Is there anything as frustrating as watching a show you love live? At this very moment I could tell you how many days until the next Warehouse 13 (several months, by the way). But then there’s the magic of services like Netflix Instant, although let’s take a second and reflect, because it can be just as frustrating.
This summer I started Battlestar Galactica for the first time. (I know!) I’m actually hurt that no one told me to watch the show when it was on air. I know it’s been named on several best-of lists by SFX and Entertainment Weekly, but it was strange to find out a lot of people I know have already watched the series. I was out to dinner and mentioned that I was wearing real pants for the first time that day because I’d been in bed watching BSG and someone enthusiastically said, “I love that show!” Unfortunately, they remembered little about which episode or season I’m on and they spoiled something for me.
Spoilers are everywhere, especially the longer a show has been off air. There are even spoilers for series in other series. Just the other day I put on a supposedly harmless episode of No Ordinary Family, when a character blabbed a BSG plot reveal. One could argue that it can’t be a spoiler if it happened several years ago, but I can’t just stop watching and reading other science fiction, and it still hurts.
As someone who has dedicated twelve-hour days to BSG, I’ve realized emotional processing is affected watching a show nonstop. For example, a beloved character will be shot to death in front of my eyes; live viewers had a week or months to come to terms with the death, but I just select the next episode and I am furious when the other characters are already past their grief. It’s not the characters’ fault, since the show was written to wait a week or more between episodes. I was supposed to have time to process. Writers also expect us to forget some things in the interim. For example, when I watched Firefly and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles on DVD, I got so mad when every single week the other characters learn they could possibly trust Summer Glau, but then nearly every episode began with nobody trusting Summer Glau. I kept reminding myself that it wouldn’t feel so out of whack if I watched it week-to-week, but poor Summer Glau.
Thank goodness I’m not alone in my new Netflix obsession, because fandoms can regenerate. Firefly guides are published, Star Trek t-shirts are printed and sold in stores worldwide, and Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor acted out their Xena and Gabrielle’s marriage proposal at a convention just last year. The video is up on YouTube and every single fan can watch. When the content goes digital and can be accessed at any time, then new fans can be born every day, even as old fans move on to something else. Let’s wrap our heads around this for a second: my grandchildren may possibly wear the same T-shirt and it won’t be vintage.
I wonder if TV creators and writers have changed their process since social networking caught on. They can interact with their audiences instantly on Twitter and, if they choose, can read the reviews, the recaps, and discussion comments. With live viewing and Netflix, writers could answer questions about the pilot episode of a brief TV show they worked on years ago and answer a question about what happened last night. Netflix also allows viewers to watch, re-watch, and dissect episodes at an unprecedented pace. We can even just watch certain scenes instead of watching whole episodes if we want. We can evaluate and reevaluate lines, looks, and technical bits like, “Why did the camera focus on his face like that at that moment? I will have to tweet a defenseless writer about this.”
Netflix has changed the way we can view content, social networking has changed the way we react to it, and has made fandoms practically ageless. The next time we hit play on an episode of Heroes, let’s think about people who have not even been born yet doing the same thing. And let’s not spoil anything for them if we ever meet.