I was about to head out for a walk during the Christmas holidays when I noticed that my brothers were watching the tail end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I hung around to catch the bit where the ark erupts and melts the Nazis. When the film ended it was announced that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom would be on the following day at lunch time. We thought this was great and said we’d make a point of watching it. As it turns out we missed it. One of my brothers later said it was a pity that we hadn’t caught it. Of course, he had the film on DVD upstairs but it was about catching it on television. I agreed.
I had a conversation about the same thing at New Year’s. A friend was talking about how on St. Stephen's Day (December 26th) she just wanted to watch something on television. Herself and her boyfriend had plenty of DVD’s and downloads but they wanted to watch broadcast television.
Part of the attraction of television is that there is less scope to make choices. Television makes a lot of choices for us and this can be very relaxing. There is no pressure to pick the perfect film, and no ‘buyer’s remorse’ for picking one that falls a bit flat. Broadcast television is just there. Now and again it’s nice to just watch what’s put in front of you.
There’s a seasonal aspect too. If you watch a DVD on Christmas Day you watch it on your own but if you watch a broadcast film or Christmas special you watch it as part of a collective audience. This was the real attraction of the prospect of watching Indiana Jones. It’s not about watching the film, it’s about sharing an experience with family as part of a broader national festival. Indeed, a sense that this is not just happening in ‘our house’ but everywhere reinforces a Christmas atmosphere, and a social licence to slob out and eat rubbish.