There are times in life when that which you love is also that which you loathe. I am familiar with this feeling -- the queasy nausea of obsessive repulsion. My mother, too many boys to count, chopsticks and "Hey Ya" have all brought this upon me, twisting my emotional insides into a pretzel of confusion. Do I want to hug you or hit you? Kiss you or piss (on) you (in a not-kinky way)? Use you or abuse you? Hum you or remove all traces of you from every single iTunes playlist upon which you appear?
Oh, HBO On Demand, why must you do this to me?
Television is supposed to be a time-based medium. It should not be like a book or a video, floating in atemporal ether. If you have to pee, you miss a minute. If you forget to program your VCR, you miss a whole episode. And who remembers to program their VCR? Sure, one can assume that any new episode of The Real World will be replayed 90 or 100 times a week, but who knows for sure when? Every Wednesday of high school, through my junior year, I would watch Party of Five at 9 p.m.. This was not optional; if you missed an episode you had absolutely nothing to talk about at the water cooler. This was life as I lived it, and it was a life well-lived.
I first experienced TIVO last semester, when someone asked me to watch The O.C. with them 15 minutes into an episode. I had a paper to write, and had forgotten to check the time to make sure I didn't miss the show's beginning, and after I realized what I had done, I chalked my loss up to academic dedication. Then I was invited to leave Van Pelt to see the show, and I figured half an hour was better than nothing, and I am such an undedicated academic anyway that it embarrasses me. When we arrived at the viewing spot, and I learned that the whole episode had been TIVOed, I was ecstatic. I sat on a couch in the Left Bank, sipping diet coke as we watched from beginning to end, fast-forwarding through commercials, thinking collectively, "Oh, this is the life."
But this is not the life. Sure, HBO On Demand isn't TIVO. I cannot digitally record every show I want to see, but having Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Da Ali G Show at my fingertips is more than enough. TV is most importantly about watching shitty shows you don't want to watch because nothing else is on. I can no longer do that, and so I am lost. If I can forget that the season finale of Six Feet Under is on, and then just watch it later that evening, no preparation necessary, no questions asked, what does that make me?
It makes me a loser and a sad soul who can no longer fall asleep if Entourage isn't playing. I am too nostalgic for my own good, and yet still, I know for certain that I will not be alone in rueing the day when whole seasons of shows weren't watchable in a day and when commercials meant something. Fast-forwarding through television shows just isn't right. This is innate knowledge, and don't bring up video recordings. They're a different kettle of fish entirely, and you know it.
O, we are a gluttonous race, and we will live to regret it, so help me God.