TV on DVD: I'm an Addict
by Stephanie Earp, posted May 3rd 2011 3:00PM
Last Sunday night found me red-eyed and bleary, the first pangs of hunger finally breaking through the imaginary wall I put around my mind. I emerged from a two-day bender and found myself wrapped in my bathrobe, my hair lank, sitting in a well-defined groove on the couch.
You see, I just got the season 5 DVDs of 'Friday Night Lights' and I watched the entire thing in about 20 hours. I gorged on those episodes, ignoring all but the most pressing bodily needs, until the Taylors and the motley residents of Dillon, Texas had shown me all they ever would of their lives.
Thanks to my odd assortment of jobs, early spring often finds me with whole weekdays free of any true deadlines -- and it's the season where I often find myself falling down to my own peculiar addiction: TV on DVD. Several years ago, it was 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.' I re-watched all seven seasons over the course of a few weeks, sitting in the back mudroom of my tiny starter house in Toronto. My roommate, like any normal person, went to bed, and I would take my laptop, headphones and a pack of cigarettes out to the back and disappear into fictional Sunnydale for hours at a time. It was glorious and horrifying. I would stumble to bed in the wee hours and dream 'Buffy' dreams, and when I woke up -- eyes still squinting, frequently after noon -- I'd be greeted by the remnants of my binge: the stale smell of smoke, an overflowing ashtray, and often the dishes bearing the remnants of some bizarre midnight snack.
For a moment, surveying the devastation, I'd be mortified. I felt shame and disgust, and promised myself I wouldn't do it again -- but of course when evening came, I'd be back to it. The credits would roll on one episode and I'd find myself slotting the next disc, whispering, 'Just one more.'
You won't find read about this in the DSM-V and I'm pretty sure you'll never see it featured on 'Intervention' -- which incidentally, I've done marathons of as well and boy, is that an experience -- but there's no doubt in my mind that it is an addiction. It has all the hallmarks: the detachment from reality, the way time flows differently when you're in the midst of a high, the way real-world concerns seem hazy and hard to take seriously.
Of course there are also the after-effects: blurred vision, hunger, and the desire for more, more, more. Like most addicts, I prefer to indulge in this habit alone. My beloved and I have cruised through various series -- 'The Wire,' 'Battlestar Galactica,' 'Rome' -- but that's different. For one thing, we watch on our TV screen. When I indulge my habits, I prefer oversized headphones that block out all external sound and the warmth of my laptop on my knees. And I can never convince him to watch more than three episodes at a time. I guess I should be thankful to have such a rock-steady presence in my life.
Looking back, I realize I was primed and ready to fall into a DVD addiction. Books were my gateway drug. Like so many nerdy teens, I would read Nancy Drew and Stephen King under the covers with a flashlight only to blink my way through classes the next day. In fact, I'm still a sucker for this decidedly 1.0 delivery system. I love to read and I always have a book on the go, but certain stories have brought out the worst in me. 'The Hunger Games' series, the 'Millennium' series, 'Harry Potter' -- I read them until the sun came up. There really is nothing more delightful and inclined to bring on a wave of self-loathing than starting to read at 9PM and finishing up as the birds begin to chirp. You know your day is shot to hell, you know you should have slept, but you are also somewhat proud of yourself. You will not be spending another day wondering how Katniss will get out of this one. Unless of course, there are more books in the series.
What I'm really addicted to, I suppose, is storytelling -- long-format storytelling. Movies and short stories don't have the same pull. The more sprawling and epic, the better. Books and DVDs are just different ways of getting the same drug into the system. The filmed medium is like a lazy injection to the brain. It is, to stretch my metaphor as far as it'll go, my crack cocaine.
Are there any other TV-on-DVD addicts out there? We want to hear from you in the comments!