Friends, we live in a divided world. Not just the part where it’s divided between those who voted for Donald Trump and the rest of us, although there’s certainly that. We are divided in ways far deeper and even more fraught.
In 2017, there are two kinds of people: those who are watching the same show as you…and those who aren’t.
For the past week I have begun every conversation – with friends, with relatives, with co-workers, with strangers, in person, via email and on whatsapp – like this:
“ARE YOU WATCHING THE HANDMAIDS’ TALE?”
I ask this in a needy, urgent way, multiple times a day.
And if the answer is no, you are dead to me. Not actually dead. I will not kill you, even with my eyes, but you are useless to me in terms of having a conversation because since watching the first episode, it is all I want to talk about. I am not angry with you. I am just disappointed.
LISTEN: The Binge unpack everything you need to know about The Handmaid’s Tale (post continues after audio…)
If someone says they’re not watching it or – gasp – they’ve never heard of it, you can see my face actually fall. I droop visibly.
And today I have noticed the same look of disappointment and crushing dismissal in the eyes of all my co-workers who are watching the new season of Game Of Thrones – a show I have never watched and will never watch.
Please don’t leave a comment urging me to give it a go because I would rather eat a dry teabag. Not my thing. Never going to be my thing. The end.
I totally understand if it's your thing though. No judgement. It's just that more than ever before, we're now creating tribes around the shows we're watching- and you're either in...or you're out.
Modern TV shows have become cult-like in the passion, fervour, dedication and obsession they inspire. On the upside, small talk has never been so easy. "What are you watching?" has become the new 'weather'. It's a no-fail way to engage anyone of any age in any situation.
On the downside, because we are no longer watching the same shows at the same time as we once did on commercial TV (remember when Molly died on A Country Practice? Or Patrick died on Offspring?), it has become far harder to share common experiences.
I walk through my life (and scroll through my phone) in constant fear of inadvertently dropping a spoiler. Because it's not enough that someone is watching the same show as you - they have to be up to the exact same episode. What's that sound I can hear?
LISTEN: Everything you need to know about Game of Thrones in 90 seconds (post continues after audio...)
Oh wait, it's someone leaving an angry comment that they're only up to season three of Offspring and they didn't know that Patrick died and now I've ruined their life.
Sorry not sorry. IT WAS THREE YEARS AGO.
May I suggest a statute of limitations on TV spoilers? I think 12 months after release is reasonable. After that, all spoilers are redundant. Because there is always someone who hasn't started watching House of Cards or Orange Is The New Black or Grey's Anatomy but is planning to some day so please don't mention the fact that Izzy leaves the show.
The issue of 'watching speed' can be fraught even within relatively short periods of time. The Handmaid's Tale was released an episode at a time, once a week when it premiered in the US in April . But in Australia, SBS-on demand dropped it all at once, months after it had finished in America.
Game of Thrones is being released weekly around the world simultaneously but that's rare. Most shows are dropped in seasons and this can prove a further divide between those who have the time to binge for hours immediately and those who can't.
I can't. Except when I can.
So inevitably, if you are not on the same time frame as someone else, they are intensely frustrating to be around. We are all Goldilocks: don't take too long to watch, don't watch too quickly....you need to be juuuuuuust right - which is defined by exactly how long it takes me to watch anything.