Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Core Response 1: The Destruction of Live TV

Lauren Tyler 

One of the concepts I found most interesting in Jane Feuer’s “The Concept of Live Television” was that “American network television, in the very process of technological advancement, has nearly destroyed even the simplest meaning of “live” transmission. Videotape, though perceptually equivalent to “live” transmission, preserves the event, eliminating process and thus aura (15).” This is even more prevalent in today’s Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu Plus era. We have transformed into an instant gratification society. The days of a nation huddled around their television sets to find out “Who Shot J.R.” have been replaced with eager viewers trying to avoid “Scandal” spoilers on their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds. Viewers no longer watch television at the same pace. 

Prior to recording devices, viewers were at the mercy of network scheduling. If they wanted see Lucy have a baby, they had to sit at their television sets and watch it live, commercials and all. Thus, television became a family bonding experience where everyone sat together and enjoyed a baseball game or sitcom while crowded around the television set. Now, streaming has destroyed that entirely. If my mom has “The Young and the Restless” playing on DVR, I can simply throw on some headphones and tune her out with Netflix on my laptop. There’s no need to agree on what’s watched and when, which has become even more apparent in the “Netflix Binge Watching” era. 

When Netflix decided to release their original programming all at once, rather than weekly episodes, they changed the way many people view television programming. I know many people who actually hold off on watching new network television shows until they can binge the entire season in one or two sittings. Netflix allows viewers to watch their shows at a breakneck pace, in effect forcing many viewers to follow suit or else risk having their entire viewer experience ruined before pressing play. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to be spoiled, you’d better watch “House of Cards” just as quickly as keyboard trigger happy Frances Underwood fanatics, or else run the risk of knowing every death, murder and misdeed committed before you can add it to your Netflix queue. The introduction of binge watching has transformed television watching into a binge eating contest instead of the once leisurely weekly meal it used to be. 

Very few things happen “live” anymore. With websites like Youtube, it’s nearly impossible to miss a social/cultural phenomenon. The last big live event that I can recall was the Prince William/ Kate Middleton wedding, and even then you could set it to record and fast forward through all the boring parts. We’ve changed the ways we use and consume TV. There’s no worry of missing anything, because it will be posted online somewhere instantaneously. While the concept of “live” TV has been destroyed, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worse. People host binge parties, and DVR things so they can watch later with friends and family. TV can still be a bonding experience, we’re just no longer beholden to schedules and commercials. 

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