Saturday, October 15, 2011

TV that's sure to suck you in

I might be showing my generation here, but I can’t remember the last time I watched TV without my smartphone in my hand. If you are a fellow Gen Y-er, you’ll understand this is because I am permanently connected to Twitter and Facebook and cannot knowingly let a moment of television go by without comment, preferably with some sort of hashtag attached #tvaddict.

And I know I’m not the only one – try searching Twitter for hashtags like #XFactor or #Renovators or #QandA and you’ll see viewers are having an entire online discussion around their favourite shows about things like Guy Sebastian’s hairdo and Tony Jones’ sex appeal (which, for the record, is apparently high among left-leaning first year uni students).

No matter how small your loungeroom, social media has made watching television a truly collective experience. But nothing makes for a shared viewing experience like... well, a shared viewing experience.

Last Sunday American cable network HBO aired the much anticipated season four finale of cult vampire drama True Blood, and I joined about 200 others at a New York City bar to watch it.

A die-hard fan after discovering the show just two months ago and promptly ripping through all 47 episodes (yes, that practically equals a full two days of my life, what of it?), I was more than excited to put on my official True Blood T shirt (yes, I bought one, what of it?) and join the masses for the big event.

For those unfamiliar with the show: imagine an R rated Twilight as done by Quentin Tarantino but with gallons of blood, super-violence, sex scenes and a liberal dash of homoeroticism, plus laughs, and now multiply that by at least four. It’s gory, bloody, extremely sexy and completely addictive. Which makes it perfect to watch in a dimly lit bar surrounded by fellow obsessives and gin cocktails.

Having never been to a public TV screening before, I can now say that tweeting from the couch is nothing compared to actually watching a show with a crowd that loves it as much as you do. The drama is heightened, the thrills are more thrilling, the scary bits more frightening – it’s theatre on a flatscreen.

To my surprise, despite the flowing booze and the free vodka jelly shots for audience members to down “every time someone dies” (I had four), the crowd was respectful and quiet to properly watch the show. Well, quiet until one of the hunky male characters took off their shirt (“wooo!”) or two characters hooked up (“yeeeow!”) or a vampire got blasted into smithereens (“gasp!”).

And woe betide anyone who talked – one tipsy punter who dared to ask where the bathroom was was loudly shushed out of the room.

Given the drama on True Blood is powered by sex scenes, blood spilling, supernatural special effects and comedy, it’s the perfect show for group viewing; I’m not so sure other programs would fare as well. I can’t imagine a bar full of Better Homes and Gardens fans whooping it up with jelly shots every time Joanna Griggs puts on a different cardigan, say.

Why Adelaide is yet to embrace this sort of thing, I’m not sure. There are many great shows on Foxtel - True Blood, for one – that non-subscribers are missing out on. Why doesn’t some enterprising soul start screening them in a bar and make a night of it? Television has often been criticised for isolating people and destroying social interaction – well, what a way to make it social again.

The True Blood season four finale screens on Foxtel’s Showcase channel on Thursday, November 3.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's TV Guide on September 19, 2011.

1 comment :

  1. I agree that social media has really changed our viewing landscape, but i hate that our tv networks havn't caught up with that fact.
    Despite the fact I can know the second something happens in the US in my favourite TV shows thanks to twitter; that my tumblr gets filled with images the moment it is aired, Aussie fans still have to wait literally MONTHS to watch the same thing.
    It makes no sense.