Becoming an active television watcher

I spent entirely too much time yesterday reading this.

What I found most fascinating was her discussion of how many survey participants claim that reading and participating at TWoP has changed the way they view television. That has certainly been the case for me. I started off with Shack’s wonderful American Idol recaps. Season 2, baby. The Clay loathing, the bleat goes on, the Seal of Tsathoggua, and of course, the Seacrest mocking. And the (Eeeeeee!) – don’t forget the (Eeeeeee!)! It wasn’t long before I was watching the show, laughing with anticipation at terrible “singing,” knowing Shack was going to tear it apart. Last season the only reason I watched was so I could understand the recaps. (Especially the Jesus Roman jokes.)

From there, I quickly got into Miss Alli’s stuff . . . The Amazing Race, Survivor, The Apprentice. Miss Alli is my favorite recapper. We usually hate the same people. Like Mirna. And Rupert. And love the same ones. Like Boyfriend Bill. And Phil. Plus, Miss Alli is the one who invented my favorite reality show catch phrase, “God is in the tub.” I might even have a girl crush on her.

The other recaps I read regularly are Pamie’s wonderful recaps of Gilmore Girls. She loves CuteDean a little (okay, a lot) more than I do, but she always clarifies things so that I know exactly how I feel about an episode. Last week’s recap, in which she explained why she is a bit disappointed with the Luke/Lorelai pairing so far this season, I had to (somewhat grudgingly) admit that she’s right. This week’s episode was also a bit of a disappointment, but at least I can look forward to Pamie ripping the writing to shreds.

So, those are the ones I read regularly. I check in with Alias now and then, since all my friends watch it, but I don’t actually watch the show.

From the recaps, especially on the reality shows I was watching, it was only a small jump to the forums. Where the Eagle-Eyed Forum Posters find out everything. They notice good editing, they point out inconsistencies in writing, and they analyze every detail. I do mean every detail. If you want to keep up, you’ve got to be smart and pay attention. So now, all of a sudden, I pay attention to things like people’s hair on The Amazing Race. If it’s up in one shot, down in the next, and up again just a few seconds later, I can tell that the scene was edited a little out of order. I notice when Lorelai or Rory seems out of character. I can pick a Daniel Palladino episode vs. an Amy Palladino episode just by watching the teaser. I can see the early signs of Killer Fatigue. I notice writing that pays no attention to previous storylines. I ask questions. I know that in a reality show, the editors have to be concerned with “story arc” and making a good episode. I don’t mind when they switch things around for dramatic effect, because I understand that’s their job. But I do notice it a lot more than I used to. Suddenly, television isn’t a passive thing for me. I am a lot more active about finding out information on my favorite shows.

In some ways, it does make television less enjoyable, because it’s as if I am demanding that the show perform up to my standards. And, let’s face it, shows hardly ever give a crap about my standards, because it’s very doubtful that I’m going to stop watching. I let ER kick me around for years before I quit watching. Now I might yell at the TV a little more, because I’m actually invested more. And it’s mostly a disappointment. The Apprentice this season hasn’t lived up to last season. Survivor has been on a downward spiral for several seasons. Ryan Seacrest, unfortunately, still thinks he’s funny and clever.

But . . . every once in a while, television doesn’t disappoint. Like when Chip and Kim won or on last season’s finale of Gilmore Girls. And, you know, those moments are even better now. Because I know more about what it took to get there. I know those characters a little better, because I’ve thought about them more, talked about them more, and read about them more. I have joked around and made up pretend storylines about the teams on The Amazing Race. When it disappoints, I have people to commiserate with, and when it hits all the right notes, I know where to go to celebrate.

I have mentioned before that I tend to get interested in something and go all out. I think the reason I appreciate TWoP is because it’s a site filled with people like me who like to know all the details. I think my information gathering can drive Mike crazy, but when I give him behind-the-scenes stuff that he wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, he doesn’t mind so much. Most of my real-life friends don’t care so much about that kind of thing, so it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

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