The Television Experience

There are things that I will watch on television but will never, never rent. This is not, necessarily, a "high culture" versus a "low culture" thing. It isn't that I only rent sophisticated movies/television shows. (I rent a ton of Star Trek and other sci-fi shows, for example. And I keep waiting for Scarecrow and Mrs. King to come out on DVD so I can rent it through Netflix.) Rather the criteria has more to do with the time I am willing to admit (to myself) that I will spend doing something. And this is one reason why television is so wonderful and why, I think, commercial television will never disappear.

I will not, for instance, rent Seinfeld. Or Friends. Or Hallmark movies. Or movies like Legally Blond. I look at them in the library, and I just can't bring myself to say, "I'm actually going to set aside time during my day to watch this stuff." But if it is on T.V., that's okay, that's different. It isn't planned. Besides I'm eating dinner or reading articles for school or going over grades at the same time. I'm multi-tasking. The T.V. is just background.

The "I'm going to pretend that I don't actually watch this stuff" isn't the only factor. I never rent CSI: Las Vegas, although I'm an assiduous CSI watcher. I love House, but I never rent House or tape it. For me, CSI and House encapsulate the television experience. Separate the shows from that experience and they simply aren't the same. I taped House once and ended up watching the commercials anyway (not on purpose; I forgot I was watching it on tape, but it indicates how important the television experience is). It isn't necessarily that I like commercials, although I do like some, but that the experience of watching ten minutes of plot with three minutes of break (in which I can read, correct a paper, vacuum) is part of the whole television experience. It's like those nineteenth century plays which including Dancing Barbers and vaudeville acts between Hamlet's soliquoy and his death. Without the interruptions, it's just some two-bit plot with music. With the interruptions, it becomes TELEVISION, an hour of plot and previews and commercials and music and commentary and news excerpts. And really, there's a big difference.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I suppose for some the commercials ca be a refreshing break in order to turn attention away, but for me it breaks the world the program is trying to immerse you in. I'm the kind of guy that watches and loves programs for the stories, and the things that break the immersion factor (like blatent product placement amoung other things, if a character drives a certain car thats fine, but if a character says "Quick we better hop in our *brand name* and get going!" I just sit there going, what the heck this isnt a commercial, and unless the story was really good I usually find something else to watch) are detrimental to everything the program was trying to establish. Some suspense is needed, but predictable pauses? No thanks.

But I can relate to not renting and such. I dont watch alot of programs, but if a movie is on I usually put it on in the background. However even if I like the movie, I dont buy it. My DVD collection is up to 12 individual movies and 4 trilogy collections (well one is a quad; indiana jones, back to the future, lord of the rings, and the 4 aliens. would have liked the original 3 star wars but the dvd version had "enhancements" that connected to them to the new ones and I vomitted when I saw them.....original laserdisc copies good enough for me.....) and even if a DVD is $10 i'll still be hesitant to buy. Yet I still watch them on TV, and i'll even watch on TV some of the ones I own on DVD, whilst I rarely actually watch from my collection.
As you said, its all about the planned factor. I tend to multi-task alot and watch some listin to most of the movie (as I've already seen it i literally repicture what is going on in my head. amazing I can do that when my short term fact memory is so crappy! reproducing movie footage in my head on the fly but having to recheck a phone number two to three times to confirm i didnt get off by a number is just so unbalanced!) but if I put a DVD in and not pay attention to it i feel guilty about it, as opposed to the same movie played on TV that i didnt plan on having on. Practically the same amount of electricity to watch both, but the feeling of guilt at not doing something I planned on doing (even if the plan was have it on in the background to not pay attention to it..) is the factor.....for me at least....