posted Jan 11, 2007

I've been watching some of the television-season DVDs we've collected over the years again, and once again I can't help but notice how much nicer the TV-DVD experience is over real TV.

The only minor complaint is the occasional commercial break that feels forced, but that's not too big a deal compared to the fun. Along with the audio-visual advantages of watching TV on my laptop (at 1650x1050, it's basically an HDTV that fits on my lap), the lack of commercial interruptions and the fact that TV shows have to be written very tightly to work around that means you end up with a very concentrated experience that has to be seen to be believed.

Even shows you might think are fluffy or shows you might think you wouldn't like become interesting experiences when this happens. My wife started watching the Friends DVD collection, and I actually enjoy them in that format. It's a sitcom, but I have to admit it's a pretty decent one. But I still don't really like to watch it on TV. (For one thing, most of my favorite jokes or character moments are also the ones that get cut for syndication.)

This is not a new thought for me. What is new is how drastically prices have dropped. When I first started purchasing Stargate SG-1 seasons (to watch because I hadn't seen the first couple of seasons and they were not yet 15% of the Sci-Fi channel output), I could expect to pay $70 or even $80. Now, the going price for a season of television seems to have settled in to the $30-$40 price range, and I think that's a pretty darned good deal. At those prices, the smallest sale slips into the "downright steal" range; I recently completed my Futurama collection by purchasing Season 4 for $20. That's the price of a new entire movie, and contains several episodes that were better than many movies.

At that price, I find myself considering sampling things that I've previously managed to entirely miss by just springing for the first season and hoping for the best. (Or checking them out from the library, which has a surprising array of TV seasons; on the one hand it's cool that you get the whole thing, on the other it's sometimes hard to finish an entire season before it's due back.) I didn't get the Sci-Fi channel in college so I missed out on some of the classics of the 90s, like Babylon 5; I've never seen a single episode of that but it sounds like fun. Some things are still in repeats, but I don't really want to pick up in the middle, either; for example, one show I'm toying with watching is currently right in the middle of their run, showing M-F at 7am (entirely hopeless without a TiVo). Other shows I'm considering aren't in repeats at all.

The other new thing is that I find myself, even with a TiVo, seriously considering just waiting for the DVD and buying that instead. Futurama is supposed to be getting a new season, but I may just ignore it and wait for the DVD, which most likely will be out within weeks of the season ending anyhow (another new-ish trend; many shows get Season X DVDs out before Season X+1 has begun). That's how much better TV-DVD is.

All of this has got to be leading up to the first show to do a full season of DVDs without any TV airings at all... I thought maybe Firefly would be first, but maybe if they try to cancel Futurama again but DVD sales remain strong they'll be the first ones to make the jump. Somebody's gonna do it... the only question is, who?


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