This week I experienced an extremely specific emotional reaction that I’d completely forgotten existed. I was watching Top Chef, a show I’ve been a long time fan of but have mostly always had to binge once it's dropped on Hulu thanks my “cord cutting” ways. Thanks to the generosity of friends who have cable, I’ve actually been able to watch most of this season as it comes out. So there I am enjoying Restaurant Wars, a Top Chef staple always sure to deliver the drama one craves when watching slightly trashy reality tv. It’s been a great episode. Everything is about to implode. Cools are being lost; things are about to start hitting proverbial fans. And out walks Head Judge Tom to let us know that, dun dun dun, this will be a double elimination. Credits roll. Episode over. I was so in it I had not even realized an hour had gone by with things yet to resolve.
I was furious. You mean I can’t just click “watch next episode”?! I have to wait a whole week?! What is even happening?! And then, after I was done being angry and my husband was done laughing at my dramatic overreaction to a likely mostly fake, overly dramatic “reality” TV show I remembered something. Watching TV used to feel like this all the time. And it is kind of fun. I sort of miss it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to ring up a cable company and sign up for anything. So please don’t call me to try to sell me something and all the mailers I get really can’t be great for the environment so please just stop. I like that when Stranger Things 3 drops on the 4th of July, I will spend at least one night that holiday weekend watching more episodes than I probably should in one sitting.
However, there is something to that magic of the fake out. Something nostalgic about that “oh wait, was that really the end of the episode?” feeling. It made me wonder if that feeling will still even exists by the time my kids are adults. Movies still manage it from time to time.
Avengers: Infinity War comes to mind as an example. But as more of the great shows move to whole season drops on streaming platforms and networks slowly lose their grip, I can love the beauty of spending a long holiday weekend immersed in a fun bingeable sci-fi show while acknowledging it’s sometimes fun when that big cliffhanger makes me mad I have to wait a week. It sort of makes me happy that the death of cable has been a slow one. So until the last network gives way to whatever streaming platforms our children will prefer, bring on those cliffhangers that make me crave the coming Thursday.
Strange Perspective is a weekly look at all things pop culture by Progress columnist Rachel Strange.