I've become a mad keen box-setter - and no, that's not a type of dog
PUBLISHED: 18:22 09 August 2019 | UPDATED: 18:22 09 August 2019
TV viewing habits are changing as Chris McGuire points out. No longer are we stuck in our choices for now there are whole series we can watch all in one go
It was Alfred Hitchcock who said: "Drama is life with all the dull bits cut out", and that quote seems very relevant to anyone like me who loves a box set.
Box-setters are, for clarity's sake, those of us who have foregone traditional broadcast TV in order to watch entire series back to back (using on-demand platforms like Netflix) and not, as someone said recently, an obscure breed of dog.
I'm part of a growing group who don't watch conventional TV in the way we all once did. For us it's no longer a case of sitting down in front of the goggle box and watching 'whatever's on'. Oh, no - for box setters, 'linear' broadcasting (to use a pretentious-sounding term) is a thing of the past. Time, you see, is a limited commodity, so we've decided to focus in on programmes we actually want to watch - gorging on them like telly-addicted versions of Augustus Gloop.
I've feasted on many shows - Line of Duty, The West Wing and Homeland are just a few. The difference is that, as a box set watcher, you don't have to wait until next week to see what happens. You simply wait a few seconds for another episode to begin.
That Hitchcock quote rings so true, and to rephrase the famous director: 'Box sets are TV with all the dull bits, like waiting, cut out'.
You may also want to watch:
I worry, however, that all this instantaneous access to content, without irritating delays and distractions might be having a negative effect on us.
As a kid, I distinctly remember, waiting to watch the one (and only) children's programme on BBC1 every afternoon. Doing this taught me two things: patience (it always took forever to arrive), and how to handle disappointment (when it was Fingermouse rather than, my favourite, Postman Pat).
Children with access to streaming services will never understand either of these issues.
It's not just children who are affected by this technology. As the never-ending mess that is Brexit unfolds before our eyes, I find myself wishing that I could just 'box set' the news. What do I mean? Well, like everyone else, I'm a little bored of the plodding developments achieved and reported in each 24-hour news cycle. Wouldn't it be so much better to stop watching the news, then gorge on it when the Brexit saga is complete in a few years' time? All this, having to wait around for a conclusion to a story, feels so last century!
The other thing a box-setting habit gives you is a heightened sense of loss when a show finishes. There are 154 episodes of The West Wing, seven years' worth - but it's possible to watch them all on-demand over the course of a few months. This is an experience vastly more intense than what the original programme makers had intended. They'd expected us to watch one episode a week on conventional TV. The box-set viewer becomes totally immersed in the world of a show, so, when the series reaches its inevitable conclusion, it's possible to feel a strong sense of absence or loss - a little like when you reach the final page of a series of great books. I've only discovered one way, so far, to fill this void, and that's starting a journey with another mammoth show.
So, I'm reaching out to you. As a box-setter in search of a new fix, what would shows would you recommend? Let me know, and please, don't think outside the box set!
Chris McGuire is a writer and stay-at-home dad. Follow him on Twitter @McGuireski