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Appointment TV: For or Against?

December 26, 2014

For the last year, my roommate Adam Cobb and I have had an ongoing debate: appointment television vs. non-appointment television. I am someone who loves to watch a show live and I always have. Adam is staunchly against this. I asked him to write his thoughts on the matter, and I am doing the same.  Here are the arguments.

The Cast AGAINST Appointment Television

Digital Video Revolution

by Adam Cobb

It’s Tuesday night. I’m watching one of my favorite superhero shows. It’s nearing the climax where we’ll discover which one of our intrepid heroes will meet their untimely demise.

Bad news: I have to pee.

I’ve already had three glasses of water while watching this episode. I missed my opportunity to make night water during the last commercial break (a scant four minutes ago) because I was tweeting a snarky complisult at the writers of the show. #typicalmillenial

So what do I do? Do I miss the moment the whole episode has been building to by hitting the head? Or do I hold it in, only half paying attention to the show because I’m trying to focus mostly on not wetting myself like some kind of Zen Bladder Control Master?

Neither. Secret Third Option – Pee in my water glass.

I pee. Can’t wash my hands. The reveal is coming. Roommate walks in and starts talking. I shush her. She glares at me. I stare at the TV. She says, “Ooh, apple juice!” and reaches for the glass. I say, “Stop!” to both her and the TV. Neither listens and OH GOD EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE!

All of this nonsense could have been avoided had I simply invested in a DVR (see what I did with the title up there?) or a Hulu Plus subscription.

Essentially, I’m advocating that you (gasp!) delay your viewing until after the episode has aired. That may even put your viewing of it into the next day. But there is one thing I can promise you: you’re going to be okay. We’ll get through this together.

Here’s what’s up, kids (I say as I sit down in a backward chair in a very Dangerous Minds/Gangsta’s Paradise-esque moment): appointment television sucks.

The first reason is in the name itself – you have to make an appointment. Just try saying to someone, “I’m sorry I can’t do (fill in awesome activity here) because I have to watch Once Upon a Time at 8 pm eastern/7 central.” Notice the judgey look in their eyes, which will swiftly be followed by confusion.

“But, Hulu exists!” they’ll say, as they desperately try to claw their friendship with you from the brink of obsolescence. “You can watch the show the next day. And it’s free! What could you possibly miss by viewing it a day later?”

“Twitter followers,” you whisper, as your friend slowly fades into the background, never to be seen again (let’s face it – you’ve had poor taste in friends as of late).

Which brings me to my second point: social media surrounding the viewing of television shows can be terrible.

Say, for instance, you live on the west coast of the US (as so many do). If a show airs at 8 pm on the east coast, it more than likely airs at 8 on the west coast. That gives someone in New York three hours to spoil a show for a social media obsessed viewer in Oregon. However, based purely on anecdotal evidence, I feel that most people will have stopped posting about a show by the following day. So, by simply staying away from Twitter and Facebook, you can have a (potentially) productive evening and an unspoiled viewing experience.

Lastly, let’s return to my experience at the top. You know what could have eliminated the whole embarrassing, plot point missing, potential pee drinking fiasco?

A pause button.

Pausing is freaking fantastic. Need to go to the bathroom? Pause. Need a refill on that Diet Coke? Pause. Missed something because your kid suddenly felt the need to bombard you with questions about the origins of babies? Pause. Then rewind.

There are many positives to watching your shows on a streaming service or with a DVR. Think of the time you’ll save, the friends you’ll keep, and the pee you’ll be able to safely flush down a toilet.


The Case FOR Appointment Television

The Social Network

by Mike Bowers

It’s Thursday night. #TGIT on ABC with Shonda Rhimes’ lineup of television: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. I sit down with some food and my glass (or should I say bottle) of wine ready for my night of excellent television. My computer sits at the ready to live tweet the shows with the rest of everyone watching, and to see what the stars have to say as they tweet along with their shows. By the end of the night, I’ve enjoyed some stellar acting and writing, learned some tidbits about the show, and feel glad knowing that I’m not behind on anything.

Admittedly, I’m a little (ok, a lot) OCD about my TV watching. I like it when my Hulu queue has 0 items in it. When I watch a show live, I can automatically delete it from my queue the next day, which has the satisfying feeling of crossing something off of a to-do list. That frees up my time to watch other show I may have missed because they air the same time as the show I watched live, or because I wasn’t able to be at home in time to watch them. Additionally, if I know other people who watch the show, I am able to talk at length about my thoughts about the episode as soon as I see them, since I’m not behind on episodes.

Nowadays, we are moving increasingly away from the idea of appointment television. With DVR, Hulu, and myriad streaming sites, we are able to watch shows pretty much anytime we want to. However, for me, and I’m sure for others as well, there is something nice about coming home from work (or wherever), turning on the TV at 8pm, and watching something. I’m a very social person, and at least at the moment, I’m in a position where I’m not able to be as social as I would like. Except for work, I don’t really have anywhere to be at a given time. Having a TV show that starts at a certain time gives me a structure and a place to be, appeasing my need to have a full schedule.

And speaking of being social, when I watch a show live, I’m able to chat about it on Twitter and Facebook with friends and strangers alike, becoming part of a global (I use the term colloquially) conversation about whatever show I’m watching. I can engage with other fans, get behind the scenes info from any of the actors or writers who may be live tweeting the episode, and enjoy the show on a completely interactive level that I can’t get the next day. Sure, I can live tweet while I’m watching, but the conversation is over by that point.

While it certainly won’t last forever (fingers crossed I’ll soon be too busy to watch much TV at all, let alone schedule my life around when shows are on), for the time being, watching TV when it airs live makes me feel social, connected, and ahead of the game. And that’s a great feeling.


What are your thoughts? Are you pro or con appointment television?

You can follow Adam Cobb on Twitter @TheAdamCobb


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