News Column

Washington Times-Herald, Ind., Dennis Glade column

October 5, 2013


Oct. 05--As a society we love entertainment. Some people like to read books, some people like to play sports and some like to watch television. Over past few decades, television consumption has become the dominant form of entertainment for many people. Like many from my generation, I grew up watching TV with my family and friends. Looking back at past experiences, I've come to the realization that television has had a profound impact on my life.

My generation -- the Millennials -- identify with television and digital media more than any other generation. Over the past 10 years, many innovations have been made in regards to television, one of which has truly revolutionized how we watch TV: the advent of TiVo and the DVR. Gone are the days of waiting a week for your next episode, and scheduling your day around the air-time of your favorite show. DVR has made it possible to watch anything at any time on multiple devices. This invention has strengthened the way viewers interact with their beloved shows and with each other. Additionally with the explosion of social media, television now has the power to give us a sense of community.

My connection with television and people began at a young age. When I was growing up I was usually stuck watching whatever shows my mother or father were watching -- the fact that I might not be interested didn't matter. Although I of course complained as a kid, I now realize the shows my parents watched will stick with me forever. Today, the Law and Order theme music still conjures up memories of days spent with my mother watching episodes back-to-back. Although I didn't have a burning passion for Law and Order, the joy of spending time with my mother drew me into the show.

Now as an adult, I am forming my own memories and creating my own connections. There are many shows on TV today that have cult-like followings. These shows draw people in and leave them burning for their weekly fix. Luckily DVR ensures that we never miss an episode of our favorite series. Via Twitter and Facebook, we also have an outlet to find other fans to discuss, rant, or cry about the events that have occurred in our shows.

The two shows that have gotten me hooked in ways no others have: The Wire and Breaking Bad. These are the kind of shows that leave you burning with anticipation at the end of each episode. The plots are dark, convoluted, and intense. It is not enough to just watch an episode and then go on with the rest of your week.

These shows integrate themselves into your life in a way that makes you feel like you are part of the plot.

The Wire, which aired on HBO from 2002-2008 in its simplest form is about cops and drug dealers in Baltimore, but is about so much more than that. Topics range from city politics to the school system to dock workers. I have to stop myself, because I could go on all day about The Wire. I caught wind of this excellent show via Twitter and I was instantly hooked. My wife bought me the entire series on DVD for my birthday in April and I've already watched it twice. Even though it has been off the air for years, there are still loyal fans on Twitter and Facebook who are ready to discuss the old episodes at a moments notice.

When I originally viewed the series, several seasons were already available so I was able to watch episodes back-to-back. Without having to wait a week for a new episode, it felt like I was living the show in real time. The twists, the horror, and the heartbreaks of an entire season were condensed to one marathon day of viewing.

Nothing on television even came close to having such an impact on me, that is, until I started watching Breaking Bad.

If you've never seen an episode of Breaking Bad, the premise sounds like one of the dumbest shows of all time. Walter White played by Bryan Cranston (the dad from Malcolm in the Middle) is a 50-year-old depressed high school science teacher who is diagnosed with cancer. Naturally he teams up with a former student who is addicted to crystal meth and the two begin manufacturing the debilitating drug. Walter's life gets turned upside down and he becomes a completely different person by the end of the series, which just wrapped up last Sunday.

As I watched the series finale of Breaking Bad, the small #BreakingBad logo on the screen reminded me that I was just a click away from connecting with a community of people who were all living the same experience as me. Even if I couldn't sit in a room surrounded by friends and family, I could still be part of something bigger.

I love watching as complex stories unfold and deep secrets are revealed, but even more important is being able to connect with people who share my experience. Even when I am watching a recorded episode at 1 a.m., I can still find someone who is ready to share that experience.

Although Walter White's story is over, his impact will live on. Between the memes on Facebook, the fake Twitter accounts for Breaking Bad characters, and the thousands of fans who will never forget his story, White's legacy will not be forgotten.

The Wire and Breaking Bad are just two shows out of thousands that have been popularized over the course of my life, but every person has a show or topic that interests them the way The Wire and Breaking Bad kept me captivated. The great thing is that with how popular Twitter and Facebook hashtags have gotten, you are only one message away from discussing any show you want with thousands of interested viewers who share your passion.

Social media has changed how we watch television -- whether it's on your DVR, Netflix, Hulu or some other medium -- TV has become a truly community experience. This isn't a fad or an experience that's likely to change in the near future, but will only get better. Sit back and enjoy the show.


(c)2013 Washington Times-Herald (Washington, Ind.)

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