Jun 22, 2011

On Watching Television

This post is inspired by Game of Thrones, but written to be non-spoilerific.

Last weekend, I sat down on my comfy red couch in my comfy red jumper, and flicked on the teev.

I'd had most of Game of Thrones, the latest HBO uber-series, sitting on the multimedia hard drive player thingy for weeks. I'd watched the first episode months ago and enjoyed it well enough, but last Saturday I finally found myself with enough of a "day off" to sit down and consume some more.

And what a feast. By gum I splurged. If Game of Thrones episodes were calories, then I totally need to join Weight-Night's-Watchers (Geddit, Game of Thrones fans? Geddit?).

For the non-initiated, Game of Thrones is based on a series of books by George R.R. Martin, the first of which came out around the same time as the first Harry Potter. However, there's still two more of Martin's to come. I had never heard of the books; indeed fantasy is not really my genre. I love Xena: Warrior Princess, of course, but since it's virtually historical fact, it doesn't really count.

Anyway, the basic details are:

a) It's set in a country called Westeros, which is divided into seven kingdoms, united under one king.
b) Many people of noble/not-so-noble blood have their eye on the "Iron Throne".

But the main thing to keep in mind is:

d) Sean Bean will F**K YOUR S**T UP.

You want proof? Here's Ireland's favourite son (and the best Bond villain of the modern era, in my opinion), thinking about f**king some s**t up:

"I'll need my horse."

Here he is again, on horseback, considering his strategies:

"I'll need my sword."

A quick interlude of machinations nude:

Sky-clad shenanigans!

But then, bam! Sean Bean again, just moments away from totally f**king your s**t up:

"This is what f***king your s**t up looks like."

Now I'm not just a geeky pervert, getting high on a cross between Lord of the Rings, The Sopranos and Westeros Girls Gone Wild. No, Game of Thrones has inspired such gratuitous use of the phrase "f**k your s**t up" because the characters are so wonderfully drawn. Even the vapid, stupid ones have their motivations, their comeuppances and their bring-down-em-ances.

But it made me wonder - how much did the WAY in which I consumed Game of Thrones influence my sudden and frankly disturbing obsession with it?

I grew up in the BD era - which stands for Before DVD Box Sets, or if you're into such things, Before Downloads and iView. Mulder and Scully didn't just watch themselves. You had to really commit to series television.

But then I grew up, and I started university and work and all sorts of creative things away from televisions that made it harder to keep up with regularly scheduled programming. TV started to pass me by. While that may have been somewhat pleasing to my Dad, something happened while he was distracted by international cruising holidays and shiny, shiny gadgets.

Spurred on by targeted, niche programming, better production values and kickass casts - the kind of stuff HBO does so well - and boosted by access on demand, TV-watching actually became an admirable, nay, worthy past-time. Being a TV addict now gives you cred, man.

There's still a place for the weekly series view. For example, there's no way an episode of Doctor Who could go unwatched at Chez Clumsy - the mere suggestion of "holding off" would be enough to send any number of replica sonic screwdrivers hurtling into walls. So hooking up to the TV series drip feed is still a viable option, particularly when you can slot it into your own schedule. And there's a certain sense of payoff in waiting for your next fix.

But is it more fun to save everything up and blow it all across a couple of sittings? I'm not sure. Will I retain this newfound keenness for fantasy, burning brightly after a short but intense exposure?  Or will it ebb and grow as cold as the Winter that ominous characters throughout Game of Thrones keep tell me Is Coming?

How do you consume your TV? And how do you choose what to watch?


  1. I've heard so many people absolutely rave about this show. I have the first few eps but haven't had a chance to see them yet. I'll have to get to it.

  2. Apart from Dr Who, who I can not wait I tend to save up a series and watch it in big blocks.

    Oh Supernatural is another I won't save up but watch as soon as it shows up. I have no idea why, and frankly I am a little nervous of investigating given the amount of slash fiction written about the two male leads.

  3. I find that I binge until I'm sick. With x-files I could enjoy my tv drama in moderation. One week at a time. But not I'll watch a season of prison break in a week and a half. By the time I'd watching the first two I was sick to death of it. I never even bothered watching the third season.

    Same goes for even 'the wire'. I loved it and then just as suddenly could eat another bite.

  4. There's nothing I love more than getting a DVD set and spending a whole weekend watching 8 episodes a day. (This is how I experienced Buffy) BUT I can only do this with old series - i cannot save new episodes and then watch them in a big clump; if they're out, I need to see them right away!

  5. It really depends. Some stuff is nice, self-contained episodes. I'll watch them as they come in... but other stuff is designed to watch unfolding like chapters in a story, so I'll often watch those in clumps.
    That said, I have just spent the last two weeks watching Mexican masked wrestlers pound the hell out of Vampires, Mad Scientists and Gangsters, so I may be a little off...

  6. I saw Game of Thrones one episode a week - every Sunday night. I loved it and can't wait for the second season - primarily because I am hoping to see that little prick of a king die. Lady Stark said to her son "we will kill them all." For me, that is a promise.

  7. The last series that I watched on free to air television was Twin Peaks. I'm just too busy at random intervals to watch episodic television. TV shows are an irrelevancy to me until someone lends me the boxed set. Boxed sets I will watch at a frequency of about four hours an evening, while painting miniatures. I also watch all but top movies on two year delay - i.e. i wait till they slip down into the 7 for $10 weekly rental pile, watching two a night while painting :)

  8. I think it varies from series to series. I actually think Game of Thrones would benefit from sitting down and watching it in a block, because it's basically a 10-hour movie. There's not a lot of effort made to distinguish episodes, and the cliffhangers serve more like the ends of chapters rather than typical endings of an episode of TV.

    More generally, I do think there's value in having to wait a week or longer for episodes, as that's what breeds fandom, as far as I'm concerned. Having to wait, and in the intervening period speculating wildly and discussing with others who've watched the show, and forming a community of like-minded individuals who just HATE that one character, or who want the story to go in a certain direction, etc etc. Always leave em wanting more. I've appreciated shows I've sat down and binged on (Titus Pullo is arguably my favourite fictional character, depending on my mood) but the shows I LOVE are the ones that made me wait.

    I agree with the assertion that Sean bean is hard as nails. Did you see the story recently where he was out with his model girlfriend and some punter got a bit mouthy, so he confronted him and got glassed in the arm, beat the dude up, got stitched up and then ORDERED ANOTHER DRINK? Sean Bean will indeed fuck your shit up.

    But why does everyone think he's Irish? Is there a fake bio out there or something? He's from northern England, Suffolk or Yorkshire or somewhere, just listen to his accent.

    Actually, I quite like how they used northern actors (or at least accents) for the men of the North of Westeros. It led to such wonderful lines as "What are we gonna do about Jamie, Rob? What are we gonna do about JEEEHH MEEEEHH??"

  9. Also it's worth pointing out that a new word has been coined specifically for describing the way this show uses nudity and sex for info-dumps: "Sexposition"

  10. The story of the movie was very good. I like watching this movie.. Nice article.

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