[opendtv] Extremely long and incredibly complex / How DVDs are changing the way we experience TV

  • From: Monty Solomon <monty@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: undisclosed-recipient: ;
  • Date: Wed, 18 May 2005 01:08:33 -0400

Extremely long and incredibly complex
How DVDs are changing the way we experience TV

By Steven Johnson  |  May 15, 2005

FIRST WE HAD ''appointment" television. You blocked out your Thursday 
nights to watch ''Cosby" and ''Cheers," and stayed in reliably every 
Wednesday for ''Melrose Place." And then, a few years ago, TiVo 
helped usher in the age of ''time-shifting." Suddenly, you could 
watch ''CSI: Miami" any night you wanted, as long as you'd trained 
your digital video recorder to capture each episode. If you felt like 
watching ''Saturday Night Live" at noon on Thursday, no problem TiVo 
would dutifully serve it up on demand without any of the 
tape-juggling and other hassles of VCRs.

Time-shifting was supposed to revolutionize the way we watch TV. But 
while there's an undeniable shift towards more consumer control at 
work here, time-shifting hasn't changed the overall pattern of 
viewing TV shows: You still watch a standard rotation of programs you 
just get to juggle the rotation to fit your schedule. 

But I suspect (from purely anecdotal evidence) that a new pattern of 
television watching is on the rise one that I call ''extreme 
time-shifting"made possible now that the entertainment industry has 
taken to releasing entire seasons of TV shows on DVD, or in some 
cases via cable ''on demand," several months after they air. Instead 
of watching an assortment of shows through the week, you watch one 
show night after night until you've finished the season. So instead 
of ''West Wing" on Wednesday and ''ER" on Thursday, it's ''Sopranos" 
from April to mid-May, ''Arrested Development" from June to July, and 
so on.

My wife and I have been devotees of extreme time-shifting for about 
two years now, ever since we found ourselves on a continuous jag of 
''Six Feet Under" viewing that took us through three whole seasons in 
the space of about 90 days. When we emerged from that spell, we 
realized that watching television dramas in this continuous, 
committed way genuinely changes how you experience the content of the 
shows. TiVo's time-shifting makes television more convenient, but 
extreme time-shifting does something more profound: It makes 
television more meaningful even more novelistic by revealing the scale 
and intricacy of the stories it tells.

. . .


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