As Golden Age TV continues, does the quality of the content mean the Moviegoers Code of Conduct should be applied to TV-watching?
There are unwritten rules which accompany the ‘turn your phone off’ ads when you sit down in the cinema. Some are a universal truth which in Britain cause tutting and silent judgement from all around when broken. These involve talking, noisy food, arriving late, fidgeting and using the film to catch up on sleep. Cinema etiquette has been outlined by many. For example, Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo have previously determined the Moviegoers Code of Conduct. Essentially, this boils down to ten easy-to-follow rules for the cinema:
- No eating (anything irritating)
- No slurping
- No rustling
- No irresponsible parenting
- No hobbies
- No talking
- No mobile phone usage
- No kicking of seats
- No arriving late
- No shoe removal
But do these same rules apply to watching television shows? We are currently enjoying the second golden age of television. American and British blockbuster shows are now rivalling Hollywood in terms of budget and arguably outperforming it in terms of storytelling. In the 21st century alone, American networks have brought us The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, The West Wing, Mad Men, Homeland, Game of Thrones and many more.
On the British side of the pond we’ve enjoyed the return of a new bigger budget Doctor Who, the invention of Spooks, Sherlock and the storm that is Downton Abbey. Television storytelling has hit a new level. Even Doctor Who, which in its first iteration was a very simple affair to tune in and out of, has become a wibbly wobbly, timey wimey network of plot points which even with your full attention can bring on a strong migraine.
The home is full of distractions not present in the cinema. We’ve also never before experienced such good drama on TV
How are we meant to keep up with such high drama if family members, housemates, kids and other halves are constantly distracting us from the TV? How hard is it really to focus your attention on one 42-minute episode? Everyone is able to do it in the cinema for often triple that amount of time. But the home is full of many distractions which aren’t present in the cinema. We’ve also never before experienced such good drama on TV – doing the ironing or making a cup of tea halfway through was never a problem if the show didn’t require your full attention.
It’s for these reasons that I propose that the rules of cinema going should henceforth be applied to the living room. When sitting down to watch the latest instalment of Game of Thrones, it pleads for your full attention and for you to not split it between your smartphone, your tablet and your dinner. Television networks are now beginning to understand the benefits from social media. Creating hashtags and encouraging online comment makes the audience feel more engaged and immediately grabs the attention of the posters’ followers. It works well for reality-based television, throwaway stuff you can tune in and out of as you wish.
Online comment during or after the latest episode of that big budget, critically acclaimed, spoilerific series, on the other hand, is not good for anyone involved. The way we consume TV has changed – the storylines may still be big events and retain water cooler moment twists, but with the invention of On-Demand we all watch at different times. Posting spoilers on social networks is going to annoy anyone who’s not tuning in at that exact moment. Talking can be even more detrimental – if you’ve got a point to make about the show which is worthwhile saying, it’ll wait until the end.
As we are treated to bigger budget, more ambitious programming, our attention to the actual TV screen seems to be fading
Speaking during the actual episode usually means you miss what is happening at that moment, meaning later in the episode even more questions get asked as you catch up on key plot points. Some television shows shouldn’t apply such rules for obvious reasons – watching the latest episode of Jeremy Kyle isn’t exactly going to be ruined by chatting. The same goes for chat shows, panel shows, some sitcoms and pretty much all areas of reality television. It’s event television that gets damaged by interactivity. As we are treated to bigger budget, high concept, more ambitious programming, our attention to the actual screen seems to be fading even further.
If your loved ones chatted throughout the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones season three, would that distressing ending have had the same amount of impact? The same goes for recent big twists in Homeland; these stories expect and deserve our full attention. As the lines between TV and film blur even further we should start to think how we consume it.
Featured image: D. Reichardt (via Flickr)
Inset images: HBO; Mark Roy (via Flickr)