Summer Binging: What will it make you do?
by Christine Becker — University of Notre Dame
July 16, 2010 – 00:02
This delicious promo offers much to deconstruct (woe be upon the forever over-identifying female spectator), but to tie it to this week’s topic, let’s address the question it asks literally: What does summer DVD watching make us do?
NBC promoted its 1997 summer reruns with "If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you," a slogan that was derided at the time as an insulting attempt to pass off stale programming as fresh. But in 2010 TV fans have heartily embraced this mentality on their own with summer DVD and online catch-up viewing. Some are rectifying the mistake of skipping critically acclaimed series such as Six Feet Under and The Shield; others are watching prior seasons of True Blood and Mad Men to synch up with new summer airings; and many are following along with TV blog rewatches, such as Alan Sepinwall’s rewinds of Firefly and The Wire (courteously parsed into newbie and veteran categories) and The AV Club’s various classic series recaps, including The X-Files and NewsRadio.
Such spectatorial autonomy enlivens the “new to you” concept; the blogger rewatches help overcome the primary problem of skipping shows the first time around: losing out on the community experience engendered by the set schedule; and social media let us lobby our friends to watch favorite shows and keep discussions going long after shows have left the air. Summer has thus become the prime season for viewers to act as their own network programmers, schedulers, and marketers.
Distributors can certainly feast on this viewing practice, but it is yet another nail in the coffin of traditional network practices. What will this make the network undead left behind to roam nightly summer timeslots do? Does this schedule shapeshifting make audiences more ravenous for TV viewing during the summer than in the past? Do we lust after cable shows more than network ones in our catch-up efforts, thereby making cable programming’s summer rule even more potent? (I’d love to be able to make a True Blood-specific pun too, but I haven’t watched it yet; it’s on my summer catch-up list.)