The trials of watching shows with a friend

In modern friendship, it seems like there’s no greater sign of how close one is with their buddies than to commit to watching a tv show together. It says that you approve of this person enough that you are willing to spend a cumulative 50+ hours with them, judging the actions and personalities of fictional characters. That’s quite a commitment.

In the past week, I have begun watching a show with two different friends. A different show with each friend, to clarify. The first is with a buddy of mine that came home with me to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving Break. After getting through the entire season of Netflix’s “Mindhunters” on the first day, we decided to aim next for a longer series: HBO’s “Deadwood.”

Now, I have already seen “Deadwood,” so I got the added bonus of hearing my friend’s strong opinions on the characters and predictions on where the plot might go, and getting to lord it over him that I know the answers to all of his questions. It also makes it easier for me when we confront one of the biggest obstacles of shared watching; finding time for it. Since I’ve seen the whole thing before, I don’t mind having to wait long periods between episodes. Which is good because we have not found the time to watch any of it since returning to campus. So maybe he’s really burning to get back to “Deadwood,” but that is dramatically more his problem than it is mine (sorry).

Then the other show I’ve begun watching with a friend (more specifically, my roommate) is “Downton Abbey.” It’s been a surprisingly fun way to unwind at the end of the day, sitting down on the couch for an episode of the least relatable show to ever become a television hit. Sorry, “Downton” fans, but it’s difficult to empathize with the plight of these nobles when their idea of humble living is a guy who thinks they could get by with “only” a maid and a butler. But in a way, our lack of investment in the show is part of its appeal. We don’t have to shy away from quips and jokes at the risk of missing any plot details.

Once again, this situation avoids the problems of not having enough time to watch the show together. For one, I live with him, so it’s not going far out of the way to watch an episode before bed. But even if it was, neither of us actually care about the show to be devestated if we weren’t able to watch it for long periods of time. It’s really nice; I don’t think either of us are at all tempted to betray the other’s trust and watch an episode without them.

That’s partially why it’s such a thing to watch a show with your pal. There’s a lot of vulnerability in agreeing to keep this experiance as a special shared activity between the two of you. And that’s more difficult now than it ever has been before. In the past, before services such as Netflix or Prime Video, shows aired at a consistent time evry week, so it was easier to schedule for that. But now, when all content is available on demand, more firm commitments take priority and its harder to find a time to sit down and watch a show.

Additionally, back in the day, because any given program would have a new episode out only once per week, it was impossible to watch ahead without your friend. But now, there can often be a lingering temptation to get your fix early since entire seasons are released at once.

In a way, however, the fact that it’s so easy not to keep faith in shared viewing makes it so much more rewarding when one does. It’s also the sign of a good, good friend.