There's no way to say this without sounding like a pompous bastard, so I guess I'll risk it (for a change): I don't watch TV. That's not a value judgment. It's just the way it is. I don't have cable, so I don't get any channels in my apartment, except for a very fuzzy Fox and some occasional ABC when it's not raining too hard. As a result, I almost never have any idea what to say when people talk about their favorite sitcoms at parties, which happens so often that I have given up on thinking it's sad that people have so little to talk about besides the things that entertain them. Again, it's just the way it is.

Of course, TV is ubiquitous enough that, actually, I do have some idea of what people mean when they say Will & Grace (which I have never seen), or Friends (which I have seen maybe five times), or even The Bachelorette (which I will never see). I think this is part of the problem with the whole "I don't watch TV" conceit. People tend to take offense when you say you're not familiar with their favorite programs; I've always assumed that's because they think you're judging them, which, in fact, you usually are. Recently, however, I've come to see unfamiliarity with TV as an act of will (and not grace)--not because it's worth watching, but because in order to truly avoid it, you basically have to stop reading newspapers, shopping at grocery stores, going to parties, and talking to other people altogether.

If you have a DVD player (and if you don't, what are you waiting for, laser projection directly into the skull?) it has become even harder to avoid TV's tentacles, since studios have begun releasing entire seasons--even entire series--of popular shows in box sets. At first, I thought this idea ridiculous, because who but a die-hard fan would want to own and rewatch 22 episodes of some crappy half-hour laugh-track-ridden schmaltzfest? Then I rented season one of The Sopranos. Then I rented season one of Sex and the City. Then 24. Then Six Feet Under. Then Sports Night. Then The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Then M*A*S*H (the Henry Blake years, duh). I was hooked on DVD TV right away, and I never want to watch episodic programming any other way.

Having access to an entire season of a show entitles you to all the benefits of whatever art might be seeping into TV production, without having to suffer through the commercials, the cliffhanging hype, and the nauseous sense of feeling like a demographic mark. In addition, you get a window into the elements that make a series successful--the comforting thematic recurrences, the chemical responses to favorite characters--as well as the evolution of show into franchise into institution. Best of all, though, you get to do what all good TV makes you yearn to do: watch the next one right away. And have something to talk about with your TV-watching friends.


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