My consumption and frankly obsession with media tends to be cyclical. I’m really into something for a couple of weeks, then it dies down for a little while, then often it comes back. I think some of this is encouraged by streaming services like Netflix, where you can simulate the cable TV model by watching a season of a show obsessively for a week or two, then catch it next year. Some interests are more sustained (like Star Trek), but even these wax and wane.
My current cycle seems to be watching things I watched years ago, in part again because of Netflix. And I realized that there’s a taxonomy of how we evaluate things we go back to. On the left hand side are things that on a second viewing we don’t like, and on the right are things we do like. I would further sub-divide likes and don’t likes into two categories:
- Pleasant Surprise – It’s as good as I remember it.
- Nostalgic – I like this, but probably wouldn’t if I was seeing it for the first time now.
- Tastes Change – I may be able to understand why I liked this in the past, but I don’t now.
- Holy Crap – What the hell was I thinking?
Some examples from my recent viewing (with the exception of Chapelle which was a few years ago):
Red vs Blue – Watched this pretty obsessively through college, one 3 minute episode at a time. The first five “seasons” are on Netflix, and even though I cringe at the distinction of this being the longest running sci-fi series (at 11 seasons and counting), these first seasons are as good as I remember. Sure the language is crude (sometimes imaginatively so), but the pacing and building storyline are hilarious even when I know what’s coming. (Pleasant Surprise)
Chapelle Show – Another college show. Maybe this one was more of its moment than I realized, because watching it again I couldn’t stand it. It was crude, it was gross, and it wasn’t nearly as clever as Key & Peele. I had bought the first season cheap out of memory, and promptly resold it. (Holy Crap)
Batman: The Animated Series – It’s a kid’s show and I am one of those people who contend cartoons were better in my day, based on my limited knowledge of current TV. This show shaped my perception of what Batman should be, and some of them are really quite good to go back to. But the dialogue is definitely a little hokey in spots and it lacks the stakes of more mature Batman tales told in the comics. This one’s somewhere between Nostalgic and Pleasant Surprise.
The Rescuers – What can I say, I love Bob Newhart. And it’s the rare Disney movie that doesn’t involve saving a princess and actually shows a woman (admittedly a mouse) being fun loving and capable, and even having to encourage her more nervous partner into bolder steps. I would love to show these movies to my kids someday. (Pleasant Surprise)
Foamy (Neurotically Yours) – This one’s a little trickier because I already sensed the quality dipping when I was watching this (again back in college). But truthfully as I get older I find less of this funny and just crude and gross, and occasionally sexually creepy. I still love the Matrix one, and the burping one about (when’s the last time I had a f-ing hot dog) but that’s about it. This one is somewhere between Holy Crap and Tastes Change.
I could go on, but I’d love to hear from you. What have you gone back to recently and how have you reacted to it? Where does that show, comic book, video game, book, or movie fall on the taxonomy?
One response to “Things we come back to”
I love your categories. I’ve been doing a little of the re-watching of old movies because of Netflix. There was The Breakfast Club, that was nearly as entertaining as I remember it, but also deeper than it seemed when I watched it as a kid. Now my own teenager is a fan of the movie. The Jerk is not as funny as I thought it was. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is pretty much the same as I remember it.