The Joy of (Box) Sets

I am the mothership of mucus, a goblet of gobbets, a ball of cool green phlegm hurtling through the universe. When horizontal, a wave of rhumy fluid finds respite in my forehead and sinuses; when I stand up it swarms down to my throat where it sticks, like shit, to my vocal chords.

 

I am a snot see-saw.

 

I am so ill.

 

Sorry, dear reader, it had to be said. I can only hope in retrospect that you weren’t having breakfast while reading the first few phrases, unless you are a doctor and can diagnose me from the accurate and empirical description of my symptoms that I gave.

 

It sucks to be me today, on a Saturday of all days!  I realise that the best thing for it is to be still and …what?  My restless ‘should’ brain tells me that I should go back and look at the big thing I’m writing, but I feel defeated at the thought.  Do you know how many writers completed great works while convalescing?  Robert Louis Stevenson, George Orwell, Goethe, John Buchan, Marcel Proust, Hemingway, John Donne; illness seems to foster the white male creativity particularly well (probably because no-one else could afford the luxury of a good long lie-down ….)

 

So, I think to myself, let’s do some good old fashioned writing.  Put some stuff down.  Write.  Yeah.

 

And then I press play and watch the five final episodes of The Sopranos back to back.  And then it’s time to sleep.

 

In my defence, I have never seen the finale before.  I have enjoyed an intense relationship with the show over the past few months, a relationship which had become toxic.  It needed to end.  So I gorged myself on the tragedy of the last series, feeling every last beat of Tony’s decline as I stuffed loo roll up my nose.  For me, it was over when Adriana … well with what happened with Adriana (no need for a spoiler alert).  Watching the entire series in such a condensed time frame means that my brain is permeated with the Sopranos; I have had nights where I haven’t been able to sleep for figuring out the origins of the term ‘goomah’ or wondering what happened to Furio from seasons 3 and 4.  Like it’s real.

 

Oh my God.  Like it’s real.  This is the problem; box sets make you believe again.  They allow you to develop an intense relationship with a programme. Because we are so used to the medium and so able to suspend our disbelief as viewers, with box set viewing we can engage with whole story arcs in an afternoon’s viewing and feel as if we have lived it.  Defying the conventions of season finales, we merge whole series together and better see the links across time; characters stand out, relationships crystallize in our minds in a way that they didn’t when we were confined to sticking with one episode a week, sustaining our interest with water cooler chats.

 

I understand that Tivo and Sky Plus facilitate a similar thing; that a viewer can record a whole series and watch it back to back or store it in perpetuity should they desire, but I think that there’s still a difference between this and the box set.  Raymond Williams wrote about ‘flow’, the way that channels hold our vague attention while we move about the house, making tea, cooking dinner, working.  I readily admit that I will switch the TV on when I come in from work, get on with life and, come bedtime not be able to recall a single programme that’s been on   Television is an unheeded companion in the corner.  It babbles away and we enjoy the sound of its chatter in the background, but we don’t pay attention anymore.

 

I wonder if those TV record options work in a similar way, a semi-automatic flow. Obviously there is a level of selection involved; you have to choose to record it as much as you have choose when to watch it back.  But once its on, its on. And you’re free to roam once again.

 

A box set is closer to vinyl somehow and probably verging on the archaic now; they are both physical objects for a start. There is so much stuff to have we have no choice but to make it invisible; downloads, streaming, epics stored on thumbnail USB keys.   I like the luxury of a box set, the choice of a commentary, a deleted scene, the biography.  I control it and I choose when to watch and how to watch.

 

I imagine that most WordPress readers will think that I have travelled forward in my Delorian from the late 90s and I have to agree with you.  I probably have.  Box sets take up space and then you only watch them once and then nobody wants them anymore.  But all luxuries should involve a little inconvenience or effort.  It lasts and that’s a good thing; when my Sopranos collection is gathering dust on the shelf it will serve to remind me of the many worthwhile hours I spent appreciating it.  If it’s virtual, it gets deleted and it might as well never have existed for me.  I’m that limited, reader.

 

Now on to the novel.  Or maybe just watch that final scene again.  There has to be a way to explain that sudden fade to bla-

 

 

 

 

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