Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Back in my day, we had to watch TV in the snow, uphill and without shoes.

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.

10 comments:

Anna van Schurman said...

DVR has ruined me. Everything in life should rewind.

Jessica said...

Also, the sense of anticipation! Tuesdays were always the best because I knew if I could just make it through the school day and wait it out a few hours after that, Buffy would come on.

The Modern Gal said...

Ah yes, my co-workers and I used to get bagels and coffee for a Thursday morning gathering to discuss the West Wing. It was always the best part of the work week.

Not to mention, I hit the wrong button on Tivo last night and ended up erasing half of How I Met Your Mother.

Jessica said...

ALSO ALSO, the fun of calling up your fellow show-obsessed friend during the commercial breaks to squeal at them about a particularly nasty turn the writers chose to take.

Kelly said...

I bought my Tivo five (six?) years ago when I realized that my two week trip to Korea would coincide with the start of the television season. I think I was the only person in the world that had rabbit ears on the Tivo box, as I did not have cable. Now I cannot see how I can live without it as I tape everything, have not seen anything 'live' without at least a fifteen minute delay to skip all commercials, and have had roommates that teased me incessantly for recording the Olympics. (Yes, the entire Olympics.)

In an age where we now have the verb Tivoing as part of the vernacular, my friends and I have found ways to make TV viewing a group experience again. Gray's Anatomy used to air on Sunday nights. While we didn't watch it live, the girls got in the habit of watching it together after dinner every week. When it switched to Thursdays, it messed with people's schedules--so now it's Tivoed and watched every Sunday after dinner. And man, let me tell you, avoiding those Friday morning spoilers is HARD!!!

Bakerloo said...

I don't have DVR, which means I have to get my Project Runway hot off the presses or be left out when the discussions start the next day.

twigtea said...

What I miss is having conversations while the commercials were on. What we used to do (particularly with Buffy, I hear you Jessica) is watch until the first commercial break and then call one another and flip out over the first 15 minutes: "DID YOU JUST SEE THAT?!?!" "I TOTALLY SAW IT. DID YOU SEE THAT??!" etc. And then we'd hang up as soon as the show was back, until the next commercial break when we'd call one another again (we had a phone-tree-like system. It was very complex because we were very nerdy) and do it all over again. I miss the feeling of communal experience! Nobody is watching exactly what I'm watching at the exact same time anymore.

Tara said...

I completely agree with Anna. I've often wished for a TiVO for life!

queencallipygos said...

It still happens!

My boyfriend doesn't own a TV, and made friends with someone else who lives in his building -- and when he mentioned to her that a) he was a BATTLESTAR GALACTICA fan and b) didn't own a TV, she started hosting BSG parties on Friday nights in her place, where she and her boyfriend and a few other people all gather to watch together.

Kimmer said...

I feel the same way about the radio, even going so far as to look for the rewind button for just a second before I remember that I'm in the car.

As for camaraderie, back in the first season, I used to host "X-files Night," where I would cook a lot of food and any of my friends were free to come over and watch with me. I had just started dating my husband, and he couldn't understand why we couldn't ever go out on a Friday night. He even got me a VCR so I could record my favorite show, but I never did. X-Files Night was as much about getting together with friends as the show itself.