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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bmag June 18th 2013 - Bill Oddie, How we watch TV now, No TV for some

Last weekend, I opened our copy of the Sun-Herald (yes, they still persist with a Queensland edition of the Sydney paper) and there was a half-page ad for the TV series Heartbeat on DVD. I was never a huge fan of this particular show, but box-set collecting has become something of a hobby – unlike media files, you can touch DVDs, admire them, lend them to friends – so the ad jumped out at me.

But seeing nine complete seasons of the classic Yorkshire police drama so prominently and lovingly advertised did rub salt in a long-standing wound in my DVD collection.

You see, there’s one series I would purchase in an instant and that’s The Goodies. Yes, I know there are best-of DVDs but never has the entire run been released. As Bill Oddie is in Brisbane this week (at the Tivoli on Thursday 20 June) I couldn’t help myself. I had to know why.

Oddie told me: “It’s been a mystery to us. I have to say the BBC has not been terribly co-operative and on the brink of childishness at one point.” He adopts a posh voice and quotes from a reply sent by the BBC to fans asking if a major Goodies anniversary would be marked: “'No, we have no plans. And I think we should remind you that the final season was actually done for ITV'. It was almost like they were saying we never forgive, we never forget!”

I express my personal enthusiasm for sitting down and watching every episode of The Goodies to which Bill Oddie replies: “There are a lot you know. There are nearly 100 programs!” I know and would still buy the complete box-set!

Whether it be box-sets, downloading all the episodes or setting the PVR to record a whole series, it seems we are increasingly choosing to watch every episode of our favourite TV shows. Ten or 20 years ago you would curse yourself for missing an episode but you wouldn’t go looking for it. Now you can, and so people do. But because we still have the same number of hours in the day, we each follow a smaller number of TV shows.

Realising this shift is American’s TOLN, The Online Network, the new home of former ABC soaps All My Children and One Life to Live. TOLN says viewers now choose one series or the other – and then watch every episode – instead of catching what they can of both.

In response to this, TOLN has reduced the number of episodes of each show to just two per week, saying in a statement: “We are making it far too challenging for viewers to keep up. “Most of us are just trying to find time to watch series of 13 to 22 episodes a season so asking viewers to assign time for over 100 episodes is a daunting task.” I wonder what this will mean for Australian TV in the future.

Last month (bmag, 21 May), I wrote about the analogue television switch-off in Brisbane. It turns out there was a contingency plan to switch analogue back on if there was a huge number of complaints. I’m told that happened in regional Victoria, one of the first areas to move from analogue to digital, but it wasn’t necessary here.

That’s not to say 100 per cent of us were digital-ready by the 28 May deadline. At 612 ABC we received the first “why doesn’t my TV work?” call at 9.12am, 12 minutes after the plug was pulled. bmag reader Susan Barnes wasn’t ready either. But, in a lovely email, she explains why it was “a kind of epiphany”.

“I have lived without TV before so I went out and bought a basic reading lamp instead. I have turned on the radio and am finding time to listen to my CDs and delve into the unopened novels on my bookshelves. I will also be investigating the local library’s DVD collection. And if the ABC comes up with something I feel I really must see I can watch it on my computer.

“So far it is wonderful – I am getting more done, eating better, getting to bed earlier, getting more exercise and feeling much happier. I can thoroughly recommend this course of action to anyone who is still struggling with the switch.”

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