Thursday, June 26, 2008

TV on DVD vs. TV on TV

Angel spoilers follow.

I just finished the third season of Angel on DVD. I've watched all the Whedon output that I have watched - all of Buffy, all of Firefly, and now three seasons of Angel - on DVD. When I watch a series on DVD that my wife is not interested in - like all the Whedon stuff - I watch it on the train on my laptop. With a 45 minute train ride, the timing is just right to get in an hour-long episode of a TV show sans commercials. So I'm watching at a clip of two episodes a day.

One of the plots in this season of Angel had to do with Angel siring a son with another vampire. In the course of the story arc, Angel finds out about the pregnancy, sees the female vampire kill herself to save the baby, takes the the baby in, and has the baby taken from him. All of these events take place in maybe five 0r six episodes.

Now, when the baby is taken, this is a huge, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking turn of events. And I did find it affecting. But not too much. See, as aired, this arc took a month or two to play out, in weekly installments with maybe a rerun or two thrown in. So viewers had time to adjust to the idea of Angel having a son. On DVD, in the space of three days, it was all very sudden. So the emotional connection was not as strong - I hadn't had as much time as I was supposed to to become attached to Angel as a loving Dad. And the show suffered - only a little, admittedly, but suffered nonetheless.

This is just another example of how the traditional TV show structure - with time for the characters usually passing in a rough approximation of real-time, that is, from September to June of one year during the course of a season - can be screwed with when watching a show on DVD. The rhythms of TV depend, to some degree, on that once-a-week beat, and on a passage of time that is mirrored by the audiences - and that, in fact, depends on the audience's real passage of time for some of its effect. What will be interesting is how - if at all - producers start to adjust for the fact that a lot of their viewers are seeing their shows for the first time on DVD.

Until Whenever

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