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I Really Miss Old Television

I miss how television shows used to run from September until May/June with new episodes, and then, in the summer, you would have repeat episodes of the show in the same time slot.  This was great if you missed an episode during the season, but it was also nice because if you were emotionally attached to the characters in the television show, as often happens for me, you could still see them all summer.  Plus, it was nice to rewatch an episode now knowing what happened down the road in the story because I’d see the events differently.  It was a win-win-win all around.

But now it’s all about new and different and streaming and DVRing and downloading whole seasons to your iPad to watch whenever you want instead of the country watching Ross say Rachel’s name at the wedding AT THE SAME TIME (and hearing the collective gasp go through the apartment complex).  Or it’s contests where you have to text in your vote, and there’s no point in rewatching because the vote has already happened.  And now, when a season ends — and that season probably began at an odd time and not September if you’re watching on cable — you need to wait until the season begins again many months later in order to see new OR old episodes because that time slot goes to a different show, like swimmers jumping off the high dive, and once one is in the pool, the queue moves forward and the next one jumps.

I’m well aware that this makes me sound crotchety.  And that I’m probably in the minority with this.

But we don’t have a DVR.  We don’t really have a functioning tape machine anymore.  We just watch our one-television-show-at-a-time whatever time it airs.  And then we say goodbye until the show returns.  And sometimes we forget about the show entirely and don’t watch it when it comes back like Falling Skies.  And sometimes I just sit around wondering what my characters are doing during our time apart.


Image: gbaku via Flickr


1 Jennifer { 05.20.13 at 10:40 am }

I totally agree with you! We do have a DVR but Thursdays seem to be a busy TV night in our house and I think my husband was watching the draft so I cancelled the recording of the Office and now realize I will never see that episode I missed. Blah.

2 jodifur { 05.20.13 at 10:54 am }

ME TOO. My husband wants to “cut the chord” and go streaming only and I’m all NO FRIENDS and he’s like, “Jodi that was 15 years ago.” I also miss the Patrick division and hockey from the 80s. Clearly I have a hard time letting things go.

3 Peach { 05.20.13 at 10:55 am }

I agree! I miss of TV too….and they all seem to start at some of the most random times and they skip some weeks for unknown reasons… its a lot harder to catch a season. I remember when the only times they missed a show were on holidays. Now it can go three weeks with no new ones an no explanations….makes it hard to follow. I do have PVR and I do enjoy it but I really miss the old TV….back when there were 20 shows not hundreds like there are now….and predictable seasons….

4 Chickenpig { 05.20.13 at 11:05 am }

We have cable but no DVR, so we have ‘on demand’ which has some shows set aside so you can watch the episodes when you want to. BUT they don’t have every program on demand, and if you missed this week’s episode you may have to wait a day to see it, or a whole week. And there is no rhyme or reason about it. And the weird seasons of shows really ticks me off. Why do some shows start in the summer or winter and not the fall?

5 mrs spock { 05.20.13 at 11:06 am }

Am am going to be a young whippersnapper and say that though I don;t have cable, I love how I can use netflix and Amazon through our Roku player to watch what I want when I want- usually during my lunch break on my treadmill desk, because I truly have no time. And I love that I can pay $30 for a season of Madmen and watch at my leisure instead of paying $80/month for cable to watch one show I like. But TV was never about a social thing for me.

6 N { 05.20.13 at 12:25 pm }

I both agree and disagree with you.

I miss the old system, but I’m embracing the new one. The in-between (where we still are, in large part) is a hot freaking mess.

Networks running shows, but varying when they’re on, or even if they’re on on any given week. Even a few years ago, watching a network show was no guarantee that you’d know when it would start or be on, when they started staggering those, and putting in mid-season replacements.

I love the largely communal practice of watching together, but that IS possible with this new system; I experienced it myself this past Saturday as I watched the season finale of Doctor Who.

The in-between times are definitely the hardest. But I feel like, for when the show is actually airing, this system is better than it’s been in a long time. Shorter seasons mean (usually) better television, and the ability to maintain a day and time slot for a longer time, without being interrupted by holidays, sporting events, or (in this day and age) national tragedies.

and as somebody who also doesn’t have a DVR, I think it’s fantastic that when freaking fracking CBS and NBC pit Hannibal against Elementary, I can watch one of them, and then the next morning go to their websites and watch the other. (and I’m not a Nielsen household, so it doesn’t matter one bit which I do when.)

7 ana { 05.20.13 at 12:33 pm }

In theory I agree with you—I have fond memories of TV in the good old days, of TV being “an event” that everyone did together–at least temporally. But we couldn’t stomach paying $100/month for the 1-2 hours a week we watched, and now do exclusive netflix streaming combined with buying seasons of TV shows we really love. Of course this means we’re about a year behind on shows, but I still get to sit my butt on the couch and watch something awesome whenever I please.

8 Brid { 05.20.13 at 12:38 pm }

I don’t know… I think the PVR is great. We set series recordings for a handful of programs. So, we can watch them whenever we like and never miss those few shows we really like. Plus, we never miss the weird season starting dates because it’s programmed to only record the new ones. It also keeps us from watching too much tv because we limit what we watch to the recorded shows or movies. Although, I do miss that same idea of gossiping about the events on a new episode, but I think that sort of activity would have dwindled away with age anyhow.

9 Blanche { 05.20.13 at 2:51 pm }

One of the worst things about the DVR is when you realize that you didn’t actually put a show on to record even though you thought you had, and you didn’t realize the new season had started because you’ve been watching other shows which you’ve recorded. Ahem. But keeping episodes of kids shows ready to play at an instants notice – that’s amazing!

10 L A Cochran { 05.20.13 at 2:59 pm }

Well put and I’m with you. Back when there weren’t that many channels and the “season” was predictable, it created a sense of community. We may have all been separately watching, but we were watching, and talking about it the next day when we saw each other. *sigh* I’m old. I’m probably the only one that still listens to standard radio in the car. It’s FM, at least. Does that count? No? Oh.

11 Another Dreamer { 05.20.13 at 4:03 pm }

I don’t even have cable anymore, so I tend to wait years for the conclusion of a series. I can re-watch old episodes when I feel like it, but most of the time I don’t. When I did watch re-runs on TV it wasn’t usually for enjoyment (although with some really good shows it was) but most of the time it’s because I had nothing better to do, and I was bored. Now when I re-watch anything, it’s mindful. It’s because I want to relive the experience, see what I’ve missed before.

I don’t miss cable. There are some shows I wish I could watch in real time like the rest of the world, but not enough to pay for cable. I don’t miss commercials. I usually only watch 30-60 minutes of TV a day… that’s it.

12 loribeth { 05.20.13 at 4:40 pm }

I agree with you Mel. I hate how you start watching a show on Tuesday nights — and suddenly it’s on Thursday — and then there are three repeats in a row before you get to see a new episode, and then another repeat after that. :p

We don’t have a PVR (& we didn’t even use the VCR that often). And since my cable company went totally digital and made us get a little black box, I can’t figure out how to make the VCR (or even the DVD player) work with it anyway. :p

Also, while I am not totally up on these things, my understanding is that here in Canada, we don’t have as many options for watching shows online, etc., as you do in the States. We have Netflix but there are far fewer shows & movies available here on it than there are south of the border. :p We can’t even always watch shows directly online (Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert come to mind) because some of them are blocked by Canadian Internet service providers — or you have to hunt for them on a Canadian site several days after they’re available in the States. :p So much for freedom of the Internet. :p

13 Catwoman73 { 05.20.13 at 7:14 pm }

I’m afraid I’m on the other side of this one- I love all the options for watching my favorite shows! I work rotating shifts, so without my PVR, netflix, time shifting, etc, I would never get to watch anything. I just have to be careful to avoid social networking sites while I’m waiting to watch shows I’ve recorded, as there are always spoilers out there.

