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November 3, 2012

Josh Drespling: What has happened to television?

NEW CASTLE — As I remember, television was a mindless indulgence that removed you from the stress and responsibility of everyday life.

It was an island of solace amid a life of hectic activity. It transported you from any and all problems.

Despite your “real life” situation, there were always those reliable friends who existed just beyond that glass panel and those flickering lights in your living room. A land of bliss and of completeness, where any problem that may arise was resolved within the 22 and a half minutes that your favorite cast of charters monopolized your screen.

This was, indeed, our TV land.

Now, every show seems to be a run on drama, bent on emulating the gritty nature of real life so flawlessly that you can almost taste the tension between each character. Film making and television have progressed to such a level that emotions, both tragic and blissful, are delivered to your screen with such stunning accuracy that it is hard not to be drawn in by the power of the moment.

These dramatic masterpieces have changed the way we watch television. Gone are the days of plopping down and senselessly watching a clumsy actor spew one-liners. We are now drawn in to the ever twisted and increasingly complex storylines. These cleverly crafted tales span multiple episodes and even full seasons. There are so many shows that have followed the meandering landscape and cliffhanger formula that America loved in shows like “Lost” and “The Sopranos.”

I know this is nothing new. We saw this scenario in the old classic, “Dallas,” and even the afternoon soaps played this card on a daily basis. However, the new crop of shows such as “The Walking Dead” and “Revolution” have taken this to a new level. Each and every episode builds on the events of the previous. This forces us to absorb every installment, to never miss a moment.

If you are unfortunate enough to miss an episode, you will undoubtedly be unable to follow the storyline. Forced to catch a rerun, watch it OnDemand, or go the route of downloading from a torrent site.

Gone are the days of being a casual watcher. It has become a chore to keep up with your favorite shows and characters. You have to know the back story, the relationships, and all the extenuating circumstances of every character. These series build their tree-like roots and branches, stretching the stories to heights that are insurmountable if you fall a few steps behind.

I have dropped off watching several shows because I simply fell behind. It might have been my own lack of interest, or simply the absence of spare time in my life, but whatever the case, I just gave up on some amazing shows. I dropped “Breaking Bad” like a bad habit, and have heard nothing but great things about the show since I stopped watching. I also surrendered the ghosts of “Grimm” and “Once Upon a Time” and have never looked back. Not to mention my short experiences with “Jericho,” “The Event,” and the failed reboot of “V.”

I have tried to watch the new series, “Revolution,” which focuses on the possibility of the entire world’s electricity simply not working anymore. I have missed several episodes and have no idea what is going on. I suppose I should just give up on this series, too, and surrender myself to old reruns of “Married with Children,” or my newest favorite, “The Big Bang Theory.”

With these shows, I can flip them on right in the middle of an episode and thoroughly enjoy it. I can laugh along while eating my Fruity Pebbles and wearing my comfy pajamas in the luxury of own my personal TV Land.

I'm free of the guilt and the chore of watching TV. I'm back to turning my mind to mush the old-fashioned way, just like our parents did.

 

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