I have an addictive personality. There. I said it. I’m glad I got that out the way quickly. This can be observed by the fact that, upon discovering that the TV show Doctor Who had a rich history preceding Christopher Eccleston (wait what? That TV programme was older than I was? Inconceivable), I scoured Wikipedia to learn every inch of the universe. I even created spreadsheets for all of the programmes that I enjoyed as a child, listing every episode/serial with a list of the companions who featured within it, as well as the setting of the story and whether or not I owned it on DVD. It took me until I was 20 to finally complete my Doctor Who DVD collection and boy did it look amazing. When I was 22, I even went to the extreme of purchasing my own DVD boxes and designing a run-on cover just like the ones they used to have for the James Bond films my Dad owned on VHS.
I started watching all of the superhero TV shows that there were. Marvel’s Agent Carter, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, to go alongside Once Upon a Time, Teen Wolf and Game of Thrones to name just a few of my televisual vices. Because I couldn’t just watch one! If I was going to watch Supergirl then I simply had to watch the others because they’re all linked. In the same way that I have to watch all of the Marvel films in the Marvel Universe even if they don’t especially link together. It goes back even further if you look at it, all the way back to when I made my own Charmed-inspired TV show when I was in Year 5 entitled Wizards and Warlocks, Mortals and Morlocks (what is a Morlock, you ask? No idea. It rhymed with Warlocks, and that is as much explanation as you’re going to get, I’m afraid).
The issue isn’t the fact that I watch a lot of TV. Well, not necessarily. Staring at a screen for long periods of time can lead to eye damage and a reticence to engage with humankind. So I hear. I don’t talk to people much.
The issue is more the fact that it has got to the stage where I am such a completist that I sit and watch these programmes as if it is a chore. I have a list of programmes that I watch, I tick them off, I can go about my business. As if it is something to check off a to-do list, I get it out of the way simply and go about my merry way unencumbered with that TV programme hanging over me. I will sit and play the episode in the background while doing something entirely different and entirely distracting. I will check my phone: presumably browsing Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook in a loop until I get bored, put down my phone and then promptly pick it back up again to start the rigmarole renewed and invigorated from my small break. I am consuming so much television, but with some sort of brain tapeworm getting in the way.
Part of this, I feel, is due to the changing scope of the way that society as a whole consumes television. Nowadays (he says, at the risk of sounding like a geriatric), lots of television is being produced to be enjoyed instantly. People no longer need to wait a whole week before the next episode comes out. Consequently, as opposed to series adopting a “story of the week” approach, it became a long story that has been truncated into many parts – some of which can largely be considered “filler”. For some programmes (looking at you Once Upon a Time) you have to remember plot information from half a decade ago to decipher the connections between characters and what on earth is happening. It’s exhausting, and very unnecessary. In the case of other series, such as Jessica Jones or Daredevil – or even Stranger Things – the pacing means that literally nothing happens in the first handful of episodes as it is all build up for the climax in the later instalments. Perhaps this has always been a trend within American television. I cannot flatter myself with any advanced knowledge in this area: merely my own experience. Story arcs that last half a season or more are quite commonplace. It means that I no longer long to rewatch a particular episode in the same way that I do with parts of Doctor Who or Charmed, for example. I have very clear favourites when it comes to those shows so that I can easily go back and digest at my own leisure, completely independently from the rest of the series. Perhaps this is what hampers my enjoyment of modern television. It is to be regarded as an entire piece of work. A season of a show needs to be observed within its wider narrative, and that can become tricky when you’re juggling multiple shows at once.
This isn’t to say that story arcs that last multiple episodes are ineffective. On the contrary, they can be very effective. Torchwood: Children of Earth was revolutionary for me at the time, simply as a result of its novelty, as well as the skilful manner in which it was written and produced. (There were also only a couple of main characters and only a few important side characters; something that lots of shows do not utilise). Children of Earth also stood in stark contrast to what Torchwood had been before, which was episodic, though with story arc elements woven throughout its run. This made the whole season feel much more important and epic, and this translated to the audience and the gravitas of the alien threat.
It has now become so commonplace for each television series (within the ones that I watch) for there to be a “big bad” that lots of series are sacrificing good weekly episodes for an advancement within the season’s trajectory. It feels messy and it feels alienating. No longer can you dive into a programme and pick up the gist of what is happening. You need to have deep insider information to appreciate something.
I’m not entirely sure where I am heading with this. I didn’t realise that this was the information that I wished to convey when I started writing this blog post, and I realise I am already living up to the garrulity I mentioned within my blog’s heading.
I am starting this blog with the hope that it will encourage me to be digesting this media more purposefully and more mindfully. What did I enjoy? Was it a good piece of entertainment? Was it well acted? Why did it provoke this reaction in me? And what did I learn? How did it better me as an individual; whether that be creatively or personally. This is an as-yet blank canvas ready for me to paint upon it my own thoughts and experiences of all of the media that I enjoy: TV shows, film, theatre as well as hopefully being able to share my own writing as I dip my toe back into those creative waters.
I feel like we’ve reached a conclusion. I’m not quite sure how to end this. Do I need a catchphrase? A hook? In which case, there is only one wonderful phrase that I use all of the time (he says, promptly forgetting all the things he says on a daily basis. Words? What are those? I don’t know how to be doing the words). It also forms the basis of one of the most ridiculous pieces of observation feedback I’ve ever received as a teacher, as I was told off for saying it too much.