The Shared Experience
Why I stayed up to watch Mad Men
I wake up at 2:30 in the morning. If my head hits the pillow by 8:00 PM, that's a good day. Last night , I bit the bullet and stayed up way too late to watch the two hour season premiere of Mad Men. You know what? It was worth it. Some around the office thought it was boring - but it was nice hanging out in the world of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce once again.
It was a strange sensation. "Mad Men" was the first episodic television show that I watched at its appointed time in quite awhile. Normally, Mrs. Hart and I load up the DVR with several weeks worth of TV shows...and then we blow through them on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Last night was different - we both wanted to watch Mad Men as it unspooled, live, on AMC.
I'm an on demand guy. As much as I pine for this era of broadcasting:
....I do enjoy living in this On Demand world. I love looking back on the big-time network TV campaigns of yesteryear. I love the slick jingle campaigns. I love the vocal stylings of network announcers like ABC's Ernie Anderson ("....The Looooooooove Boat!") and NBC's Danny Dark. On the other hand, I take full advantage of the technological advances that ruined the economic model that kept "the good ol' days" afloat. Back in the 70's and 80's...Sunday night was movie night. The Love Boat was on Saturday. Hill Street Blues was on Thursdays. If you missed it, you were SOL. Maybe you could catch the episode you missed during the summer rerun period. More importantly, it was impossible to skip the commercials. Networks got top dollar because they had the attention of 33 percent of people who were watching TV. At least.
Last night, I watched TV the old fashioned way. The way my parents watched TV. The way my grandparents watched TV (Sunday nights meant three things. Dinner with my grandparents, followed by "60 Minutes," then "Murder She Wrote." It was set in stone).
Judging by my Facebook and Twitter feeds - so did you. Basically - we acted like the people in this ABC image campaign from 1984:
We watched TV together. We discussed it on Facebook and Twitter. We talked about it at the office this morning. The On Demand world allows me to watch TV on my own pace. But there's a tradeoff. The shared pop culture moments are fewer and farther between. That's too bad. Shared experiences - even of the pop culture variety - make us who we are. They are part of our generational DNA. We are two years away from the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show. People still talk about it....just like they talk about the "Who Shot JR" episode of "Dallas," the final episode of "MASH," and the last "Seinfeld."
I watched TV the old fashioned way last night...and I kinda liked it. On the other hand, it was "Mad Men," a show that re-creates the world of 1967 with loving detail (as a railroad enthusiast, I got a kick out of the ad for the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad on Pete Campbell's commuter train). It's appropriate that I would watch a show about the 60's...in a manner befitting the 60's.