Communal series-watching turned serial event
Christine Hämmerling (University of Zurich)
Paper short abstract:
In this paper, I compare viewer’s usage of two serialized television programs – a reality show and a crime series – by describing the different strategies that its viewers employ to get the most out of the experience of watching; strategies that have become a routine themselves.
Paper long abstract:
What Gerhard Schulze called "Erlebnisgesellschaft",the longing to experience your life as being full of unique events, is of increasing importance not only in the realm of tourism but also in daily life. Everyday life is structured not only by work or school. People also freely submit to structures such as television scheduling. In this paper, I compare viewer's usage of two rather different television programs - the reality show "Germany's Next Topmodel" and the crime series "Tatort" by describing the different strategies that viewers of these two serial formats employ to get the most out of the experience of watching. These strategies have become a routine themselves. Both the crime series and the serialized reality show are aired weekly. Around both of them, a culture of communal watching has developed - viewing with friends at home as well as on a big screen in bars. Drawing from participant observation of viewing habits in bars and in people's homes as well as from interviews, I argue that these practices can be characterized not only as circular routines but also as serial practices of innovation and improvement of the viewing event. As different as these two programs are structured narratively, their seriality induces similar, competitive practices with regard to how eventful the TV-night will turn out to be: Can the food provided reach up to the dish of last time? Is it more comfy with the new sofa? Does taking photos of each other and dressing up help making this watching situation more special?