Friday, February 13, 2009

Pro/Con: Is it more fun to watch TV on DVD?

By Peter Berkowitz
who's the original mad man, literally


The two things I ever wanted from life were love and a machine that would let me watch TV shows, in their entirety, over and over again and at my leisure. When I like a TV show, I really like it. Why else watch it? I want it, and I want it now. What's so great about waiting? I had to wait until 32 before I found love. Believe me, waiting is overrated.

The last decade has been a golden age of quality drama, and the best stories are addictive. Today, however, the pickings are a lot slimmer. Mad Men runs its 13 episodes and then disappears for most of the year. A lot of people seem to get excited, but also confused, about Lost. I haven't seen it yet, but when I start, I bet it will be more fun to binge on season after season on DVD, rather than wait seven years to get all the answers. Some of my favorite shows have been ones that I didn't start watching from the beginning. When I started The Shield, it led to many happy nights that ended around 5 in the morning. Now that's the way to watch TV!

My lady refused to acknowledge that Alias could possibly be any good. The majority of her argument, as near as I could determine, was based on her hatred of Jennifer Garner. During its first three seasons, Alias was exciting and nail-biting. Waiting for a new episode was — well, I don't want to minimize actual human suffering, but in all seriousness, it was torture. And I was watching them on DVD! As I watched season four on regular TV, it took long, slow weeks to realize that the writers had run out of good ideas (Heroes, anyone? 24?) and that my series had lost its mojo.

One day, I finally persuaded my lady to give it a chance — but only the first three seasons. "OK, blow me away," she ordered. By the end of the third season, she wanted to ignore my warnings and continue watching "more, more, more!" I've prevailed, however. We've since shared the joys of 30 Rock, Weeds, Dexter, Greek and so much more together. I just don't understand why Wild & Woolly doesn't have Friday Night Lights yet; I know that my lady will like it.

By David Daley
who still weeps for Omar


It is, of course, great fun to binge on a full season of a great show, and I wouldn't argue otherwise. After all, that seems to be the way I watch most of my favorite shows these days. It's how my wife and I watched The Wire and Californication, caught up with season one of Mad Men and the first several seasons of The Sopranos — staying up late into the night, turning to each other as the credits rolled for a quick exchange of something like: "Another?" "Yup." Right now, we've got season one of "Damages" going, as well as a British conspiracy thriller called State of Play.

But we caught up with Mad Men in time to watch season two in real time — well, on demand the next night, without the commercials — and I quickly realized how much you miss when you're out-of-sync with the rest of the audience. New York magazine and Entertainment Weekly do amazing episode recaps and analyses on their Web sites, and they'd always pick up on some brilliant detail I'd missed. Yes, it was no fun to wait another seven days for the latest from Sterling Cooper, but the routine of reading about the episode on Tuesday made the week go by faster. It also created a sort of online watercooler — and at a time when the media universe has fragmented into a million pieces, and we can't even watch the same shows at the same time anymore, it's nice to have that connection.

Just as important, I didn't have to be that jerk who runs around screaming about "spoiler alerts." With The Wire, we were still in the middle of season two when a random New York Times story about cigarette sales in poor neighborhoods dropped the detail that — spoiler alert! — Omar got killed after buying a pack of Newports. Thanks a lot, New York Times.

And knowing that we'd probably start Damages someday, that meant turning quickly through all the stories and reviews that got written when season two started recently, for fear of discovering some plot point. Of course, it didn't work. I know who wins the big lawsuit. As much fun as it is to gorge on shows, to watch them at your leisure, it's a lot less entertaining when you need to spend the rest of the time with your eyes closed and hands over your ears.

c. 2009 Courier-Journal

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