Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What Do Seniors Watch? TV & Movies for 65+

Jim and I both spent our early decades together being art house cinema fans and we rarely watched tv.  This fit in with our both being English majors in college and basically more interested in the artsy and intellectual end of things.  Now that we are in the 65+ set, we haven't set foot in such a theater for years.  On a typical evening, Jim will instead be watching Skyfall (Daniel Craig as James Bond) on Netflix while I am an avid fan of Breaking Bad and Mad Men. But we are both waiting avidly this month for Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright's return in House of Cards.

Of the two of us, I am the one who still tunes in foreign films like this year's Iranian The Past whereas he's pretty much done with watching the fictional heavy stuff. As related on an earlier posting, due to my vision and hearing problems, although we are in the same room, we now watch our own programs on separate computer devices with headphones.

Of the two of us he's the one who will watch any of these end of the world documentaries, i.e. on "the end" coming for any number of reasons, such as climate change. I don't watch any of those because I'm not going to be here for it if and when it happens. He right now is avidly watching the extreme drought situation in California whereas I read my first article about it yesterday as I saw it listed in the most emailed section of the Times. (Why he is now storing big water containers on the bottom of his closet when we live so near to a Great Lake is beyond me.  Ohio has its problems but lack of water is not one of them.)

Then there's the comfort factor.  I have a nice big long sofa to watch my programs on while he's got a big barcalounger. We have quilts next to us which I have made as well as pillows.  The kitchen is steps away and I have anything from coffee to diet coke to my daily Tanqueray Gimlet at close hand while I watch. We miss nothing by taking a bathroom break or we can even take the iPad into the bathroom with us and continue watching! Quite simply, comfort scores big at this age whereas it was barely a concern in earlier decades.

The big game changer was technology of course. The internet made it possible for us to view whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. It was a bit clunky to do that with a desktop computer but those days are long gone.  Tablets and lap tops make it comfortable and easy for everyone.

The other game changer was that American movies increasingly went for a younger and younger audience with more and more blockbuster escapist action films. One had to wait for the bad weather of November and December around here to see the fewer quality American films which would later compete for the film prizes. While American movies became more escapist, the niche cable channels became less and less escapist.  They charted their course to the same kind of gritty drama which had made the cinema so important in the 1970s. Their programs were aimed at adults who were not necessarily within the demographic used by the movie studios.

Movie poster, below, shown in England and the rest of Europe, not USA.

One major American movie star after another started gracing the tv screen with a made for tv movie so that by 2013 the ultimate in crossover was achieved. At the Cannes Film Festival in France, Beyond the Candelabra starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon was shown with great fanfare. In the United States, it was shown on tv, HBO, because there was no market for it in American film theaters. So there is the unique situation of Douglas winning international film prizes and domestic tv prizes. He is not eligible for the Oscar since it showed on HBO here so no third Oscar will be joining his other two. The film's acclaimed director, Steven Soderberg, also announced then that he was leaving the film industry for the tv industry.  At earlier times this would have been seen as a huge step down for him in every way imaginable. But not in 2013. He was not a has-been.  He was at the prime of his career and in his opinion the golden age was going on in tv, not film. In short, our timing could not have been better to switch to the smaller screen and comforts of our home.

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