By Mike Welsh
Imagination and staying power are no longer required for consuming television. Thanks to Netflix and co, binge-watching is the new way to view TV programs.
Instant gratification has revolutionised the “water cooler conversation” concept. No more idle speculation on who shot a nasty Texan oil billionaire or who was responsible for the demise of the creepy old Montgomery Burns.
Cramming culture, crime and comedy seemingly comes with real health dangers for the time-poor, mostly-gen-Xers, who demand the ability to indulge in an entire series of the latest hit sitcom in one sitting. It can shorten your life or, at least, bring on depression, loneliness, self-regulation deficiency and obesity.
The authors of a recent study on binge watching concluded:
Those who watched television for three or more hours a day were two times as likely to have an early death compared to those who watched one or fewer hours.
Imagine a time long, long ago, before Orange became the New Black, when a flickering screen in a piece of handsome furniture known as a “box” beamed black and white images of innocent, wholesome, mostly happy (and always white) family sitcoms into “back in the day” lounge rooms.
Back in that day, there were no concerns over what was in outer space, for example. Green men from Mars most certainly existed but TV looked after that for us. It gave us our very own Martian: Everyone’s favourite Martian, Martin. Martin was a nice suburban man and lived in a nice suburban house with his clean-cut, nice young nephew, Tim. And Martin could sprout antenna from his head when things got a bit serious.
Your imagination got a stimulating workout back then. But even in amongst the B&W there were already flickers of the dangers of “colour” casting a dark and sinister shadow on the wall. (Tim, after all, did grow up to become a frightening green monster.)
Although there were no exhaustive studies undertaken to the possible dangers of watching excessive TV back then, there were obvious positives. The need to suspend reality for 30 minutes, for example.
This was a time before man bags and hashtags; when the whole family sat silently and in an orderly fashion on the same three-seater couch and watched the same TV together with only a TV dinner balancing on their laps.
Pure and naive times indeed. A time glib psychologists weren’t being paid fat fees to sit on the couch with Kochie and Karl and scare the horses in the village. There was a talking horse who was able to hold a conversation with a man, and in his own folksy accent. No-one got on their high horse over a serious threat of moral decay when an attractive nose-wriggling blonde witch swapped one Dick for another without missing a beat. (You’ll have to Google, “Dick Sergeant or Dick York: who came first?”)
The PC police didn’t investigate why a kid was called Beaver when he wasn’t a real beaver or why his obese buddy was known by all as “lumpy” because he was fat. Nobody noticed that every TV kid’s parents slept in single beds. There was a genial single father, raising his three sons with the help of a grumpy uncle and a frumpy maid who baked the best darn brownies in the whole dang neighbourhood and solved the world’s problems on a weekly basis.
It was a time when it came to family TV sitcoms…Father always knew best (again, Google).
I’m sorry I’m from back in the day. Get me out of here.