That has become how we consume entertainment. Entire eight, nine, and ten season shows are binge watched in a period of a couple days. Jim and Pam go from the will they won’t they tension to married with a child in a week, not the years it originally took. Walter White goes from a nerdy chemistry teacher to a drug kingpin in a few days of watching without sleep, not the years of excruciatingly long off-seasons it took us AMC watchers to view the transformation. Sure, the thought of finding out what happens next on your favorite show immediately sounds appetizing, but, dare I say, it is ruining our appreciation of entertainment.
I promise you, this is not some pretentious “Back in my day” speech (at 26-years-old I don’t think I qualify to make one of those speeches yet), so just hear me out.
Let’s go back to Breaking Bad as an example. I watched that show from the debut episode on AMC. Meaning things like that Sylvester Stallone-sized cliffhanger between seasons three and four actually took 396 days to be resolved, not the five seconds it takes to click the next episode on Netflix.
Sure, it was agonizing having to wait that long. And I can’t say if I was offered the opportunity to find out what happened next I wouldn’t have taken it immediately. But there is no doubt in my mind that part of what makes Breaking Bad one of my favorite shows of all time (besides the writing, acting, directing, and cinematography) is the time I invested in it, or, to be more dramatic/poetic/ostentatious, the journey I went on with Mr. White, Jesse, and company.
From January 20, 2008 to September 29, 2013 Breaking Bad was something I got excited about, something that became part of my routine during its season. I would watch the clock trying to figure out how much of a conclusion this episode could come to before I would have to wait another week to see what comes next. Season finales became even more intense knowing that in the next 20, 15, or 2 minutes the show would end exactly where it wanted to end, and not where I wanted it to end, and there was nothing I could do to figure out what in the sweet hell would happen next until the season premiere.
It was horribly, painfully wonderful.
And I fear we no longer appreciate that horrible wonderfulness.
The best stories are the ones that break down slowly in our systems after we consume them. The ones that stay with us and continue to make themselves known long after the TV has been turned off or the book has been closed. Now, I am not saying these types of stories no longer exist, there is still plenty of quality entertainment in the form of TV, movies, and books. We just don’t allow them this slow surrender anymore.
We watch five seasons of Game of Thrones and follow it up immediately with three seasons of Deadwood and neither one is given the time or attention it deserves.
So what do we do about all of this?
We slow down. We take our time digesting these stories. We consume them not like a python swallowing a rat, but like a bird at a feeder.
Long story short, we take a lesson from the past.
Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo was published in 18 parts in the Journal des Débats between August 28, 1844 and January 15, 1846.
Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations was published as a weekly serial between December 1860 and August 1861.
Stephen King’s The Gunslinger was published as five short stories between 1978 and 1981.
All of these stories were released slowly, in parts, and therefore, consumed slowly.
So, what is the point of all this? Why am I taking the time to bring it up? Im glad you asked. I want to take a step back in time, I want to feast on these stories little by little like when they were originally published. And this blog, which I am cleverly naming “The Serial Bowl” (get it, I know, I’m awesome), will act as my journal as I stroll through these literary adventures of the past.
I will select a book that was originally published in serial form, read it piece by piece, trying to replicate as closely as possible the sections the work was originally published in, and then post my review/thoughts/ideas/general ramblings after finishing each section. Between these sections I will take a week or so where I am not allowed to read any further, regardless of how badly I might want to.
Wait, why exactly am I doing this? Well, because I want to. Because patience is still a virtue. And because I am interested to see how my enjoyment of these stories is affected by this method of consumption (meaning the realization that I hate every minute of it and I am completely full of shit is a possible outcome… that’s fun, right?).
The first book that will be featured in “The Serial Bowl” will be the aforementioned The Count of Monte Cristo.
If this interests you at all, stay tuned.