I’m learning how to be a fan again, courtesy of a summer experiment. Without commercials.
I have a condition – strabismus, more commonly known as a wandering eye, that I managed to cause all by myself. It was entirely my fault, occurring because I watched so much TV as a small child. I suppose we have 1970’s home décor to blame as well, since I sat for anywhere from four to seven hours a day watching television seated at the end of a long L-shaped couch. At a right angle to the huge TV console with the gargantuan antenna and the creepy sticky/fuzzy built-in speakers. Essentially, my head was perpendicular to the TV and I watched everything from my right eye and thus, the left eye got very little use for several hours a day. Or that’s what the horrified ophthalmologist said. That’s how much I loved TV. While it’s true most little kids love TV, during the 1970s there wasn’t such an emphasis upon “educational television”. Which is why we got to watch – and grow addicted to — shows like The Untouchables and McHale’s Navy and Room 222 and Get Smart and The Odd Couple and F Troop and Hogan’s Heroes and Ultraman, many of which had some pretty adult themes.
My point is that I learned early on how passionate one could get about TV, and then my devotion disappeared. During those critical teen years my TV growth was entirely stunted because I was away at a boarding school and by the time I got to college it was too late and I just didn’t care anymore. I watched almost no TV. Except maybe Dynasty and Falcon Crest, good cerebral shows with an important message about family and personal growth.
I didn’t get back into TV til recently, and even then, I was just a shadow of the former childhood self who had actually induced a medical condition that limited my ability to see. Thus, with summer upon me I decided to immerse myself in a big, long-running TV show that I was only vaguely familiar with — to see how different a concentrated viewing experience can be. As opposed to waiting an entire week and trying to remember what happened. Now, to remind myself what it felt like to follow something closely, I needed a series – a whole series — and I needed instant, commercial-free gratification. Total immersion of childhood.
Thus, I bought a Roku Box (which is neither a medieval torture device or em, whatever worse thing that you imagined it might be). Basically, for the uninitiated it’s a gizmo you get when you’re not sophisticated enough to hook something up like AppleTV, or when you don’t have an eight-year-old child whose PS2 you can steal. You plug it into your TV and basically you get to watch anything you want courtesy of Netflix and Hulu and all the other ingenious devices out there. Back to back and without commercials. And you can watch several years of anything you want. You can watch the TV that everyone else has been raving about for the last five years. Only instead of episodes, each program becomes more of a bon-bon that you can just pop in and then when it’s done there’s another one waiting at the ready.
Now, I love shows like Mad Men and Modern Family and Glee and Fairly Legal. However, I’ve seen every episode. So this summer I decided to devote myself to a long-running series that’s soapy without being desperate, racy without selling any kind of drugs, that doesn’t involve the paranormal or the reading of anyone’s minds. Thus, I chose Grey’s Anatomy. One hundred and fifty some odd episodes, back to back without commercials. Have you ever watched several years of TV in a few weeks? You sure come to appreciate how they make these things. And at the risk of not splitting any kind of atom, all I can say is that it’s an awesome show. The acting – from even the nurses with half a line – is uniformly top notch. The plots – ripped from the headlines I know – never get old. Sure there are seasons that are boring but then it picks up again and I see where all those Emmys came from. If you’ve never tried a whole series smooshed into a few days, I would recommend it. You may never want to watch weekly TV again. Now all I have to do is ignore a few more huge hit TV shows for a few years and wait til they amass enough seasons so that I can watch them in one fell swoop.
1) Patrick Dempsey
2) Eric Dane
3) Justin Chambers
4) Kevin McKidd