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Samantha Jones

Sam's Notebook

Samantha Jones is a former associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers.

Opinion

Evolution of TV

Friday, January 24, 2020

Some people live their whole lives without owning a television and they seem to be doing just fine. I respect that decision but it’s not for me. From an early age, I have loved everything about television.

It started with Barney –– according to my mother, I was so obsessive about it that she almost had a mental breakdown. Lucky for her, I soon moved on to Lifetime original movies. We spent many Sundays taking in everything those made-for-TV movies had to offer. I’ll never forget watching Tiffani Amber Thiessen discover her husband isn’t quite what he seems in Sweet Dreams, or cheering her on when she left Brian Austin Green in the dust at the end of She Fought Alone.

But that was only the tip of the iceberg. In 2004, my major obsession began. Lost began airing on ABC. I never missed an episode, insisting on watching every single one live. This was back when TiVo gained popularity and you didn’t have to watch everything live. I didn’t care –– I was dedicated to that show from beginning to end. So many iconic scenes are burned into my memory, but that’s not the reason I remember Lost so fondly.

What made it such a special show is the experience of watching every week. The anticipation, the payoff, then more anticipation –– it felt like the best kind of roller coaster. Back then, we had to wait a whopping three months between seasons. Those three months felt like an eternity. That’s how I discovered internet fan communities. It didn’t take long to understand that Lost wasn’t just a TV show. It was a tool to unite folks from all over the world, and it worked.

Looking at television today, it’s clear the times have changed. People aren’t buying cable TV packages anymore. We are in the age of streaming television, with Netflix and Hulu leading the pack. Disney recently joined the club with its own streaming service last year, and Disney+ is on its way to dominating the streaming game. By next year, I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney owned every streaming service that exists –– I’m joking, but there’s definitely some truth to it.

In the beginning, streaming services bought the rights to existing TV shows and movies. That all changed when Netflix and Hulu began introducing original content. Today, famous actors, directors and screenwriters are seeking out Netflix to create new stories for the small screen.

Hulu arguably has one of the most popular made-for-streaming TV series with A Handmaid’s Tale. I’ll be honest –– I didn’t start watching A Handmaid’s Tale until last year. It didn’t take long to see why the show is so popular. The writing, the acting and the cinematography are all top-notch. I haven’t found a show that captivated me this much since Lost premiered, but the nature of streaming does bring a major downside.

Just 10 years ago, we had to wait three months for TV shows to resume. It took a full year to finish any given season. Now streaming services release a full season either all at once or over a short period of time. Then we have to wait a full year –– and sometimes longer –– for the next season to premiere. And that’s only if the show is renewed. Often, it takes months to hear anything about the next season. There’s no rigid renewal process when it comes to streaming.

While I love binge watching as much as the next person, a part of me misses how things used to be. It seems like much of the excitement has disappeared with full seasons being available all at once. I miss hunkering down in front of the TV every Wednesday and sitting in anticipation during the commercial break before next week’s preview.

So how do I feel about streaming television? My feelings are mixed, but there’s one thing I know for sure. Like most things in life, television is constantly evolving and there’s nothing anyone can do to change it.