Monday, July 26, 2010

Some Public Relations BEFORE "Public Relations"

I've decided that I'm going to try blogging about Mad Men each week this season.

This is going to be a bit of a new thing for me. I'm not accustomed to writing about weekly serialized TV shows, although my appreciation for that medium has grown steadily in the last two and a half years. So let me begin with a preamble about why it's taken me this long to catch on.

You see, TV was once almost entirely out of my life. After college, most of my viewing time was dedicated to the movies I'd get from Netflix, watching and returning them as quickly as possible. When it came to TV, I'd mainly watch sketch comedy or inappropriate cartoons like South Park, and would occasionally catch a bit of some long-running episodic drama like ER or Law and Order. The weekly Gilmore Girls viewing I shared with my sister was the extent of my experience with a more serialized show.

At that time, when On Demand was still somewhat new and DVRs were not yet ubiquitous, I couldn't be bothered with arranging my life around the TV schedule, no matter how much I might have wanted to get into some of the shows that had begun to air. Plus, as a completist, I couldn't just jump into something in media res. But I was -- and continue to be -- so anal about my Netflix queue that I'd have broken down in sobs if I had to find a way to accommodate the multiple discs/seasons of a TV series's back catalog. So I gave it up as a lost cause.

When I moved to England for graduate school, I didn't even have a TV, and the school placed such restrictive filtering on our Internet access that it was painful to stream even a short YouTube video, let alone download a torrent. I got so completely out of the habit that, by the time I got back to the US, I'd come around the other side of the spectrum and actually felt as though I'd missed out on a great many things.

After I finally settled down in Boston once again, I remembered Netflix's "Profiles" feature. This allows a user to set up multiple queues under the same account, dividing the total number of discs stipulated by the account's plan across the all of its queues. This is typically used when people are sharing an account and each want a say in the discs they receive. While there's still one bill, each queue can be maintained independently so no-one dominates the selections (bringing peace of mind to parents, roommates, and couples at one fell swoop).

It also brought me the ability to keep my OCD-like grasp on my movies while setting up an autonomous queue for TV shows (drawing only one disc at a time so as to avoid overload). Finally, I was able to churn through dramas (LOST), comedies (Arrested Development), shows from premium channels (Deadwood), even older series I'd always meant to watch (The Prisoner). And, to my not-so-great surprise, I found that I liked serialized shows AT LEAST as much as movies, if not more so!

My admiration has only grown since then, thanks in no small part to the greater number of On Demand choices, the low cost of DVR service, and technological advances like the Roku player (which finally got me using Netflix's Watch Instantly feature). In the last two and a half years, I've watched the full run (or, at least, full seasons) of around 50 TV shows that I'd heard about but never got around to watching. I have several dozen more ready to watch in my Instant Queue, and slightly more than that in the TV DVD queue. Now, not all of these are serialized shows, but a fair majority have been, and I've been gravitating more and more to the sorts of shows that tell long, rich stories spanning seasons.

All of this is an extremely circuitous way of saying that, over the last two and a half years, I've gone from watching NO TV to being fairly conversant in many of the biggest serialized shows of the last several decades. I'll never catch up completely, not least because I'm still working my way through tons of movies each week, but at least I feel like there's a whole lot less I've missed.

Now, with that out of the way, I'm comfortable enough to start talking about my latest conquest: AMC's Mad Men. I hope I can find intelligent things to say each week, though I suspect I'll mostly be recapping and talking about my favorite bits. I also hope you'll join me for the ride.

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