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Seeing it First Here, It’s Great!

I’m so used to watching American television and movies that I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like not to know what happens next. The era of the internet means that anything that has aired anywhere is up for discussion anywhere. Sure, you’ll have the odd spoiler notice, but most American web sites take that down once the episode has aired. If you want to participate in the discussion about the shows, you have to jump into the pool of information already circulating out there. So, when Torchwood did the unthinkable during its five-episode run this week (I won’t elaborate here, for any readers in countries still to receive the show), I was shocked.

I promise I won't reveal whose body this is...

I promise I won't reveal whose body this is...

It’s amazing that tension can be maintained at all on imports to British and Irish television. It does affect movies as well – though the big, big films are now generally released fairly close together around the world (yay for cool anti-piracy measures!) – but it’s most noticeable where Sky only starts airing episodes of
House after the entire run has ended in the States. Seriously, by the time we see the finale (which will likely be a cliffhanger), the next premiere will have aired Stateside. It’s nice to have the shoe on the foot.

I think it would be neat to see television shows adopt an approach similar to blockbuster movies – release almost simultaneously worldwide. 24 generally syncs up quite well (it helps that the show was one of the first American shows to adopt the British format of airing all its episodes weekly without breaks, as opposed to spreading twenty-four episodes over thirty-six weeks), but there are tonnes of other examples where the DVDs can be purchased before the show has even aired over in Europe. In fact, the DVD-related dilemma I had with Up duplicates itself far more frequently with television shows.

Here we’re getting brand spanking new entertainment, and seeing it for the first time in the world. For once the American fans are running around trying to avoid the spoilers. I have no idea what’s going to happen next, meaning that every development is a surprise (it helps that – in this particular instance – the show is cleverly well-written). I’m on the edge of my seat because I haven’t seen the new season’s cast photo (letting me know who died/left/was a mole) or had the misfortune to browse an entertainment website with a headline like “Why Having a Shark Eat Horatio Caine Was Gutsy Move for CSI: Miami”. I can actually experience suspenseful television the way it was meant to be experienced.

This must be what it feels like to be an American.

It’s just a shame that there is absolutely nothing on Irish television that I can take the same swell of pride in. And yes, maybe it’s an odd thing to take pride in, but it’s just nice to know that nobody can, accidentally or otherwise, ruin it for you. Even more than that, though, people like knowing things that others don’t. That’s why gossip is so popular – we all think, “sure it’s a longshot whether that rumour’s true, but if it is I’m one of the first to know!” – and this is one of its benigner manifestations. It’s like knowing the score of a soccer game a colleague has recorded at home – it’s a bit of harmless fun, not rooted in malice (unless you tell them – and who does that intentionally?).

Still, it’s a little bit depressing when one of the better things about arts in Ireland is that you live close enough to watch the British Broadcasting Corporation.

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