I have always loved television.
I love how many stories you are able to dive into at the click of a button (or tweak of an antenna).
When I was little, before we had a DVR, a TiVo, or access to the Guide, we had Channel 3.
Channel 3 was essentially what the Guide is now, except you couldn’t move through it, clicking your way up and down the channels, or forward a few hours. It was like the end credits of a movie, slowly rolling its way up the screen, showing you everything that was currently on, and coming up in the next hour and half hour. If you happened to look away or zone out when your desired channel came up, you had to wait for it to come back around.
I think we had around 99 channels on the living room television, and I was usually on the lookout for Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, which fell somewhere in the 40’s or 50’s. I would lay on my stomach, eyeing channel 3, sometimes with anxious anticipation, sometimes with sheer curiosity. Sometimes I just liked watching the slow roll, it was relaxing, and it was exciting to watch it jump forward on the half hour.
When I was in high school, I got a set of bunny ears for the television in my room, and I would methodically shift them, hoping to find the best quality possible for the shows I wanted to watch. And I had a full docket.
I took notes leading up to the fall television season, writing down which shows were on which days and at what times. Those that fell at the same time were like forks in the road—I had to choose which path to take and I hoped it was the same one all my friends were taking.
Shows I loved at the time were Everwood, One Tree Hill, The OC, 8 Simple Rules, Jack and Bobby, The Amazing Race, and a handful of others. Come eight or nine o’clock on weekdays, I had plans. Each show felt like catching up with old friends, hearing about their adventures from the week, and seeing what fresh trouble they could find themselves in.
As we all know, much of that kind of television watching is gone. Rather than cable, I am subscribed to multiple streaming services and have grown accustomed to waiting for the arrival of a show in its entirety. Binge watching has taken the world by storm, and I often trying to get through shows as quickly as possible, for fear they might get spoiled.
There is a lot more anxiety surrounding television than there used to be. And with so many options at our disposal, it’s sometimes difficult to find people who are watching the same thing at the same time.
Which is why I love that more and more platforms are offering shows that only release one episode a week. I’d forgotten how exciting it is to feel like you’re turning on the television at the same time as everyone else, and you’re all experiencing something together. I love texting friends after each episode so we can recap and throw out theories, and I love dissecting the previews for the next week’s episode, letting my mind run wild with possibility.
While I don’t necessarily miss the sloooooow slog of Channel 3, I never realized how much I missed the novelty of television. When you only had a handful of things to watch and everyone was talking about them.
It comes in small doses these days, but there is nothing quite like that wonderous rush, be it when you’re watching Channel 3 and you see that your favorite show is coming up next, or when you open up a streaming platform and realize that a new episode drops in a matter of hours. It’s the feeling of stepping into a story you want to know the end of but don’t want it to end; of making your weekly entrance into a strange world (be it an outlandish tropical hotel, an apocalypse, or the locker room of a Premier League Football Club) that has somehow become familiar; of sitting on the edge of your seat, knowing that people all over the world are gasping, laughing and crying with you.
It’s my favorite thing about television.
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