"You don't have a TV? Dude, how do you live?"
How does one respond to that question?
"I read books"? Weird.
"I do homework"? Nerd.
But luckily for the handful of us whose parents were determined to deny us access to Elmo, Barney, and Miley Cyrus, there is now a moderately socially acceptable answer.
"I watch it online."
Thanks to online services that provide free access to full episodes of countless TV shows, we deprived children have been provided a chance at redemption.
Hulu, quite popular at Paly, invites you to "Watch your favorites. Anytime. For free." According to Hulu's "most popular of all time" section, those favorites include seven Family Guy episodes, 11 SNL excerpts, and, at #1, "Talkshow with Spike Feresten: Cable PSA." A click on the link to this last and ominous title leads to a video about an old lady who cannot figure out how to convert her analog television to digital. Given, it's quite entertaining, but the fact that this video is the most popular of all time may give some clues about general viewership demographics.
But regardless of the average viewer's strange fondness for struggling old people, Hulu appears to be quite profitable; according to TVByTheNumbers.com, the company will rake in as much as YouTube in 2009.
And the resources hardly end there. More mainstream favorites such as Gossip Girl, House, and Dancing with the Stars can be found at CWTV, HouseMDEpisodes.com, and Fancast, respectively.
Not all of these sites are legitimate or legal, and some are downright sketchy. But they are rampant on the internet. Many networks have given up fighting copyright law altogether and begun posting full episodes on their official websites. NBC offers full episodes for the majority of its shows, as does MTV.
Of course, conventional television may still be the most convenient and immediate way to stay up to date on the hottest shows. And there is a certain connection among those who share obsessions for certain shows. Knowing that everyone in your time zone who cares about One Tree Hill is watching the exact same episode at exactly the same time as you is exhilarating. And it's quite difficult to scream about how Rachael left that dude at the altar last night on Friends when everyone watches the episodes at different times.
It remains to be seen if more networks will follow NBC and MTV in posting entire episodes online, but if they can net just as much from online advertisers as television ones, there may be a major shift in how the majority of America watches American Idol.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to watch Celebrity Apprentice.