Watching television has never been better. That may come as a surprise to those of you who claim that “I don’t really watch much television.” But if you’re not spending your leisure time re-reading The Red and the Black or the complete works of Marcel Proust, you probably know what I mean.
For as long as we’ve had television, most of the programming has been riddled with commercials, to such an extent that those jingles are sometimes more memorable than the shows themselves. Watching a movie meant it had been separated into segments of about fifteen minutes, after having been cut for content and to fit the time allotted. Designed, not for your viewing pleasure, but to increase advertising revenues.
When I was growing up, KTVT (channel 11 in Dallas, but channel 6 on cable in Tyler for some inexplicable reason) dropped a twenty-minute news program in the middle of the 9 o’clock movie, which was usually something made in Old Hollywood.
How I was able to develop such an affinity for classic movies under those primitive circumstances is beyond me.
But nowadays thanks to TCM, DVR, DVDs and probably some other acronyms I don’t even know about, I can watch what I want, when I want and as often as I want.
About ten years ago, I experienced binge-watching for the first time. It was all about Mad Men. That fateful weekend, I was sprawled out on the sofa, mainlining Jon Hamm, looking something like Billie Holiday with a needle stuck in her arm. The powers that be had finally figured out how to hook me on made-for-television drama. Thanks to Netflix, we now get a whole season of some of our favorite shows dropped in one day. Thank you, Lord.
This last week, The Handmaid’s Tale was the one I obsessed over, only to find out that Hulu teases it out. I’ve watched all ten episodes from the first season, and the five currently available from the second. Now I have to wait for the rest as they come out once a week. Really, Hulu? May the Lord open all the episodes of season three in one day. Praise be.
And now that cable news is playing a pivotal role in entertaining us, we find ourselves stuck with the “drip drip drip” of the unfolding of an American political scandal.
This week marked the end of the first year of the investigation under Mueller’s eye, and there are calls from all sides eager to get this thing over with.
But, boys and girls, this is not House of Cards. (Well, maybe it is, but that’s a different column.) While all the news networks do keep one eye on their ratings and the other on their narrative, they are not working from a script. It’s all improv. Some of the players are good at it (Michael Avenatti), and some are not (Rudolph Giuliani, unless you consider him comic relief).
Political scandal, American style, isn’t a Marie Callender lasagna that can be popped into the microwave. (They’re better if you heat them in a conventional oven. I know.) And it’s not something that can be binge watched. It’s a slow cooking pot roast, with all the trimmings. And the crockpot is going to slow cook the meat, the carrots, the celery and all those small potatoes.
As my sister (a Southern cook, par-excellence) used to say when I’d ask when dinner would be ready, “It’ll be done when it’s done.” Then, she’d go back to making the cornbread, while the crockpot simmered.
Patience is a virtue, and—Lord knows—I’ve never claimed to be virtuous. I don’t even score very high on the other six virtues. But flying coach and driving in rush hour traffic have forced me to learn to take a Zen attitude about certain things.
So, I’ll just get on the sofa and be content to rewind the DVR when I didn’t catch what was said or fast forward to the good parts. Finally, it’s been designed for my viewing pleasure.
But not Hulu. I still have to wait for Wednesday to get the next episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. Lord, give me strength.