I watch too much TV and would like to cut back. Interfering with this, however, is the fact that we are truly in the middle of a television golden age. Never before in my recollection has there been such a plethora of spectacular programming. Forget about movies, TV is the medium for meaningful storytelling and deep character explorations. Too often nowadays, a movie is, almost by virtue of it’s short time frame, superficial. Nowadays it just doesn’t pay for character studies. Consequently, we get a lot of flash and noise and very little that actually resonates in the heart.
Anyway, one of the things that makes television such a special medium nowadays is the abundance of options for watching. Back when I was a kid, there were no DVD box sets, no home video releases, no iTunes, no bit torrents, nothing. If you missed it on transmission, there was a good chance that you would never see the show in question, unless maybe the series went into syndication a few years later, at which point it was hard to remember why you were interested in the first place.
When I was a kid, there were no episode guides to consult or online discussion groups, either. If you were in love with any particular show, there was almost no way to explore that love outside of maybe talking about it with a classmate if you were lucky enough to find another kid who shared your passion. In some instances (Star Trek, Dr Who), you might be able to find a snail mail fan club that you could join for a certain amount of money in exchange for various and sundry articles of fandom, from mimeographed newsletters to maybe patches or posters. I never indulged in this. Not because I wouldn’t have wanted to, but only because I never had the ambition for such extravagance.
Back then, nobody knew anything about season finales, and for the most part, most shows didn’t follow elaborate arcs. That started to change around the time that JR Ewing was shot, at which point season-ending cliff-hangers started to make their mark on the world.
Anyway, to cut to the chase, all of this came to mind because earlier this evening I was reclining on my bed watching an episode of the SciFi original series Eureka. The episode in question had aired last July, but I wasn’t ready to watch it back then, and how spectcular is it that now I have the choice to sit around and wait until mid September before I get to it? Nowadays we don’t even have to go through the hassle of a growing video tape collection or its requisite hangups, from labeling to storage. Now it’s all digital, and all the labeling is done for you. The DVR will even determine whether the show is new or a repeat and how long to hang onto it if you haven’t bothered to specify your own timeline.
But even more than the wonder of the DVR age is the growth of television on demand and television for sale ala carte. Hell, if one is inclined to be something of a bandit, there’s even the extraleal means of downloading television programs via torrent software. So when I discovered to my horror that, for some reason, the Eureka episode in question was missing its first half, I had at least two other options right at my fingertips. I could buy the episode from iTunes, which is the option I chose, or I could have probably just downloaded the episode via other means just as easily.
The point is that these are options that I dreamed about when I was a kid, and it’s incredible to see that they’ve come true. It’s not jet pack, but I have no doubt that a jet pack is coming eventually. I may not be around by the time it comes to fruition, but maybe my grandkids will. They might even get around to it, after they’ve downloaded the latest season of whatever the big cultural smash show of their day is.