I would like to preface this post with this: it is a constant struggle between the mature-tolerant-and-accepting-of-other-people's-cultures part of me and the haha-penis-jokes-are-funny part of me whenever I say/hear/read the name of the restaurant A Dong. I may never outwardly show it, but the struggle exists - its just all inward. (Or so I like to think.)
I say this because one of the people I follow on Twitter recently posted something like "A Dong for dinner!" Inward giggling commenced followed by pangs of self-ashamed guilt.
So last night my dad and I were watching Letterman, which lead to a conversation regarding how Letterman isn't as good as he used to be, which lead to a conversation regarding how Leno is going to have the 9 o'clock slot Monday through Friday, which lead to a conversation regarding how the whole late night talk show thing is getting awfully stale. For years and years it's been the same thing night after night: intro, monologue, sketches at the desk, interview, interview, musical guest (or [rarely] a comedian), goodnight folks, on the program tomorrow is...etc, etc, etc.
Then this lead to a conversation about the future of television. What we agreed on: the internet is the future of television. Regular old TV will continue to exist, albeit in a simpler and more skeletal fashion for the old folks and luddites who don't want to bother with connecting to the goddamn interwebs.
What we disagreed on: how the whole thing's going to work. My argument was that the future of TV will look a lot like Hulu - subscribe to your favorite shows and watch them whenever you want for free, assuming you're willing to sit few a couple of ads. My dad, on the other hand, thought that the future of television rested in a model that combines Hulu with subscription networks like Showtime; that is, viewers would pay for monthly subscriptions to the shows/channels they want to watch, not unlike iTunes' "Season Pass" option.
I had a hard time going along with that theory, though; for one, I'm not too sure I'd be willing to pay subscriptions to individual shows, especially if I'd never seen them before. It also didn't account for shows that viewers watch on an irregular basis; that is, would Joe McTelevisionWatcher be willing to pay for an entire season's worth of Two and a Half Men if he only watched it every other week or so?
Models of distribution and profit aside, there was something fundamental to both of our theories: that the habits of television viewers are only going to become more and more individualized. This wasn't too huge of a prediction for either of us; David Foster Wallace called this years ago in his essay E Pluribus Unum and novel Infinite Jest, not to mention that former viewer extravaganza shows like The Oscars are declining in universal popularity.
And then this raised another question: if viewer habits continue to become even more and more individualized, what does that mean for society? If we're all in our little viewing bubbles, does this mean the death of the watercooler TV talk? I personally don't believe so; the watercooler moment is not dead, it's just experienced a flesh wound. It's not that we as viewers will have a total lack of common ground; it's just that we're going to have less common ground.
I would like to conclude this post with this: this post is just barely more coherent than our discusion last night, which is to say barely so.