Jen Krueger: Perils of the Group Watch
Hello ComicMix readers! My name is Jen, and I’m really excited to be joining the fold here so I can expand the arenas in which I nerd out about comics, movies, TV, books, and any pop culture ephemera that strikes my fancy. I host a podcast to dive into stuff that’s under the radar, take a look at how things in popular culture now got there, and muse about where trends may go in the future. But exploring pop culture in the written word is another beast entirely, and it’s one I’m pumped to tackle! So let’s get to it!
My favorite TV show is Doctor Who. I embrace every opportunity to talk about it, and have maybe, possibly, sometimes (read: definitely, absolutely, often) turned conversations about entirely unrelated things toward the Doctor, and why the person I’m talking to really should give him a shot. In fact, I’m such a big Whovian that I’m part of a show that does an improvised episode of Doctor Who twice a month! All this being said, I’m sure you can imagine that I had no shortage of invitations to viewing parties for “The Day of the Doctor,” my beloved series’ 50th anniversary special. Yet I didn’t say yes to a single one. Because I hate the group watch.
In the past few years, “event TV” has been making a concerted effort to regain the time-of-broadcast viewership it lost to DVRs. And of course, the fear of encountering spoilers on Twitter or Facebook before getting to view an anticipated show has also helped to draw audiences back to consuming TV at broadcast rather than after the fact. With more people consuming event TV as it airs, maybe it seems natural that viewing parties would become more common. If we’re going to be watching something we enjoy, and our friends are going to be watching the same exact thing at the same exact time, why not do it together? A lot of people I know not only embrace this philosophy, they take it a step further: if we all love Doctor Who or Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, then why get together only for the anniversary special, or last episode, or season finale? Why not group watch every episode to maximize the amount of shared enjoyment?
I’ll tell you why not: because other people are distracting! I don’t want to sit next to a fidgety person while I’m trying to keep the myriad of characters in Westeros straight. I don’t want to miss the second step of one of Walt’s plans because someone in the room with me starts commenting on the first step. And I definitely don’t want to pause for someone to go to the bathroom just as things are getting really timey-wimey. When I love a show, I become pretty OCD about preserving the dramatic flow and catching every detail, and I just haven’t found these things to be possible in a group watch environment.
That being said, the distraction of other people isn’t even the largest deterrent to the group watch for me. The biggest reason I don’t like to view my favorite shows with other people is the fact I tend to react… let’s be generous and just say strongly to the shows I love. “The Red Wedding” made me cheer loudly (feel free to call me a monster, but I think they had it coming), it’s hard for me to think of an episode of Doctor Who that didn’t make me cry, and the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad filled me with a mix of emotions so intense I was literally shaking. I love that TV shows can move me to such extremes, but I’m not exactly dying for other people to see that happen, nor do I want to struggle to hold in my reactions for the sake of not embarrassing myself and distracting people around me.
So for the sake of everyone involved, I’ve gotten in the habit of declining invitations to group watch. But even though I don’t like viewing parties, I still feel bad turning them down. After all, I like my friends – I just don’t want to watch TV with them. Conveniently, I spent the day of “The Day of the Doctor” traveling, so I could truthfully say I wasn’t able to watch with anyone rather than having to fess up to the fact that I wouldn’t want to even if I could. But the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced my dislike of the group watch is defensible. If my friends like a show enough to get together to watch it, I don’t think they’ll blame me for liking it so much that I want to relish every second of it. After all, they already know what an OCD nerd I can be.
And now you do too.
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis
WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold