Watching With Friends

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 15.678% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

When I was twelve, everyone agreed that Dune was a classic piece of sci-fi literature – and by “everyone,” I mean “my sainted Uncle Tommy, who I trusted implicitly” – so I tried to read it.  I got thirty pages in before I gave up.  But a year later Tommy was still reading the Dune sequels, so I tried again.  And also failed.
Took me four times before I finally ingested all of Dune’s vocabulary and concepts and was able to enjoy the book.
I’ve also watched the first three episodes of The Wire three times now, because all the cool kids tell me it’s one of the best and most complex things to ever hit television.  Teh Moast Brilliant Writing Evar!  Except that it’s slow, and pretty humorless, and rather tedious.  I kept flinging myself at this supposed genius, and bouncing straight off.
Then we started watching it with Erin.
It’s a better experience, I think, watching a show with fans of the show who want to enhance your experience.  Because Erin will stop and go, “Okay, that’s significant,” and so I pay attention to something I might have otherwise missed.  She tells me “This guy is cool,” and I immediately rearrange my watching experience to pay more attention to this guy, and like him more because of it.  When I think, “Well, that’s kind of dumb,” Erin reinforces this thought by going, “Yeah, McNulty doesn’t seem to understand the chain of command, ever!” and I immediately comprehend that this is a character trait that I can safely associate with McNulty.
And when she laughs, it’s a laugh that I now get because she’s watched it through and can afford to laugh.  The Wire’s a complex show, presented absolutely straightfaced, and sometimes I don’t see something as quite as cynically funny as it could be in context.  She’s like my own personal laugh track. It focuses the show in a pleasing way, allowing me to summarize a cast of many characters in a satisfactory method.
This is what we did for her, watching all four seasons of Babylon 5: sympathizing when a script was terrible, bemoaning the actors, pointing out that this plot point would be coming up in the next season, noting that this plot could never have been used in Star Trek.  And that got her through Season 1, and propelled her into loving Seasons 2, 3, and 4, which she devoured.
I know there are people who ruin shows by telling everything, but there’s a method to usher people into the love of a new show.  You have to be respectful of the plot twists (let the viewer discover them, you nimrod), you have to not oversell the characters, you have to be sparing with the trivia that you know – and most of all, you have to let them watch.  If you’re speaking up more than once every five minutes or so, you’re probably doing it wrong.  And if you have something truly interesting to say, pause the show to deliver the spiel on Why This Makes The Show More Interesting, and then unpause when it’s time to return.
Even though television is ostensibly a passive process, like most things, it’s best when done with friends and shared love.

1 Comment

  1. Marc
    Oct 1, 2012

    Probably I’m a very cerebral viewer because I loved “The Wire” at first sight. I understand that it is a very complicated show and that at the beginning is a daunting thing to digest because it’s so big but I for me it’s actually easier to get into something like this than to get behind “easier” shows like, for example, “Supernatural”.
    We are watching the first season and I routinely fall asleep while watching it! (Which probably is also a sign of me getting older LOL).
    Anyway can I ask you what do you think of “The wire” now? Still too dense or you are getting into it?

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