Becky and I watch more television than we did before retirement. Credit fewer evening meetings and the advent of streaming. Being in charge of what, when, and how much, plus no commercials makes for a much better viewing experience than the old once-a-week-on network-TV model.
Having streamed our share of programs, we’ve come to the conclusion that British series tend to be better than their American counterparts. Old-school American series, think “NCIS” or “Law and Order,” typically run 22 or more 45-minute episodes per season. (So, yeah, you miss 15 minutes of commercials by streaming rather than watching over the air.) The British tend toward six-episode series, and the episodes are more likely to be a full 60 minutes, sometimes 90.
We like whodunits and spy stories. In the American series, a crime is solved or a war averted in every episode. 45 minutes to set the stage and apprehend the criminal or thwart the terrorist conspiracy. Not much time for character development or a nuanced plot. The British series are more likely to spend 6 to 9 hours telling a single story – time for false leads and plots twists; characters are developed and motives explored. The British are even willing to kill off a key character for the sake of a good story,*
Life is more like a British TV series. Characters are complicated and plots twist. Nuance and ambiguity are to be found in every crack and crevice. Rarely does a straight line lead to a happy resolution of the dilemma of the day. Sometimes tragedy and sorrow intervene before a problem is solved.
We American Evangelicals seem to be inclined to a 45-minute crime-committed, problem-solved view of life. It may be as when the terrorist’s time bomb is defused with only two seconds to spare, but if we come to Jesus just in time, all will be well. Don’t get me wrong. I believe conversion really is conversion. Total change. “If anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation; the old has passed away and the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). I believe that the end of all things is happier than any happiness we can imagine. “…neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
It’s not that I have less than full confidence in the message of the Gospel, it is that life seems more like those British shows with false leads, plot twists, complicated characters, mixed motives, and sorrow and tragedy interrupting the journey to problems solved, dilemmas resolved.
Two more Sundays until the final episode of the new season of “Unforgotten” drops, We’ll wait until we are able to binge the entire season when we want.
*Spoiler alert: sometime in the first four seasons of “Unforgotten,” but that’s all I can say.