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.



8 thoughts on “Shelf life

  1. rasman1978 April 9, 2008 / 10:59 am

    I’m so disappointed that there aren’t yet any Amazon reviews for the Thundercats box set. Perhaps we should make some…

    I can’t remember the last time I kept track of what time a show came on television and made a point of watching it when it was broadcast.

    And you’ve nailed the point of DVD box sets, too.


  2. Karen MEG (Pomtini) April 9, 2008 / 12:58 pm

    Excellent point about boxed sets Simon! I too also followed just the first couple of seasons of Six Feet Under, loved it, but for some reason couldn’t keep up with the rest. If the quality of the program is good, why not buy it?

    I bought the first season of 24 for Ian but he has yet to open it. No time. Or maybe he’s forgotten. What season are they on now …. 5?!!!

    I like your previous post about all things new as well. Old is so much more interesting 😉


  3. rasman1978 April 9, 2008 / 1:22 pm

    Season 6 of 24 was broadcast in 2007, and the box set is already available. Season 7 was going to be broadcast in 2008, but the writer’s strike nixed it, so it’ll be in 2009.

    24 is the only show I’ve ever bought a box set for. I bought seasons one and two together, and season 3 separate. But then I became wise in the ways of the torrent and now have a better way to acquire video content.

    The way they write 24 is like a good thriller novel. It’s really hard to say, “Okay, that’s the last episode I’m going to watch tonight.”


  4. simonlitton April 9, 2008 / 1:33 pm

    Erik: if you want to watch a month’s worth of bad 80s cartoons and write a review, feel free. Unfortunately I don’t have the time as I’m washing my hair tonight.
    And I’ve never seen “24”. My wife’s big into explosive political thriller-type things, but I’m less keen.

    Karen: “Old is so much more interesting”. The older I get, the more I feel this way…


  5. sgazzetti April 9, 2008 / 1:55 pm

    The timing of this is bizarre. Magda and I became obsessed with watching Six Feet Under last year, and plowed through all of it in a very short, self-indulgent time — except for series 4, which we were never able to get hold of. Ultimately we had to settle for spending a long evening with me reading HBO’s plot synopses for all series 4 episodes aloud to her before defeatedly moving on to the final series with all those important events and developments vague in our minds (the HBO synopses are long but not very good). Just this week a friend of Magda’s in Germany sent us the disc and we’ve finally been able to see all this stuff that we read about and that was so important in the last series. It is a seriously weird and disorienting way to watch, but we’re so happy to be back into it.

    We’re on S04E05 (tonight, no doubt), so we can have our own little water-cooler microcosm if you want.


  6. simonlitton April 9, 2008 / 2:03 pm

    Online plot synopses are a weird thing, depending on the series. Some official sites will give you the bare bones, or are even deliberately vague (“character X has a dramatic confrontation with character Y…”), whereas fan sites will go into insane amount of detail, adding their own little comments and analysis, so you have to trawl through thousands of words just to find out what happened.


  7. Peter April 12, 2008 / 10:20 pm

    Same feeling here Simon: it really doesn’t matter if a show was released three months ago or three years before the collectors box arrived. Quality and continuity does matter.

    On the other hand, I know people who’ve already seen every new episode of ABC’s Lost (season 4, still airing only in the US), I guess it’s just a question of how hard someone really wants to watch a series.

    And sure, collectors DVD boxes are the best way to enjoy any show: no ads.


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