As someone who has never experienced the delights of Sky +, I am giddy as a kipper about internet TV on demand.
I feel like I’ve been given the keys to the kingdom. What? I don’t have to watch programmes at their allocated times? I can pause them? I can skip forwards and backwards? And (except for the sponsors) I don’t have to watch any adverts?
Actually, being allowed to watch an episode of Corrie without enduring Martin Kemp draped on a nasty sofa is rather disconcerting. It just feels too easy. I have this nagging suspicion that the streaming footage is spliced with subliminal cuts in which I’m being commanded to go out and do something terrible, like kill someone, or buy an adjustable mattress.
Of course, there are downsides to watching TV on the internet, too. Logistically, if you haven’t got wireless, it may be a tad awkward for you and your partner to fully enjoy Dirty Sexy Money whilst squeezed onto an office chair.
Plus, online viewing lacks the sense of solidarity you get from knowing that millions are watching the same programme simultaneously. Also, I neglected to watch Heroes last Thursday, assuming it would be on BBC iplayer, and it isn’t and now I’m distraught, which just shows it doesn’t pay to get too cocky. But, and I know they said this about 3D glasses, TV on demand is going to change the way we watch the box forever.
For one thing, if you have to actively select what you watch, you’re far less likely to slouch in front of Traffic Cops, “because there’s nothing else on.” On the flip-side, this new, bespoke viewing also means that shows which, when restricted to their regular slot, are un-watchable fluff, become essential viewing when relocated to another slot: say, Saturday morning with a stonking hangover.
ITV2’s Gossip Girl is a good example. Created by The OC’s Josh Schwartz, this US series centres around a group of super-rich, uber-beautiful, preposterously troubled teens from New York’s Upper East Side, with a voiceover by the titular, anonymous internet scandal-chaser, Gossip Girl.
All the usual suspects are here: the gorgeous blonde with an inimitable sense of style, Serena Van Der Woodson; her bitchy, insecure brunette best friend, Blair Waldolf.
Blair’s frustrated boyfriend Nate Archibold. Nate’s best friend Chuck Bass, a character with the sort of inherently evil mug – all heavy eyebrows and over-wide grin - which suggests that, at some point this series, he’ll definitely kill someone with his car and then sue them for getting brains on his fender. Then there’s handsome, broke, Christian-Slater-a-like loner, Dan Humphreys, who is embarking on a romance with Serena Van Der Woodson in a plot line reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet. Or is that The Fox and the Hound?
It doesn’t matter because Gossip Girl is, of course, ridiculous. The character names are preposterous, the plot lines predictable and everyone is so beautiful it makes your eyes bleed. Even the teens’ parents look like they’ve just stepped out of Maxim, suggesting that upscale New Yorkers (like inhabitants of Orange County) all pop their children out on their 16th birthday. Frankly, if you caught Gossip Girl at 10pm on a Thursday, you’d smash your head into the TV screen to avoid it.
But re-stream Gossip Girl on a Saturday morning and what was lame-brained nonsense is magically transformed into perfect hangover viewing. Lolling around feeling mentally feeble and consuming your own bodyweight in carbohydrates, the beautiful people and morality-by-numbers is just about all a poor, abused brain can take. Why did Serena get kicked out of boarding school? Will little Jenny Humphreys be corrupted by the in-crowd? And where did I put that Alka-Seltzer?
Unfortunately, if you aren’t able to take advantage of internet TV, then, to really see what I mean, you’ll have to work out some way of being hungover on a Thursday at 10pm. Don’t write in if you get the sack.
Meanwhile, I’m hoping this phenomenon works in reverse. Surely now the programmes I feel I should watch but can’t be bothered to should become oddly appealing when viewed off-schedule? Newsnight at 10am, Monday, here I come. Probably.
Gossip girl, Thursday 10pm, ITV 2