|He's relevant. I promise.|
No, I'm referring to entertainment that's widely available, such as on network TV or Netflix/Amazon streaming. These are shows that pretty much anyone who's going to watch already has, which means they've had the subsequent freakouts and mind pops months or even years ago. Being an audience member so much later than everyone else made me feel out of step with the other members of my tribe, and I've got to be honest, I didn't like it.
To be more specific, I recently caught up on the last season and a half of Once Upon a Time that was sitting on my TiVo. Naturally, it gave me the Captain Hook rabies. Bad. I mean, the scruff and the eyeliner and the sinister and the black leather and the kissing. Oh, the kissing. Mercy.
|This picture captures pretty much everything I'm talking about.|
Ditto the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics. I plowed through the Buffy season 8 graphic novels a few weeks ago. Like the show, the comics swept me along an epic story arc, and the ending socked me with a pretty serious emotional wallop. For days afterward, I was a little hung over, feelings-wise, by everything that happened in the comics, which really did follow the general pattern of a season of the TV show: a season-long Big Bad interspersed with smaller storylines woven throughout, all mingling humor, action, surprise and tragedy.
This is similar to the kind of emotional isolation you might feel when you pick up a gorgeously written older book or finally get the newest season of a cable show on DVD. But a show like Once Upon a Time is a network show and much easier to access immediately than something on HBO or AMC, where you have to subscribe to the channels, pay per episode or wait for the DVDs. With OUaT, most interested parties are watching as it airs, either on TV or at ABC.com, which leads to a much larger online conversation immediately afterward. Likewise, Buffy was always a communal experience for its fans, with discussion threads and episode recaps going live as soon as the credits rolled. To walk a path with the Scooby gang and then not have the contemporaneous input from other similarly gobsmacked fans was awfully lonely.
We're now a nation of binge-watchers, time-shifters, and wait-for-the-DVD consumers, which screws up our ability to enjoy our entertainment en masse. But even with Netflix's Arrested Development and Orange is the New Black, a critical mass of people dove in and watched them all at once, lighting up the Internet for a few heady weeks with griping and speculation and praise. Breaking Bad aired on a cable channel, but that didn't stop an online furor as people devoured the final episodes. I pity the viewer who picks up the series in a year (or five or 10) who doesn't get to experience that delicious thrill of waiting for the finale to air and then yelling about it with equally stunned coworkers the next day.
DVDs, streaming, marathons, time-shifting ... they're all great tools. But they can take away the communal aspect that unites us with others who were also just buoyed or destroyed by a show. Anyone else ever felt late to the party when you started watching or reading something new?