Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Too much to do, too much to see

The only new TV of note was the "Nip/Tuck" finale, but I gave up on the show again five or six episodes into this season, and after listening to my friend Rich describe all the contortions of the finale ("And did I mention that Quentin doesn't have a penis?"), I feel comfortable with that decision.

Instead, I want to talk about the problem of too much TV -- or, rather, too much TV bonus content. There was an article by Matthew Gilbert in the Boston Globe a few days ago that summed up one of my growing concerns about this job:

In the coming months, you and your TV addiction are going to be reeled into an expanded ''environment" of your favorite network show, one that may require a cover charge for entry into certain exclusive zones.

You'll be invited to visit characters' blogs at, or pay for mobile phone episodes (known as mobisodes), or buy DVD packages and video games containing new and additional plot information. Your once-simple affair with your TV ''story" could have as much to do with your PC, your cellphone, and your DVD player as it does with your TV set.

I've always prided myself on keeping up with as much TV as I possibly can on this job. In the 10 years I've been doing it, that mission has become exponentially more difficult. When I started, there were six broadcast networks, one of which (UPN) could pretty much be written off every season after I watched the pilots, and maybe a half-dozen cable shows of any real note. Now there are dozens of channels with original programming that interests me (or that I feel I should be watching because of general reader interest), and there aren't enough hours in the day to see them all.

And now I not only have to keep up with all these shows, but their assorted podcasts, blogs and web and mobile phone episodes? Does someone want to give me one of those time-travel gizmos like Hermione has in Prisoner of Azkaban just so I have a prayer of getting to it all?

I'm actually in favor of all these new bonuses. If I was an average TV viewer with two or three shows that I absolutely loved, I'd be in heaven to be able to extend my entertainment beyond those two or three episodes a week. But as a professional TV watcher, I'm starting to feel a little overwhelmed.

I just spent two days jumping through ginormous logistical hoops to replace our two broken cell phones, and I'm pretty sure the new ones we got aren't capable of downloading and playing video, so unless I want to shell out several hundred bucks to upgrade, I won't be able to watch any mobisodes until our new cell contract ends in two years and we can get cheap new phones. I love that Ronald Moore does podcast commentaries for every "Battlestar Galactica" episode, but it feels wasteful to me to watch each episode twice (once without commentary, then with) when there are so many other things I need to get to.

I usually like to think I'm staying close to the leading edge of entertainment technology, but for my own selfish reasons, I feel like I'm turning into a Luddite. "In my day, we didn't need no fancy podcasts! We got 22 episodes a year, with lots of reruns in December, March and April, and we liked it! We loved it! Flibble-dee-floo!"

Oh, and love for "The Chronic-WHAT?-cles of Narnia" continues to spread. Just remember, Mr. Pibb + Red Vines = Crazy Delicious!

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