Tony Jones, the host of Q&A, often signs off with a mildly threatening suggestion that we tune in next week.THERE is no doubt television is, to a large extent, about anticipation. To experience television as a medium is to enjoy brief, abrupt hits of satisfaction that punctuate longer, deliciously teasing periods of waiting. The traditional way to do this is on a week-by-week basis.
Having spent a week quivering like a tuning fork with excitement, we would gorge ourselves for an hour on our favourite show and, when the credits rolled, cry, ”Oh! I can’t wait a whole week!” and resumed vibrating for the next seven days, chattering excitedly to all who would listen about the best bits from this week’s episode and what we thought would happen in next week’s. That’s the very dynamic TV was designed for: a dynamic of addiction that gave us just enough to leave us wanting more.
Most people – if they were not weird mutant folk – had more than one favourite TV show, so it was a sort of rolling series of fixes and cravings, tensions and releases that lasted most of the year, until the non-ratings period, when everyone relaxed and watched Peter Luck on This Fabulous Century.
Things are different these days. We still retain a little of the weekly cycle – shows such as Q&A demand we wait a week between them, although sometimes when Tony Jones says ”tune in next week” it sounds more like a threat than a promise – and naturally the free-to-air networks, bless their quaint little souls, still broadcast shows week-by-week so we can enjoy them old school.
But the modern viewer has access to box sets and legal downloads and can, if they wish, watch whole seasons of their favourites back-to-back. That means the satiating hit lasts much longer – somewhere between 10 and 24 hours – and the anticipation much longer. In our world, the season-ending cliffhanger arrives but a weekend after the season opener and leaves us shivering, and jonesing, for months afterwards. Luckily, of course, we can just apply our digital straws to the internet and suck down another long, cool show.
But essentially, it is as it ever was – the delight we get from watching TV is inseparable from the suspense of waiting for TV. You can see it in every ”OMG Breaking Bad that was amazeballs I can’t wait eight months!” tweet.
I still watch a lot of my TV the old-fashioned way and I still derive such joy from spending my week wondering whether Jim and Maggie will kiss in The Newsroom next week, or whether award-winning foreign correspondent Mac will break a nail.
But I also enjoy the new way of completing a Downton Abbey marathon, then counting down the days until I can start another one. Then there’s the fun of gloating when you see a show before your friends. But whatever your preferred viewing pattern, and whether your taste runs to science teachers-turned-drug lords, war heroes-turned-terrorists, or Dr Who-turned-Dr Who, we’re all still devoted to that marvellous thrill, the tingle of anticipation that tells us we are not simply watching these shows but that they have become a part of us, and if we don’t get a bit more soon, we’ll just die.
It’s why we watch, why we keep watching and why we rarely leave our houses. Fresh air and exercise can’t match this beautiful medium.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.