By: Chaveli Concepcion
Television watching has changed drastically over the past twenty years due to the new methods of creating, downloading and streaming shows online. There are many new engines of change, such as Netflix, that release their own shows and allow for viewers to instantly watch long-lasting series nonstop. A fairly modern and popular approach to television is the idea of hybrid TV and binge watching. Hybrid television is made up of a mixture of episodic and serial qualities into one show, in which a viewer can jump into any one episode and understand the individual episode, yet also enjoy seeing the larger plot unravel if they watched from beginning to end.
It is a normal phenomenon for people to watch episode after episode continuously for periods of time on their computers. A great example of hybrid TV as explained by analyst Noel Murray and film critic Scott Tobias in “How Has the Culture of TV (and TV-Watching) Changed?” is the sitcom, How I Met Your Mother. The television show How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) demonstrates why hybrid TV is becoming predominant and why Todd VanDerWerff, author of “In defense of slow TV,” is correct by saying that television should be watched in a way that allows it to be savored.
From Murray’s point of view, television should be something people can decide to start enjoying at any time without having to start back from the very beginning and can grasp an understanding after any one or two random episodes. Sometimes people don’t hear about shows until one or two seasons after it starts, or possibly the show itself doesn’t really attract viewers until that point. Noel Murray argues that TV has purposely changed so viewers can always have a chance to tune in and enjoy the show. A hybrid TV show such as HIMYM allows viewers to drop in to Season 2 Episode 2, “The Scorpion and The Toad,” and understand that Marshall is recovering from his break up with Lily and realize that Lily has arrived back in New York, and notice the general episode plot. It also allows for understanding of general characters and so on. From this logic, it seems though as if it should be perfectly fine to drop in and watch How I Met Your Mother all the time, right? No, that is not the case.
Scott Tobias has the perfect counter argument about why TV should in fact always be watched from the first episode of the first season. Tobias believes that in order to truly enjoy a show, it is very valuable to know all the small details that add up and lead to big moments and allow viewers to appreciate the entirety of the TV serial they have made time to watch. The minor details of the show begin to appear from the very first moment a show airs, and characters too begin to develop. Due to these details in development, viewers emotionally grow alongside the show. A great example of this is how in HIMYM Season 1 Episode 9, “Bully Full of Turkey”, Lily spends Thanksgiving weekend with Marshall’s family and is scared of their traditions. A specific tradition she disliked is a mayonnaise salad she was asked to prepare and later in Season 2 Episode 8, “Atlantic City,” she makes a joke about how his family would make fun of her while eating their mayonnaise. If a viewer starts the show in Season 2 and skips Season 1, the viewer would not be able to understand such jokes and the implications that come with it. Differences in the way people watch television are due to differences in the way television shows are being structured, however, that does not make it the right way or only way to watch TV.
VanDerWerff has a different interest in how television watching has changed. His particular argument in “In defense of slow TV” is about how viewers should care more, and morally respect shows, particularly by giving shows the time they deserve. The most evident benefit of slow television is the time it gives the viewer to think, process, and enjoy each episode of the show—it gives “plenty of time to savor the things the show does with slow-motion character and plot development” (VanDerWerff). That is a very good reason to slow down the way in which TV is usually watched. The details a regular viewer can identify with and appreciate over the random drop-in viewer are what make people appreciate the show, and the fact that they put conscious time into that particular show. The mayonnaise example mentioned earlier is also useful in showing how details are taken in slowly and over time, because if a viewer were to have binge-watched from Season 1 Episode 9 to Season 2 Episode 8, what they would remember is Marshall and Lily’s break-up, Ted and Robin’s match up, and Marshall and Lily’s make up—all the main events. If that pattern continues then what will the show end up coming to?
Viewers who just watch for plot would not notice how a part of the series finale was filmed in 2005 when HIMYM first aired. It is amazing to realize everything actors and producers think of and do for the audience to enjoy every second of every show and it is simply very rude to not thank them all by watching slow TV and having to wait for the new episode to come out in another week while you spend all the days in between guessing and hoping about what might come next.
Hybrid television is a new concept that has had big impacts in the television world and everything it includes. The television show How I Met Your Mother portrays hybrid TV because it offers individual episode plots that can be enjoyed in random viewing, as well as episode to episode growth that can only be understood by consistent and devoted followers. If viewed the right way, as VanDerWerff suggested, real television showings can be extremely satisfying and rewarding. Just like with television, every day is a different episode, and one must wait for the next to come, wait for the series—life—to continue.
Tobias, Scott, and Noel Murray. “How Has the Culture of TV (and TV-watching) Changed?” Web log post. The A.V. Club. 18 June 2010. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.
Todd VanDerWerff. “In defense of slow TV” Web log post. The A.V. Club. 25 January 2012. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.