If I was 10 years old and wanted my parents to get me a PS3 I would run out and buy them a copy of Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad Is Good for You. I haven’t read the book yet (who has an attention span that long these days?), but heard him on The Connection and read Gladwell’s recent review. Johnson discusses how television has changed to be harder and more complex than tv used to be, and he hypothosizes that this explains the Flynn effect. The density of a show is something that draws me in, and helps explain why I can repeatedly watch the same episode of the Simpsons, Six Feet Under or the West Wing without being bored. I’ve noticed the difference in watching any of the recent terrible episodes of SNL where they drag 3 jokes out to a 6 minute sketch. Compare that to the hilarious Arrested Development (thankfully picked up for a 3rd season!) which is both far more clever and where every line is a subtle punchline.
Steven Johnson wrote a short piece on what he calls extreme time-shifting, which should be familar to anyone who a TiVo or has rented TV shows on DVD. My only disagreement is that he writes, “you watch one show night after night until you’ve finished the season”. What? How can you just watch 1 episode? Part of the point is to gorge at the trough! For this weekend NetFlix has delivered the first season of The Wire which I’ve heard has tons of characters and plotlines. Maybe it will even make me smarter.