idiot has taken the step beyond only watching single episodes of a TV show, I suppose, but why does every single stranger I seem to encounter on the CTA, or for that mater, every marginal acquaintance think they’re like the FIRST people ever to experience this phenomenon or feel the need to elucidate it anew? Perhaps they’ve actually never had that experience with books, or movies, or anything else… to me it all usually ends up being overblown.
And while we’re at it, something else that’s frustrating to me: why am I expected to binge-watch all this relative crap. I mean, I totally get what it feels like to be really, really into something great. The first time I watched The Wire, I sat up watching 6 episodes, and then when they were done, I was gleefully surprised to learn that Comcast had just added the next 6 episodes at midnight of that day, and so I continued watching.
However – there was a time when it was possible to be just a casual TV viewer. When if I mentioned an episode of Seinfeld, say, I wouldn’t be immediately drawn into a conversation where someone asked me something like “oh, like, have you watched the whole thing?” Or also, I didn’t have to explain myself if I hadn’t. I could safely watch, say, the “Junior Mint” episode without being made to feel some sense of dreadful inadequacy that I hadn’t seen the entirety of Seasons 1-3 first.
So – binge-watching, I get it, when it’s really, really good. but How I Met Your Mother? do I really need to watch this end to end before I could even possibly comprehend ever single comic nuance of such a show? Should I want to?
Oh – something else that really pissed me off. Last week I was watching hulu (I don’t normally do this) and it asked me to “customize my advertisement experience.” It was all I could to not to smash the laptop to bits right then and there. How about this… HOW ABOUT YOU JUST SHOW ME THE STUPID TOYOTA AD AND BE DONE WITH IT? This insidious “customization” is, so far as I can tell, the downfall of what is left of civilization. Show me an ad if you wan’t – don’t make me pretend it was my choice.
Let’s get real folks – for the most part, television is light entertainment to sell advertisements. I have no real problem with that, but our growing fetishistic/obsessive attachment to sequenced viewing of eminently predictable genre pieces is sad. Just to be clear – “eminently predictable genre pieces” are all well and good – they can be relaxing, funny, like I said, “light.” But can we all stop taking it so seriously? Put that energy somewhere more useful. Or at least, don’t bother me about if you don’t (if you must, please, PLEASE don’t talk so loudly when you’re on about it across from me on the el).