This scene from Portlandia says it all. How many of us have our own version of The Lost Weekend under our belts? Not in a Don Birnam wrestling with the bottle kind of way but with something perhaps just as insidious. Before you know it, the weekend is gone and you’re wearing the same clothes. It always starts out so innocently; with a casual phrase like: “I heard this was good” or “You haven’t seen this!” or the deadly “It takes a while to get into but….”. Then the package arrives, usually from a friend who has disguised it in an unassuming plastic bag. Sometimes it can sit in your front hallway for days almost forgotten until you catch it out of the periphery of your eye. By then it’s too late.
It’s ten times worse if you have a partner in crime. You come up with multiple reasons to convince your couch buddy that what you are doing is for the greater good. The enabling can easily last into the wee hours of the night, with multiple rules and stipulations quickly made and then broken and then made again. Everyone is looking for someone to whisper these words we desperately want to hear “It’s ok to have another one.” TV dieting easily gets thrown out the window. We can’t help ourselves. TV has changed. C.H.I.P. S has been replaced by The Wire.
The way TV is delivered and written has changed drastically too. Not only is our access to entire television series readily available but TV is no longer a slave to the rerun. The original idea of the rerun prevented longer story arcs and plot-lines. Each show had to serve as its own self contained play from beginning to end. A story-line couldn’t be carried over several episodes because reruns aren’t necessarily aired in their original order. Shuffling the order of the episodes could confuse the viewer and jumble up the story. Specialty channels weren’t tied to the concept of the rerun and could develop their television episodes like chapters in a book. This changed everything.
A good story slowly builds up, revealing itself event by event and detail by detail while keeping the entirety of itself in the background. This is how we get sucked in. This is how an hour turns into a marathon. A series reveals enough of itself at a time to keep us wanting more. If you are watching along as they are originally being aired, the week wait can be tedious. If the shows also include commercial breaks, that’s almost too much to bare. The alternative of waiting for the entire season or series to be released on DVD requires a little patience and the not to be undermined skill of avoiding spoilers. I know the internet is easier and quicker but I like the idea of supporting what you like. The beautiful thing is you can get on board to any show long after the show has finished.
For me it all started with Buffy The Vampire Killer. Originally I had absolutely no desire to watch this program. The idea didn’t appeal to me and what I had seen seemed forgettable. Then a friend I shared a lot of the same tastes with recommended it. The DVDs were found and I started my skeptical reexamination of my friend’s television viewing habits and then before I knew it, boom I was hooked. Around this same time The Sopranos was entering its third season. I quickly grabbed up the first two seasons and not only was I hooked, I was enthralled. TV was an entirely different creature then when I was growing up. Series creators had the time over a entire season to develop rich complex characters. Six Feet Under, The British Office, Battlestar Galactica, Mad Men,The Wire and many others have all followed since.
Now it is I who shows up with the unassuming plastic bag. “You haven’t seen Breaking Bad?”
“Here’s season one to get you started and oh….you probably shouldn’t make any other plans for the weekend.”