Most of us in the west grew up with television as part of our lives, and we shared a lot of experiences vicariously through the tube. It was what we made small talk about around the water cooler or out socializing and as time passed, it was a shared bit of nostalgia we had in common with others. “Remember when the Fonz jumped the shark?”.
But it wasn’t just the story we shared. We also shared the context of the culture when the show aired. We even for the most part shared the season it was aired in.
And we even shared the anticipation and suspense of the cliffhangers. We had to wait a week to see what would happen to one of the characters, and a TV series spanned years, so we remember shows like Happy Days as being with us through our youth – from grade school to high school and to college.
But Netflix has broken all of that.
“Arrested Development” and “Breaking Bad” may have been as I described above for some people, but a lot of people now (even Sir Anthony Hopkins apparently) consume entertainment in ‘binges’ and I am one of them too.
In a sense, I have been a binge watcher since before the internet was even around. I used to refuse to watch TV series until they had established themselves with enough episodes to play daily. That coincided with specialty networks like the Space (science fiction) channel emerging, and the various Star Trek TV series that were produced.
No longer did I have to wait a whole week to see what would happen next, and the Space channel even tried to make sure that two-part episodes were played back to back. Add to that a schedule that repeated multiple times in the day. and we were no longer slaves to the weekly programming schedule.
Fast forward to now, and generally most of us are able to pick and choose when we watch what we want to watch, and for a mere pittance we can subscribe to Netflix and have access to a huge back library of TV series, most of which we never had time to watch, or that weren’t even offered on whatever TV package we happened to have at the time.
So to me, the entire “Breaking Bad” series took place in my life during September/October 2013, and my nostalgic memories of that series will always be colored by the fact that I saw them all in that time span.
More extreme examples of this time-shift nostalgia are when I retroactively watched all the Saturday Night Live episodes from the 90′s until today within a time span of a few weeks. That had some strange overtones of other nostalgia mixed in with it because I got to see all the popular entertainment people of the time promoting their stuff, and I know in hindsight all of their projects and careers turned out.
So I’m not upset about Netflix breaking nostalgia. It’s kind of neat actually. And it’s not like nostalgia was always the same for everyone anyway. It was probably only ever that way for a short time when network TV was king, and it was the main lynchpin that tied us all together.
I think in the future, nostalgia will be based on the internet. Like for example “remember when everyone used to have a blog?”