To watch or not to watch…

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As the evening of Monday the 23rd of September swiftly approaches I am riddled with an ever increasing sense of anguish, plagued by indecision over one of life’s most crucial questions: should I watch the new season of ABC’s Castle week by week, as it is broadcast, or should I wait for the box set so that I can watch all 24 episodes in one indulgent, intensive and excitement filled week?

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This may seem like a silly thing to be deliberating, but I have made mistakes in the past. I love nothing more than a high drama, gets your pulse racing, has you leaning forward in your seat, clutching at the furniture cliff-hanger, but as an avid box set collector, I was never left hanging on the cliff for very long. I could excitedly shriek, “Oh my gosh! Did you see that?! That was incredible! I wonder what’s going to happen next…” And then I could select the next episode and find out in seconds exactly what happens next.

But then I got sloppy. I finished watching the fourth season of Castle, which had an ending so exciting I could barely contain myself; and not only was the fifth season not yet available on DVD, it HADN’T EVEN AIRED YET!!! My mind was instantly filled with elaborate plans to break into ABC studios and steal the recordings but then I calmly reminded myself that it’s only a TV show (as football is only a game). I was perfectly capable of waiting patiently for two months until it premiered.

And so, on the 24th of September 2012, I excitedly sat down to find out what happened next. And it was awesome, as brilliant as I had expected it would be, perhaps even better! That is, until the final credits rolled and I suddenly realised that I would have to wait a whole week for the next episode. And so began my first experience of “To watch or not to watch” anguish.

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In the end, I decided to watch it week by week. After all, that was how we used to watch TV, before the phenomenon of box sets, TV on demand and Netflix. That is how the writers and creators want us to watch it, isn’t it? Leaving us hanging on a cliff asking, “Who shot JR?” “Did Ross just say Rachel’s name at the altar?!” “Did Deb really just walk in on Dexter killing that guy?!” or the end of every single episode of Prison Break. That is what brings us back to watch it week after week, isn’t it?

But then a most unexpected thing happened… While I still enjoyed Castle, it just wasn’t grabbing me like it used to. I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat, I wasn’t clutching at the furniture. And so began this absurd puzzle that still frustrates me to this day: Was Castle just not that good anymore or was it my fault? While it had in the past kept me in a state of suspense that had me wanting more; that feeling of suspense had only ever needed to last long enough for me to skip to the next episode or even to get up and change the disc. That same suspense couldn’t be sustained for a week. Was this my fault or theirs?

Being a researcher, I hate unanswered questions. But I have an enigma on my hands. It is impossible for me to know if the fifth season of Castle would have been better if I had just waited until I had all of the episodes at my fingertips, to watch in a row, like the good old days. But if I am the one to blame, I don’t want to make the same mistake again. With only hours to go until the sixth season starts, I have a big decision to make!

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An article appeared last week, shared multiple times across social media platforms, entitled: “Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy”. The article basically says that the generation of people born from the late 1970s to the mid 1990s are generally unhappy because they were raised to have such high expectations for themselves and the world that reality could just never match up to. We have unrealistically high levels of optimism and believe in unbounded possibility. We have an elevated view of ourselves and our capabilities, meaning that we’re destined to feel disappointed.

A few of those from the Y-Generation hit back, quite angrily in some cases, arguing that there’s nothing wrong with having high standards and big dreams – even if we never reach them. I myself am still not quite sure which side of the argument I am on, but what it did bring to light for me was how much the world has changed and how quickly it changes.

Every generation has its challenges, whether it’s a war, an economic depression or Miley Cyrus. To me, the most standout thing of my generation is that we’re not very patient. We know what we want and we want it now! Whether it’s a new car, a dream job, a family of our own; once we’ve decided we want it, we expect that to be the end of it. We seem to forget that we need to work for it first. We were brought up to believe that we could achieve anything, but I think some of us missed the implication that it would not just be handed to us.

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Unless you’re extremely lucky, you won’t have the corner office until you’ve done your fair share of photocopying and coffee making (even with your four year degree). You won’t have that shiny new car until you’ve squeezed into your fair share of sweaty taxis or driven the rusted Mazda 323 that your parents drove to the hospital in when your mom went into labour with you. And you won’t have that family until you’ve learned to share your personal space with at least one other person.

The frantic pace of modern living means we have very short attention spans and can easily switch from one thing to another; whether it’s a job, a relationship or a TV show, without giving it a second thought. But maybe the value lies in sticking with something; putting off instant gratification for something even more rewarding in the long term.

Maybe I have found the solution to my problem, all be it in a very roundabout way. The world has changed and so too has the way in which we produce TV shows. I used to feel as though watching an entire season in a weekend, one episode after the other, was cheating somehow, but in this new age of easy accessibility, it’s up to me to choose the viewing option that maximises my enjoyment. I’ve been waiting since the 13th of May for the season 6 premiere of Castle. If I choose to wait until I have all of the episodes before watching, I will have to wait until May next year.

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Right now that feels like a mammoth task. But if I think about how much I enjoyed seasons 1-4 versus how much less I enjoyed season 5, I can breathe a little easier. It’s just like the corner office, the shiny car and the happy family. I have to pay my dues. But then my Generation Y gene kicks in and I think, “Well maybe I’ll just watch the first episode on the 23rd and then after that I’ll wait…”

What do you think? Should I watch it as it is broadcast or should I wait until I have the box set? What would you do? Let me know with a comment below…

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3 responses to “To watch or not to watch…

  1. I agree! The world we live in in based on the speed in which we can access things. In every day life we need to make choices and these choices need to be made now! Not next week, or tomorrow or in 10 min. My question is; Do we say that the world needs to be quicker or does the world dictate our time?

  2. It makes no difference whether you wait or not. You either have one long period of suspense waiting for the box set. Or you have the same period of suspense with a one hour breather every 7 days.

  3. I always prefer to wait, i LOVE being able to just go to the next episode, and I think you get so much more out of the story because you’re watching it all together, so you don’t forget any details! Waiting for a whole week between episodes takes you further away from the story as a whole, imagine reading 1 chapter of your book a week? It would feel so disjointed! So I say wait till May! It’ll be worth it!!

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