Everyone loves good TV. Most people have their favourite shows, whether it’s a brand new, cutting-edge drama or a ropey old childhood favourite revisited years later.
Though many people joke that they were partially raised by the television set, until recently, watching TV live was the only way to see new episodes of anything. I’m showing my age here, but I remember the first time I saw BBC videos on sale in the shops. “Who’s going to buy something they can watch on telly for free?” I scoffed, before cycling off to throw rosy-tinted pebbles into a nostalgia pond.
In the last decade, the digital media explosion and the leviathan-like rise of the internet as a mainstream entertainment hub has shown that having an entire series in one place is not only more convenient, it’s also a far more enjoyable way to watch. Whether it’s DVDs, internet downloads or even TV-on-demand, it puts you firmly in control of your viewing experience.
So what is it that makes a good old DVD binge better than watching television? It comes down to a few basic points:
1) Watch when it’s convenient
20 years ago, if you knew you were going to miss your favourite show you had to grapple with the VCR (as if anyone knew how to program those things!) or just hope for a re-run sometime before Christmas. Now we can watch pretty much anything whenever we like, and it’s great.
2) Total immersion
Nothing breaks your attention span quite like a few days of real life between episodes, and it’s hard to get into a long-running plot when you only get to see it once a week. Most of us are into more than one show at a time too – that’s like watching three or four movies, switching between them every few minutes. With a DVD, you can catch a whole chunk of one series, back to back.
3) Long-form storytelling
The movie industry has conditioned audiences into the 90-minute formula, where stories are told in three basic acts. With narrative-based TV series, we can enjoy hours and hours of it. Given all that time to explore characters, storylines and background, it’s no wonder television is the new cinema.
4) No adverts!
Okay, so we don’t have it quite as bad as they do in the US (opening credits, commercial break, first scene, commercial break) but it’s still ultra-irritating when the action is broken up by random advert spots. If the program has been sponsored by a company or product as well, then you usually have time to put the kettle on.
5) DVD extras
The great thing about DVDs in particular is all the bonus material you get thrown in for free: alternative endings, behind-the-scenes footage, actor commentaries and all the stuff you just won’t find anywhere else.
Maybe it’s a sign of the times, heralding the final death of television programming as we know it, but audiences of all ages are getting more savvy and developing a taste for more engrossing entertainment.
Maybe in 50 years’ time it will get beamed right into our brains via Wi-Fi. For now, I have the new Boardwalk Empire box set and a pizza calling my name.