Shelf life

For a while the appeal of box sets of tv shows escaped me entirely. My attitude was that it was only worth buying something if you were confident that you’d get your money’s worth by watching it several times over, exploring all the special features, and so forth. Even then, I found it hard to get my head around the fact that there were people out there willing to spend hundreds of euro/pounds/dollars on a complete set of, say, Thundercats.

But recently two things have changed my mind. Firstly, the fact that I’ve missed all or part of some things that I would have enjoyed, due to a period of country-hopping around the turn of the millenium. For example I watched, and enjoyed, the first series of The Sopranos, but immediately afterwards we moved to Dublin, where we had no tv, and then shortly afterwards moved to Italy, where we only had access to Italian tv (and an inordinate number of German channels via satellite). So it wasn’t until we arrived in Belgium that I was able to watch English-language series again – we get BBC1 and 2, and most of the Dutch and Flemish channels show British and American shows subtitled rather than dubbed, although we have been known to watch stuff dubbed into French (Lost, Battlestar Galactica). But by that time I’d missed a series or two, and I’m anal enough to not bother with something unless I can watch every episode, in the correct sequence.

But there are also the frustrating scheduling practices to deal with. Seasons are sometimes cut in half, and it’s hard to know when, if ever, you’ll get to see the second half, let alone subsequent seasons. I saw, and fell in love with, the first series of Six Feet Under. A pause of a couple of years and I finally found a channel showing seasons two and three. Then another pause. Occasional episodes popped up on various channels, but they’d jumped ahead, or it was difficult to actually establish which season they were showing. It was at this point that I caved in and bought series four and five on DVD (just started watching them now – no spoilers, please).

But the second reason for starting to watch things this way is the realisation that, if something’s worth watching, it’s not only worth watching the moment it’s released. So what if I’m behind everyone else, and I can’t have those “water cooler” discussions? If I’m reading a book, it doesn’t bother me whether it was published three months ago or three hundred years ago. If it’s good, it’ll keep until I have time for it. If I’m always scrambling to keep up with the latest thing, I’ll miss plenty of older stuff more worthy of my attention.