Monday, 20 May 2013

How to Watch Television Properly

Monday, 20 May 2013

Television's big business. Millions are spent creating content for people to sit down and watch. So the least you can do is watch it properly. And yes, that means not on your iPhone, while on a train, with headphones stuffed in your ears. I watch television semi-professionally, so here are my tips for how to watch it best...

1. Buy a BIG television.
Oh yes, you'll need a television in order to watch television. Duhh. The bigger the better, too. Size does matter in this instance. That means larger than 32" because it's not 2003 any more, grandad. I'd specify widescreen, but I think it's impossible to buy otherwise without first purchasing a time machine. Or if you get your electrical goods imported from Uzbekistan.

2. Get HD.
It isn't the 20th-century. Everything's filmed in high definition now, so why are you still watching soft and muddy SD with all that artifacting? Don't you want to count the eyelashes on Brad Pitt, or inspect the cleanliness of Scarlett Johansson's cheek pores? When a tree appears on TV, I want to see every single twig on each individual branch. And the ants crawling on said twig. And the antenna on those stupid ants. You owe it to yourself to get HD. David Attenborough agrees with me about the ants.

3. Wire for SOUND.
You're not going to watch TV using its own inbuilt speakers, are you? Those strips of gauze along the bottom or sides? Call them speakers? Invest in surround sound, my friend. HD surround sound. If you're over-50, this may be the point where you need to call your kids for help. But if you watch TV without at least five speakers dotted around your room (with a sub-woofer), to the consternation of your cohabiting loved one, you're not doing it right. And if the speakers can't be positioned in the optimal cube-like arrangement around you, make some furniture adjustments. Or drill holes to wall-mount the speakers. Or just move house.

4. Get comfy.
The easiest part of the process; because if you're male it's easier to talk your girlfriend/wife into buying a fancy new sofa. Things only get tricky if you insist on a reclining La-Z-Boy with beer can holders and gull-wing arms for storing snacks. I'm going to be lenient and say you can appease your loved one by opting for the luxurious sofa, provided you hog the middle.

5. Lights! Curtains! Action!
Turn the lights off. Close the curtains. Kick the dog out. Put the kids to bed. Turn the bubbling fish tank off. Strangle the cat. Even if you're only planning to watch Coronation Street, good TV-watching demands darkness and seclusion. Concentrate.

6. Snack time!
Watching TV is hard work. Your brain burns calories too, right? So you need sustenance, and that means snacks. Nothing too crunchy or noisy, natch. Pizza is the connoisseurs choice because it can be ordered in, and is eaten in near-silence. Or nachos. Drinks? Non-alcoholic beverages only. I'm serious. People have spent millions producing this TV show for you, and you're going to watch it drunk? Do you go the cinema drunk? No. (If you answered yes, we can't be friends.)

7. Get a notepad.
To take notes on. Yes, you heard me right! Scribbling notes about TV focuses attention and increases your understanding of narrative. You don't want to kick back and miss something because you let your concentration slip. So make notes.

8. Make peace.
It's almost time to actually watch TV, so time for final prep: mobile phones off, land line unplugged, computers on standby, and a steel reserve to ignore anyone who knocks on your front door (unless its's followed by the words "police, open up!" yelled through your letterbox). Oh, and make sure you have your remote controls and a spare pack of batteries.

9. Viewing.
Now you're watching TV... but, most importantly, you're doing so properly. You've shown your respect to the TV Gods with the above ritual and can finally enjoy your gogglebox entertainment in peace; certain that you're seeing it in the best possible circumstance, environment, and atmosphere.

10. Hang on...
You're watching a torrented copy of The Carrie Diaries on a 22" CRT Alba? I give up.