It wasn’t long ago when I sat huddled with my girlfriends and a batch of martinis during the series finale of Sex and the City. It was a sad day. Our glamorous friends were scheduled to disappear forever. So, we had a farewell party. I used to do something similar when each season of Survivor came to an end. My friends and I would sit (mouths slightly open) waiting nervously to see if our favorite castaway won. It was our ritual. Watch intensely, talk only during commercials and don’t you dare miss the finale. But all of that was before the DVR.
I’m nostalgic for the communal experience that finales used to be. Today, I watch most finales without much fanfare. I simply schedule my DVR to record and I watch them when it’s convenient, often without anyone there to discuss the minutia of the episode. While I love my DVR and the flexibility sites like Netflix and Hulu offer, they’ve changed my experience with season finales.
First, the notion of a “season” is gone out the window. I watch when I want to watch. Network schedules mean nothing to me. I’ll start a new series in the summer when TV goes on vacation. I’ll watch an entire season of an old series on a rainy weekend. I’ll hoard episodes on my DVR until I feel it’s time to watch. I am not bound by a “season”. I watch TV at my own pace. The term “finale” doesn’t quite cut it anymore either. Shows don’t end for me the way they used to. When the formal narrative ends, I turn to social media. From plot discussions to user generated content to show extras (like behind the scenes footage or outtakes), the show lives on – online.
Today TV is all about me. I watch what I want, when I want. I decide when a show ends. My friends do it too. The communal aspect of gathering around the electronic hearth for a “season finale” is gone. Even the terms “season finale” are inadequate. While I don’t want to give up my DVR or cancel my Netflix, I can’t help but get a little sentimental when I watch the Survivor finale, alone in my living room, a week late.
What do you think? Have your experiences with season finales changed? Is it even useful to think about "seasons" or "finales"?