Most of you are probably too young to remember this, but there once was a time when TV shows were watched on specific nights at specific times. We call this B.D.V.R. or Before D.V.Rs. The advent of the DVR has been wonderful, allowing me to stockpile entire seasons of shows and have lost weekends eating waffles and watching 22 hours of “Top Chef.” It also has allowed me to compensate for distractions, complete incomprehension or those “he did not just say that, did he” moments that I get so much when I watch the news. All of those issues are solved with a quick press of the rewind button. In fact, rewinding live television is so awe-tastically-awesome, I find myself wanting to use it in other areas of my life, from listening to the radio to winning key arguments in spousal debates.
As with any invention, though, there are losses that accompany the advances. The worst, for me, is the loss of the Morning After TV Show Dissection and Recap. Back in the day, TV wasn’t as flexible. Sure, there were VCRs but it took actual effort to set a timer, find a blank top, making sure it wasn’t your Menudo All-Star Video and finally record the program. Not the easy “eh, I guess I’ll record that” way that we all have with our DVRs these days. Which meant that most people watched their favorite TV shows when they actually aired. Which meant the next day everyone in the dorm or office was talking about the same thing. Which was actually fun.
Back in the day, my office mates and I used to get together for lunch the day after X-Files aired just so we could go over what we’d seen the night before. We didn’t spend the whole hour talking about the show, but it was a great excuse to get together and catch up on each other’s lives…and talk about how hot David Duchovny was. Nowadays, you can excitedly ask someone, “Did you see ‘Lost’ last night?” and they’ll tell you no, they DVRed it and intend to watch it tomorrow or next weekend or are saving it up for their own lost weekend. (Of “Lost!” See what I did there?)
TV shows used to build camaraderie. Sure, there are message boards now where we can get fanatical en masse, but everything is so structured. You’ve got to worry about spoilers. You have to make sure you’re in the right thread. You worry if some insane Belgian is going to flame you. (Dear Belgians, I have a deep affection for you and your chocolates. Your nationality was chosen at random…and also because Belgian is a funny word.) Anyway, it’s just not the same as freewheelin’ geeky ladies getting together to talk sci-fi over a few cups of soup. Or booze. I do not judge.
I don’t regret the arrival of DVRs or online content or the dismantling of the TV seasons. All of those things have given flexibility to busy individuals and families. At the same time, though, I can’t help but lament the loss of fun, of excitement and friendship that went hand in hand in the days when we were all glued to the same screens at the same time.