DVD VS TV: Abbreviates Battle for Loungeroom Supremacy – or – Who Needs Vowels?
They used to be existent purely so you could re-live your favourite moments of your favourite shows, just being a sort of token, a boxed memory of an important televisual experience in your life. They were additional things. But now DVDs have become something entirely other, and more and more of us are turning to them to be the sole provider of our home entertainment.
Because, the thing is, nobody watches TV anymore. The 50 year novelty is beginning to wear thin. We’ve been fucked with for too long.
The reason behind this, I think, has grown steadily out of television’s origins. If you think about it, television began essentially as entertainment. You (well, not you, probably your young parents) would sit down with the family during dinner and watch “So and So’s Variety Half-Hour”, have a good hearty 1960s chuckle, and then hit the hay. When narrative television became integrated into the schedule the story was much the same – soap opera is really just the same 20 minute outburst of emotions, with the mood inversed. If you think about this in a quasi-philisophical sense, these early TV shows were simply compact exercises in catharsis, and this is how it remains today: You can turn on Channel 10 and get a sufficient serving of laughs from The Simpsons, and then fulfil your daily quotient of superficial bullshit drama with an episode of Neighbours.
TV is used to satisfy.
And for this reason, over time us audiences have been conditioned to need that instant gratification. Combined with the human gift of learning, we’ve gradually come to realise that there are ways for us to get all that we want out of our narrative TV without the filler.
Nail in the Coffin #1: Ads. More than most people are aware, I guess there’s a certain sort of ‘middle-finger’ value in DVD watching. It’s a way of rejecting the TV authorities, saying, “If you’re going to blatantly bombard me with things designed to make you money, I’m not going to waste my time on you”. Ads were always an inconvenience, and it was only when we realised that we didn’t have to put up with their shit that anything changed.
Nail in the Coffin #2: Scheduling. Case and Point: 30 Rock
Ah, the programming directors. These are people who played episodes of 30 Rock – widely regarded as the best sitcom of the last decade – at 10.30pm or later on weeknights. This would have been more understandable if, as time went on and the show became better and better, Channel Seven decided to take the bleedingly obvious approach and gradually screen the show earlier and earlier. But the point at which the show begins to improve in comedic quality is, I hear you say, an entirely subjective standpoint, and there’s every chance that the people at Seven find every episode of the show repulsively unfunny. Yes, I hear myself respond, but the whole nuts and bolts of this business is ratings, and surely as 30 Rock becomes more and more popular in the US it makes sense to take some miniscule risk and assume something similar would happen here. The only reason it hasn’t is because it’s fucking on when most sensibly-minded people are in Stage 3 REM sleep, dreaming about a time when they can watch 30 Rock in uninterrupted, godly-hour peace.
The dream has since come true and most people who’ve seen Rock in this country either downloaded it or watched it on a disc whenever the god damn hell they wanted to. It’s kind of curious as to why Seven continue to play a show that’s just threatening to rate so well at such a time – I mean why would they?
Who knows, perhaps they’re trying in vain to keep the focus on Aussie shows. You’ve seen their grossly misplaced sense of patriotism when they stamp their ads with “Locally made!”. Ooh, Channel 7, home-brewed TV really gets my juices flowing. I surely can’t get enough of Border Security, you really know how to please. Now don’t take me the wrong way, obviously not all Australian TV is bad (SHAUN MICALLEF!) but it’s safe to say that our attempts at American shows are.
I think the more rational explanation is that the people at Channel Seven and the other like-minded commercial stations are just really big dicks. Once we accept this as a fact of life things become a whole lot easier.
Nail in the Coffin #3: Digital Telly, or What They Did To LOST.
Then, in late 2010, the aforementioned onslaught of advertisements we were subjected to began to adopt a common theme: the forthcoming televisual revolution that was DIGITAL CHANNELS! How we were led, so naively led, to see hope in what they held. We were coaxed into believing that supplementary stations playing the same programs as the normal channels at slightly different times would be a good thing. We saw light in the form of GEM and GO!, a beacon that promptly faded when we realised the former was simply an excuse to play reruns of I Dream of Jeannie, and the latter was pretty much the worst of American teen shows packaged up and shipped over here. And here we were with faith that everything would work out….we thought things were going to change….we thought it would be different this time!
And the main culprit, yet again, was the much despised Seven, this time operating through its low-budget lackey Seven Two. First of all, what the fuck kind of name is Seven Two? You can’t have a channel name with two numbers in it! Second of all, a subliminary TV station is no place for the sheer creative grandeur of a show like LOST.
Now, I don’t want to get into one of those omnipresent LOST debates, partially because I’ve got a point to prove here and I don’t feel that a pared down case would do such a wonderful show justice, but primarily because I know you naysayers are going to lose. The debate ends here: LOST is mind-blowingly incredible; the absolute pinnacle of modern commercial television creativity. But for integrity’s sake I will here quickly and succinctly expel all of your silly LOST-related doubts:
“It doesn’t make any sense! Polar bears on a pacific island WTF?!”
That’s not an argument. You didn’t watch past Season 3.
“But they were making it up as they went along!”
Aren’t we all?
“There’s too much going on. It’s so messy.”
That’s just ambition. Monsters, zombies, ghosts, seeing the future, magic, amazing characters, amazing writing, amazing acting, amazing direction, amazing music all in one show. Sure, The Wire was pretty good, but it didn’t have time-travel. Who cares if LOST is a cinematic paella? It still tastes fucking awesome.
But the real injustice is in what Seven did to this beast of a show. For the final season, they transferred it over to the aforementioned dweeb-channel Seven Two, meaning that I had to buy a Digital Set Top Box and be exposed to all the muck I told you about earlier (not to mention that I lived in an area with a lot of trees, which basically caused the digital signal to have sporadic bouts of visual epilepsy in the middle of Locke’s monologue. At one point we had to sit through the audio of an entire segment accompanied only by the frozen still image of a jungle). In addition to this, they ‘pulled a 30 Rock’ and kept changing the time every week, meaning me and my friends had to triple check the guide all the time just to make sure we weren’t sitting down to watch The Amazing Race. I tell you, it tested your commitment alright. It was like living with a junkie whom you try to love dearly despite how fucking unreliable they are.
Anyway, this all culminates in the point I began making 1325 words ago – that we infinitely prefer DVDs to TV because we are in control of our own gratification. We don’t have to wait a week for cliffhangers to be resolved, we don’t have to sit through the 2 minute shitstream of commercials, we can watch entire seasons in a day. If it exists, we can see it when we like, and we don’t have to wait on them to hand it out to us.
And as a kind of poetic irony, the freedom of DVDs over broadcast means that we are more accepting of television that isn’t instantly gratifying, and we’re more willing to be challenged by what we see. Obviously not challenged to the point of being treated like shit as TV does, but pushed creatively. New narrative shows take longer to burn; we have to sit with The Wire and Breaking Bad for multiple episodes before piecing it together. There’s much more subversion and unconvention in these shows than TV would allow. And although the writers toy with us, it’s okay, ’cause we can sit down and watch the next episode whenever we want. (If you’re still having LOST doubts, do an ‘immersion’ and watch an entire season in one go. It will suit your primal need to be immediately fulfilled much better). There’s a very prominent mutual understanding inherent in the disc, and nobody feels like they’re the middleman between station bosses and moolah. You just feel like you’re being gifted, and that you’re lucky to be on the receiving end of something nice. A symbol of love between creator and audience, DVDs have rightfully become our weapon of choice.
And together we’ve defeated television.