There are so many ways to watch television these days, it’s a wonder I get any writing done. The DVR has made it ridiculously easy to watch or tape multiple shows at once, providing endless options for entertainment. I remember when VCRs were state-of-the-art technology (it really wasn’t that long ago!). It seemed like a miracle of science that I could tape a show on the upstairs TV while I watched live TV downstairs. I used to pore over the TV Guide to figure out which show was worthy of being taped, then spend ten minutes making sure I set it all up right.
Now I can set two shows to record in less than thirty seconds and even specify which TV I want them to record on. I currently have one hundred hours of television stored on my DVR, although they’re not all new episodes that I’m behind on. Some are cooking shows that I swear I’m going to
watch while I recreate the recipes in my own kitchen while others are shows my kids watch time and again. But should my DVR fail me, as it occasionally does, I can always catch the show on Hulu, wait for the entire season to become available on Netflix, or track it down through the network’s web site. So many options!
With all this technology, one has to wonder how the actual content of shows has changed. Are they really that different than they were fifty years ago? Not really. Even with reality shows hogging the air waves, there are still plenty of good old-fashioned scripted shows, like CSI, Castle, and Elementary. Though TV reviewers are constantly calling for the end of episodic TV, saying viewers prefer serial dramas with continuing storylines, I’m not worried. This latest batch of shows isn’t
all that different from Hawaii 5-0 (a remake of which is currently airing), Remington Steele, or Columbo. Sure the lab technicians use microscopic DNA samples to identify a killer rather than the
loops and swirls of fingerprints that the Hawaii 5-0 team relied on, but the basic detective format has stayed the same.
Why? Because ratings for those shows are always steady. People tune in week after week. Even when televisions disappear from the earth and people watch shows by huddling around someone’s iPhone, a mystery series will always be on. And with good reason: it’s the best entertainment around.