One of Stephen Colbert’s recent running jokes has been that he’s all bought into the current Sopranos hype, but that he’s only watching it on DVD. So he’s always talking about how Big Pussy is his favorite character.
So when a recent Slate article discussed the travails of someone who purposely didn’t subscribe to HBO, but waited for the DVDs, it made me think about how difficult it is for us to even wait a full day to watch our tivoed episodes of Lost and Veronica Mars, much less weeks, months or even years.
But then, thinking about it, it might even been easier. In some respects, the tivo life — call it life in medium lane, where you are anywhere from a day to a couple of weeks behind on your shows — is more difficult than the DVD life, where you may not start something until months or years later. Spoilers abound.
For example, if you haven’t yet watched 24 or Lost but pay any attention to the culture at large, you’ve probably already been spoiled on this week’s twists involving President Logan and Libby. However, if you’re just now starting Six Feet Under or The Sopranos, you might not know what the deal is with Nathaniel Fisher, Sr. or why Stephen Colbert’s Big Pussy joke is so funny. And you know what? That probably totally works.
Two shows that we started significantly behind the curve — the first seasons of Battlestar Galactica and Rome — were pretty easy to catch up on unspoiled because it had been a few months since their original runs and so we had ignored them in the first place. Except I had been spoiled somewhere — I wish I knew where — about the fate of Julius Ceasar. Whereas with a current fave like Veronica Mars, it’s nearly impossible to not be drawn to a headline like “Veronica Actually In Bus Crash Coma: Whole Season Has Been a Dream.”
On the other hand, the one thing the article has right is how much fun it is to actually watch more than one episode of a show per week (or in the case of Lost, one episode every few weeks) — something that makes story arc shows crazy frustrating in these days of 22 episodes in 52 weeks. This is something that 24 has done right: the entire season straight through back to back to back to back to back, but something that pretty much noone else outside of cable has bothered with. But when we find a show worth owning, we end up cramming an entire season into a couple of months, and always enjoy it more since we already know the basic outline, and can then concentrate on the details.
So I think that we have it a little bit better: we get to be immersed in great cultural conversation about the shows that are currently on the air, and at the same time, we figure out the ones that are worth owning. can experience the ones we truly love — Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Simpsons, The Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica, Deadwood, etc. — over and over again, forever.