What Happened to the Commons?

I finished up the third season of Homeland on Friday—and immediately realized the only person I could talk about it with was my wife. Because we had watched it together, so we were at the same point in the series.

And the truth is, nobody these days is ever at the same point in a TV series. In fact, nobody does anything at the same time anymore.

Used to be, when a big series ended, say M*A*S*H, everybody watched the finale. In fact, everybody watched all the time. I could show up at school Wednesday and talk about Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Three’s Company and Soap without fear that I was spilling the beans. There was only “real time.”

Seems to me that ended with the final episode of Seinfeld. Maybe that finale sucked so bad that it killed the entire idea of everyone watching at the same time. It was pretty bad. Jail? Really?!?

But now, there are no shows that everyone watches at the same time. And TV networks, the kings of “let’s watch together,” are left with a grab bag of sports programming and a fledgling business of creating “live” events, like the recent Sound of Music, starring Carrie Underwood. That’s what comes next: live events, shared via network stations. Excuse me if I don’t sound very enthused.

It seems to me a part of a larger isolation in American society. In a world where everyone has a customized plan, it’s hard to find points of commonality with others. Maybe we always were all so different; I just never noticed until a decade ago. Now, the gulf seems hard to bridge. Maybe we could binge-watch Breaking Bad together. You’ve already seen the first two seasons? Oh. Never mind.

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