Plugged-in, "with it" friends of mine are always telling me about t.v. shows that I have to see: Battlestar Galactica, Lost, The Wire. Problem is, they always demand that I watch the entire series run on DVD.
How? HOW!?! How the fuck am I supposed to watch an entire t.v. series spanning multiple DVDs? "All eight discs of season nine just came out. You have to watch them all." Tell you what: I've seen two episodes of Battlestar Galactica. I really liked them both. But the idea of watching the entire series sounds like a lifelong project. My very favorite t.v. shows are The Prisoner and Mr. Show, both of which had relatively short runs. Yet I still haven't seen every episode of either one! Maybe I will some day, but it seems absurd that I should be made to feel like a fool unless I take in every episode over the course of a non-stop, weeks-long marathon.
Listen, if you were to recommend a simple one-off motion picture to me, it is at least plausible that I would be able to rent the DVD and watch the movie. I cannot, however, even imagine how a functional human being could go, "Six seasons spanning 83 hours on 12 discs? If you say so! I will gladly watch this program in its entirety and report back to you on its merits."
Imagine if this obsession with comprehensive series-watching were translated to works of writing. If I were to recommend a book to you, it would be reasonable to imagine you being able to read it:
"You should read A Confederacy of Dunces."
"OK, I will. That is possible. Thank you."
But imagine if I recommended reading material the way people do with videos:
"You ever read Time magazine? You should. Every issue. The 1940s and the 1970s are particularly essential."
"Uh ... shit? Does it me a cultural illiterate if I can't accomplish that?"
"Yes. Every real connoisseur has read all of Time magazine."
So please, if you really think I should check out a t.v. show on DVD, just tell me the ten best episodes of a series and I'll try to take them all in over the course of a year. OK?