How the viewing experience has evolved
THERE’S a lot to be said for tradition, even in the anti-social art of television watching. But with tradition invariably comes the bad, bad story of ignorance, acceptance of pre-modern models of behaviour, the uncomfortable loss of human autonomy and independence.
For lifetime television viewers like myself and I guess my readers, the traditional way of television watching assumes that broadcast television is the only way to go. Kinda like radio, but with pictures.
The only skill required by the viewer is mastery of the on/off button, sometimes augmented by a partial understanding of the electronic remote.
And so it was way back in the beginning of South African television time, in which rapt white families in their “go-to church on Sunday clothing”, watched the static SABC TV logo sometimes for hours at a time, followed by a curious version of the news read by people in wigs and crimplene, regardless of gender. Dstv changed all that with a “bouquet”.
This implied that for a large and metastasising fee, plus some hardware and a skottel on the roof, you could escape the SABC and get a truly fragrant bunch of flowers picked from the electronic gardens of the entire world, including Russia and worse.
But believe me, fellow sinners, freedom from the SABC was never freedom in the best sense; merely an extension of choice.
Sadly so much of this alleged choice was made by the service provider who thoughtfully provided slightly more sport channels than ones pumping various versions of retail religion.
To be fair, the remote became intuitive, while the PVR facility allowed some freedom from the straight jacket of the timetable and the mind-destroying horror of endless repeats.
And then one day quite recently, freedom for a small fee arrived via the internet. This was, is and shall forever be Netflix, not to mention its lessor imitators.
Traditional broadcasters, state and retail, are demanding protection, using the same tragic and self-defeating arguments as the anti-uber luddites.
Netflix distributes a huge range of series and one-offs, but more importantly makes or commissions a great deal of highly original material.
The quality is sufficiently high to massively weaken the elite Cannes Film Festival and market, which foolishly and selfdestructively limits itself to “real” movies, as shown in a shabby cinema near you.
With Netflix and its derivatives, the convergence of film and television gets closer and closer.
What’s there to love? Let me count the ways, in no particular order. The administration is simple in the very best sense of the word.
You get a month free to try it all out. If you get sick of it all later in life and feel the deep desire to resume your relationship with the TV on switch, or maybe read a book, you can stop your subscription there and then.
The viewing experience is quite novel. Netflix is quite clearly driven by a consciousness that approaches The Divine.
It knows so much. Like my previous choices.
Even my place in an episode that I’ve decided to interrupt or abandon. It’s a bit spooky, I grant you, but artificial intelligence is a vast improvement on organic stupidity.
All this assumes an internet connection of course, but one day when all schools lose their pit latrines and patients stop dying in the passageways of government hospitals, this country of ours will follow states like Finland, where free high-speed broadband is a constitutional right.
A luta continua! Play it again, Cyril. Just one more time.