Secret Pop

May 11, 2013

Reset to Pilot

Back when I was a freelancer working from home, I used to leave the TV on USA Network or TNT pretty much all day. They would play various procedurals and one-hour series, usually in blocks of two or three episodes back to back. And they would play the episodes in order. So if you watched frequently enough and for long enough, you would watch a series in its entirety, in order. Then, at some point, you would go from the last episode of a series -- where the characters have developed and the cast has really found a pace -- to the first episode of that same series. It's jarring. The pilot episode of a show that gets any amount of wind at its back is always just a shade of what the show becomes. The show runners haven't yet decided the fates of these characters, and the actors haven't made the characters their own. The voices are even different sometimes. Watch season one of The Simpsons, if you don't believe me.

So, one minute you're appreciating the subtle relationships and interpersonal nuances of a show you've come to know, and the next minute you're watching two cops rolling their eyes that THIS is going to be their new partner, and no one yet knows about whose mom was raped and whose wife is fed up with cop hours or who's had an affair with the captain. And if you like the show -- or if, like me, you can't be bothered to change the channel unless a basketball game or a wrestling event suddenly interrupts the procedural parade -- you'll get to watch those relationships develop with a certain prescience. You know what the future holds for these hardworking groundpounders. You see it as clearly as if it were synopsized in your cable guide or written in a script you are holding in your lap. You are a god of television.

It might make you wish you could reset to one in real life. Even if you had to just relive all those episodes without ever being able to alter the script. It might make you want that. For a minute. At least you would know why everything goes the way it does. At least there would be some context. At least you would be able to resign yourself to your fate without having to go to some church.

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