What, exactly, is the big black box for?

Right at this moment, I am fully caught up on two ongoing television shows – Girls and Mad Men. Three if you count Parks and Rec, since I am only one twenty-minute episode behind on that. I could watch it, but I’m saving up until I have a few. Watching just one Parks and Rec at a time is slightly painful; its so great, and then after just 20 minutes or so it’s over and you’re like, ahh, what??

Duh

Ahh what who made this it's great!

As the previous paragraph probably makes eminently clear, I’m not used to watching TV, on TV. And in fact, I am consistently surprised that other people do it that way, like, on a regular basis. My family moved to a new town when I was in 8th grade, and my parents did not immediately get cable in our new house…and then continued not to get cable. We didn’t miss it, honestly, after the first week or two. Since then I’ve only ever had actual channels on the big black box in my house if I’m living with someone who has decided we need cable, so off and on through college with various roommates. I have no real desire to go back.

When I was in 8th grade, the options for watching TV (and by TV, I mean, Simpsons episodes, I was 14 and my brother was 11) on the computer were fairly limited, slow, and stupid. But we used them, and we watched DVDs, and sometimes we went to friends’ houses to watch sporting events or certain shows. (Veronica Mars was worth walking across the street once a week to watch, season four of the West Wing wasn’t). Now there are just….SO MANY ways to watch tv that isn’t channels coming into a box, and many of them are even legal! There are DVDs and Netflix Instant, and Hulu Free and Hulu Plus, and then episodes on network websites (usually only the first one, ugh amctv.com and HBO on Youtube [which like, let’s just talk about THAT delivery system]). It’s fantastic! I would always prefer to watch something legally, if I can, in a way that actually counts me as someone who has watched it. Of course, if that all costs money, then there is sidereel and tubeplus.me and tv-links.eu and a new site every week and just, what I’m saying here is, I do not understand that people still watch TV, on TV. Please explain?

Look at the fishtank!

Come on guys! You're in the future!

Or more than that, I don’t understand why all TV doesn’t just work the way I want it to, now. It’s like we are between mediums – lots of people have DVRs, and lots of people watch TV on computers and phones and all that kind of stuff, like me. But apparently, like, most people still watch it on the box when it comes out? And so there are a variety of not quite all the way there ways to stream stuff – Hulu Plus, Netflix, Amazon Prime. None of them have everything I want, all of them have some stuff that doesn’t work. In the near future, a few of them will win and a few will lose, and the winners will be able to consolidate themselves, get more of the shows, work out their kinks, make the product function, but for now no one is willing to give up so everything is fragmented and missing and I just wanna watch Community, guys, from the beginning, and I’d like to do it legally, is that so hard?

I’m excited for the future. Hopefully they figure out some way to make Sports available on demand (hrm) over the computer, too, because that is slightly irritating when I just want to watch the football (haha) game (hahah) and I don’t feel like going to a bar and spending money to do it (did you read that sentence? did I write that sentence?). It’s also sort of fun and interesting to think about what TV on the computer – TV that starts and stops when you want it, that you can watch several seasons in a row of, that you don’t have to take with you or set your schedule by, ie. streamring TV – will mean for the medium itself. More stuff that you pay attention to and concentrate on, less background, watch-it-while-doing-other-things shows?

No, fact, I kind of love Bones

Not that there's anything wrong with "Bones"

It is entirely possible, of course, that I am completely wrong about this. People love TV they don’t have to all the way watch. I am vastly overestimating the people who watch TV like me. Whenever they talk about Community’s miniscule ratings, I always want to say “Yeah but at least that many people watched it on Hulu, too, right?” But apparently, they are not. Apparently most people still assume TV starts and stops at certain times. People who I know, smart, educated, 20-somethings, do not know how to watch TV illegally online. I am the minority, and I am more likely to change than everyone else. At the gym I watch  TV on TV, and I relish the shows that let me breeze in and out between commercials. (Did you know, by the way, that Good Morning America is completely and totally watchable, even enjoyable? I had no idea! This is what happens when you don’t have cable your entire life.) And, as mentioned earlier, I am now watching shows on like, a week to week basis, rather than watching all the seasons in a row over a matter of weeks days. Most likely, the world will continue to slowly change towards TV on the computer, and I will feel increasingly frazzled by keeping up with the cultural conversation, as I always do.

God Mad Men is SO GOOD lately

This was merely 48 hours ago, and by 24 hours after it had happened I was like oh god I'm so behind the Internet has spoiled it all I have to watch Mad Men now!

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4 Responses to What, exactly, is the big black box for?

  1. Alex says:

    Yeah man, I don’t know. Back in July, I moved into my current apartment, and the building was so shiny and new, with an elevator and trash rooms and a zip car garage, everything felt so gentrifier-cool. And I had just left this shit hole hovel of an apartment building where I didn’t have a couch so I had to eat everything on the bed, EVERYTHING, while watching netflix. And my roommates and I thought, we should get cable. It would match our nice new life! Cable is the ultimate adulthood upgrade! Sure it’s kind of insanely expensive, but it’s live, communal entertainment! That’s sort of the rub for me. It’s watching something at the exact same time as other people. Plus, having cable means you participate in totally different forms of tv consumption. Indirect consumption! Like, “I’m just going to turn on MSNBC while I clean out the litter box.” Not sitting down to watch 6 consecutive episodes of a serial show I’m obsessed with. Just putting some pop culture background noise into my life. It’s kind of nice! But I’ve never been one of those people who is like, “TELEVISION IS EVIL MAKE YOUR CHILDREN PLAY WITH WOODEN TOYS.” I love television. Television is like, the ultimate cultural socialization. I think everyone should consume as much television as possible. I mean unless you’re stupid in which case….. I don’t know. But I like the luxury of being like, “hmm I wonder what’s on,” and then watching some d-list tv show, or some national geographic special on mutant birds of new zealand, or an obesity surgery show, or local news, or whatever. JUST BECAUSE IT’S THERE.

  2. Yeah, I think that’s the thing I really missed/lost by not having a TV for so long – the ‘putting it on the background’ idea. When I watch TV I watch it, to watch it, to pay attention (possibly while eating). And yet lots of people like having it on in the background, and that’s a totally respectable thing! I just…its like shellfish – having not grown up with it, now I can’t really like it.
    As for the communal experience – doesn’t all the blogging and twittering and constant talking about episodes like, the day after they air count? Mad Men!

  3. Pingback: Some thoughts about Dan Harmon and Community, and also about jerks | Neon Apologist

  4. Pingback: Neon Apologist’s Long Magazine Article Pick of the Week – this time I am cheating | Neon Apologist

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