Saturday, October 21, 2017

Life Without Reruns

Cutting the cord has had an unexpected side effect that I wasn't expecting.  I've almost completely stopped rewatching media.  And this is a big shift for me, because I remember watching so many television shows and movies multiple times, simply because they were on when I was channel surfing.  A huge chunk of my viewing time went to syndicated series, the ones that played in the early evenings before dinner when I was a kid.  That's the way I first started watching "The Simpsons" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and so many other shows I couldn't watch in prime time because my parents were watching something else.  I watched most movies on weekend broadcasts, edited for television.  They were always at least four or five years old.  Newer media was rarely accessible until my teenage years, when we had more than one television in the house, and the ability to go to the movie theater unsupervised.

And I think back to all those episodes of "Friends" and "Seinfeld" that my generation practically had memorized because we all watched them over and over in the 7PM rerun hour before the network programming started.  Would I still be so fond of the "Miss Chanandler Bong" line if I hadn't heard it multiple times when I was younger?  I certainly wouldn't be able to repeat dialogue off the top of my head or recall tiny details from those episodes.  I suspect that's why I've got so much nostalgic attachment to shows from that period of my life, while the more recent ones don't stick in my consciousness nearly so well.  I loved "Breaking Bad" and "Community," but I've only seen the majority of the episodes once.  The only media I rewatch regularly these days are the kids' movies my younger relatives like.  It's very nostalgic, hearing songs from Disney musicals so many times that I've unconsciously memorized them, but it's not a common occurrence anymore.

As a result I find that I'm less connected to the popular culture in some ways.  It used to be impossible to avoid familiarity with certain movie stars like Julia Roberts or Bruce Willis, and everyone had seen at least one episode of a popular sitcom like "Home Improvement."  Now, I've successfully avoided watching any Adam Sandler movies for a decade, and haven't seen a single episode of the ubiquitous "Modern Family."  I don't have anything against "Modern Family," but if I were still channel surfing like I was in high school, I'm certain I would have stumbled across an episode or two by now.  Instead, if I have a half hour to kill, I'm more likely to be catching up on the late night comedy monologues or listening to a podcast from one of the movie reviewers I follow.  There's always more content waiting for our attention these days, and I never have to simply settle for the least objectionable option.        

Then again, I've noticed  that I've started keeping a running list of movies that I want to revisit sometime when I have the chance, because it never feels like I have the free time for it anymore.  The vast majority of the time I prefer watching something new, but once in awhile I'm struck by the urge to rewatch a particular bit of media, to re-experience a certain moment or to refresh my own memory.  I often resort to Youtube clips to help patch the gaps.  The ending of "Cinema Paradiso" is one I tend to revisit a lot.  The accessibility of so much media through the internet has mostly assuaged any fears that if I don't watch something at a particular time, it's going to disappear into the ether forever.   

As with most changes in my media consumption, I don't know if this is a net good or bad outcome. It may just be a sign of the times.  I have to work a little harder to check my blind spots and make sure I'm not dismissing media that doesn't immediately conform to my tastes, but on the other hand I feel like I'm wasting so much less time now.  Watching media feels less like vegging now, and I don't miss that feeling at all.          

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