Watching that TV show again

good-wife-the-second-season-dvd-coverOne of joyous experiences I have had recently is periodically watching episodes of the Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966) with The Daughter. I bought the complete five seasons a couple years and we’re down to the last half dozen of 158 episodes. It’s interesting watching what she finds funny, or mystifying. I’m also fascinating by what programs I remember very well (the Christmas show early on, the ventriloquist Paul Winchell near the end), and others not so much. Mark Evanier has been revisiting the classic show too.

In some ways, I’m like this columnist who sometimes would rather re-watch a program she enjoyed, rather than to venture out and try new stuff, even though there is a lot of quality stuff out there (The Wire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad) I’ve never seen. Especially, as she does (and I don’t), when she binge watched it in the first place. Of The Good Wife, one of the few shows I now watch regularly, she notes:

I’d binged… on some excellent series… But by the time I was finished with “The Good Wife,” I was spent. No more new characters, please. No more new cliffhangers. I needed some consistency and predictability in my life.

A better person than I would have seen my exhaustion as a sign that it was time to finally read “Middlemarch.” Instead, I re-watched all of “The Good Wife” and made a discovery: It was better the second time around. No need to gobble up an episode just to get on to the next. One episode, maybe two, in an evening, and then sleep.

I already knew what Peter Florrick was up to, how things would play out with Alicia and Will. Free from the suspense, I could savor the subtleties of dialogue and acting, marvel at how much I’d missed in my initial mad dash from episode to episode.

In exchange for the adrenaline of the first watching, I got the comfort of the re-watching. It was like hanging out with old friends: predictable, but not without pleasure and surprise…

My survey of friends suggests that a lot more people are re-watching shows rather than hopping from series to series without a breather.

There is even research to suggest that re-watching shows is good for you. A couple of years ago, a researcher at the University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions published a paper claiming that watching a rerun of a favorite show – not just any show, but one you like – gives you a mental boost. Human beings seek novelty, but we also crave familiarity.

Yes, she points out something I feel may be true, but since I don’t do myself, I cannot verify: you miss out on the subtleties when you binge watch.

This clip of the congregation in The Simpsons singing an I. Ron Butterfly hymn still makes me chuckle, more than 20 years later.

One of the shows I used to watch religiously was MASH. Indeed, I liked it so much, I’d often watch the summer reruns. But somewhere about season 8, I stopped watching the reruns. This article by Ken Levine, who wrote for the show in the later years, touches on why; they started, generally inadvertently, recycling plotlines. Why would I need to watch the rerun when the story itself was being replicated?

Also, the chronology of the stories was too incredible; Trapper in a story referencing 1952, a Winchester story mentioning Christmas 1951. I’ve long thought the show should have ended when Radar went home early in season 8, though there were some great episodes after that, such as Dreams.

So, I’ll catch an occasional random MASH episode, but there’s no compulsion on my part to watch it in order.


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