I just finished watching the season finale of “Veronica Mars” — no mean feat considering we don’t get UPN (and it actually aired yesterday.) I was able to bypass what would once have been, ahh, show-stopping obstacles thanks to your and my favorite communication network, the Internet.
In fact thanks to the Internet (and season boxed sets), I’ve probably watched more TV this season than any other — yet only a tiny fraction of that was on the tube.
Looking back on my experience, I’ve spotted a few trends:
- I rely on recommendations. Word of mouth is huge for me, because I never, ever turn on the TV and just surf. My favorite show of the season is probably “Lost,” a show that would be completely off my radar were it not for
B-don. B-don‘s responsible for a lot of what I watch. He also recommended “Alias”, “Arrested Development”, “Deadwood”, “The Wire”, and, if you can believe it, “Desperate Housewives”. Needless to say, I haven’t covered all those yet — he’s way ahead. (I heard about “Veronica Mars” from a Salon article.)
- I’m watching fewer movies. The number of films I’ve seen this year is pathetic — orders of magnitude lower than years past. I tend to double- and triple-up episodes of TV instead. That is, when I’m not having an attention-deficit day where sitting through even a 42 minute show seems long…
- I love the control. I don’t have TiVo, but BitTorrent is even better. I can watch shows any time I want on any of my computers, take them with me on a laptop or USB key, even transcode them to watch on my brother’s PSP (once he gets a big enough MemoryStick.) If the phone rings, or my e-mail dings, I can pause the action and pick up right where I left off.
- I get into it. I don’t know how you could watch a show like “Lost” with commercials. Just as you’re settling in to this moody, lush island landscape, your train of thought is interrupted by annoying girls stuffing tampons in their car’s leaky roof. Who needs it? Downloaded episodes let me pay more attention. I love having the option of jumping back to be sure I heard a line correctly, or even grabbing a still of bloopers/interesting activity such as boom mics, stunt men, and IP addresses. (Yes, I am a nerd, but I’m an observant nerd.) Also I can study the hotties…
- I watch more international programming. In addition to one-off shows, I’ve followed several complete series from the UK this year, including “Shameless” and “The Apprentice.” (And, OK, fine… also “Playing it Straight” UK. I never learn.) This sort of thing would be impossible without the Internet. Yes, there’s BBC America, but they’d have to edit; the UK “Apprentice” ran a full 60 minutes.
- I hate promos even more. I actually watched a show on ABC the other day, and they ran a breathless promo revealing a “Lost” plot twist. I would rather have been surprised. Also bad: shows with a “Coming up after the break” segment, which in the commercial-free downloadable version is really just a mini-spoiler. “Stay tuned” is meaningless for on-demand downloads.
- I can sample, then join at any time. When I first heard about “Veronica Mars,” the show was airing its 20th episode. “Lost” was 11 episodes in; “Arrested” was in a second season. I don’t like to jump in partway, so I would have had to wait for re-runs or DVDs. ABC tried to address this with specials a couple weeks ago, summarizing the major developments in both “Lost” and “Housewives” at roughly the 20 episode mark. (Kudos to them for also providing them on ABC.com.) Still, a 40-odd minute summary barely scratches the surface. With the Internet, I’m able to get caught up in a few days, at my leisure. On a related note: every show I watch begins with “Previously, on…” I just can’t be bothered with stupid sitcoms where everything is solved by the end of the show.
Add to that one more: I really don’t care about networks. Do these shows come from ABC, BBC, NBC, UPN? Like I care. The sooner the production companies sell direct, the better. I won’t miss the local affiliates, either. I never watch local “news”, and if I miss out on my local car dealers’ great incentive programs, I’ll find a way to soldier on. After all, I’ll have a bunch of TV to catch up on…