Loribeth is right, though- we don’t have as many options in Canada for viewing shows. Even Netflix isn’t as up-to-date here as it is in the US. Sometimes we have to be a bit creative with finding our shows up here.

14 Mali { 05.20.13 at 7:32 pm }

Whilst I love watching re-runs (and yes, for a year or two one TV station always played re-runs of Friends when I was cooking dinner, which was perfect, because if I missed a bit it didn’t matter, and I could stop cooking to watch bits coming up that I loved), I do love having the recording options I have now. Here in NZ we don’t have Netflix, but we have cable and freeview set-top boxes that will record up to two shows while you watch a third. So I set up all my favourite shows to record, and then relax. And when we have a choice, we are a bit more discerning about what we watch too.

15 gwinne { 05.20.13 at 9:04 pm }

Well, I do miss the RITUAL of sitting down to watch my favorite show on Sunday nights. But mostly I don’t watch TV shows except on the computer. Free stuff only. Or I check out an entire season DVD (just did last season of Weeds) from the public library. I watch when I have the time. And there’s something to be said for binging on those days you really don’t want to get out of bed…

16 a { 05.20.13 at 9:50 pm }

You know what I miss? (and this may be only a central time phenomenon) – family friendly viewing on network TV during prime time. We used to be able to watch sit-coms as a family. Now, every sit-com requires some sort of cultural reference explanation or censoring of language that I don’t want my child to think is appropriate for general conversation. (Why no, six year old, bitch, sexy, and ass are not appropriate words for you to use!)

I would hate the interrupted seasons, but most of the things I watch (or used to, anyway) are either continuous (if starting at a weird time of year) or are reality-type offerings on Discovery/TLC/NatGeo that are on a constant loop of repeats. We still have an easy enough time talking about those shows, anyway.

TV sucks these days, but the options available to watch shows are pretty good. Now, if only I could figure out how to get around whatever video blocking thing they’ve set up on my work network, so I can go back to watching The Daily Show online. (It’s really annoying – the video from Comedy Central just cycles from break to break, without ever playing the content. Which is weird, because they’ve outright blocked hulu.com, so I would think they’d do that to Comedy Central too.) (And yes, I have watched the videos at work, but it’s more like listening while I do actual work.)

17 Tiara { 05.21.13 at 8:17 am }

I don’t think you sound crotchety…and I’m in the minority with you too, for the most part…I miss how programs use to repeat in the summer…especially since often times, it gives the show a chance to win over viewers! Take Lost! for instance…I watched the pilot episode & thought, “Meh” & didn’t watch it…by June, the shows popularity had exploded & everyone I knew was talking about it…it played in repeats that summer & I was able to catch up & became an uber fan!

I do have a DVR & would be lost without it. But I also am less likely to watch new shows because it feels like the ones I love get cancelled so quickly, rarely are shows allowed the time to get their feet under them nowadays!

18 Battynurse { 05.21.13 at 8:56 pm }

I totally get this! Especially with my recent experiences which I ranted on FB about. Cliff hangers make me nuts. Then to go all summer long without seeing any episodes it’s hard to remember what happened. I will say that having DVR saves me though since I save my season finale to rewatch just before the new season.

19 Gail { 05.22.13 at 10:24 am }

I think a lot of the change in programming is in response to the on-demand, DVR, online streaming, etc. way in which tv show watching has morphed. In an attempt to get more shows out there for the people to watch, they need to use the timeslot of old shows that have finished their season to test out the new shows. Plus, reality shows are very popular and they just aren’t as good in reruns. (I don’t think they are very good the first time around, either, but that is just me.)

But, I don’t think you are old fashioned. In fact, I was just thinking about the fact that I only have one show (Revolution) that is currently showing new episodes while everything else is wrapped for the summer. I am eagerly awaiting the return of Falling Skies, but since it has been so long since the last episode, I need a really good recap at the beginning of the new episode to get me back on track.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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