Bruce Springsteen may have lamented flicking on the TV to find "57 Channels and Nothin' on", but these days such small-screen rage is decidedly démodé. For, whether there be 57 channels or 357, why would we waste time seething at the schedules when we have our trusty repositories of high-end drama to watch any time we please?
Back in the dark ages of VHS, box sets bore the musty whiff of the fanboy, blithe to the mountainous tape collections laying waste to their bedrooms. But just as the slimmed-down DVD box set appealed to our aesthetics, so a new batch of US shows appealed to our bingeing instincts. From the suburban ganglands of The Sopranos to the political minefields of The West Wing, their byzantine narratives and heaving ensembles demanded our total submersion. And lo, our libraries swelled with the changing of the HBO/ABC/Showtime seasons.
Not that we converts worship as one. There are the one-series-at-a-time steady eddies and the wily, multiple-series jugglers; the lone box-set adventurers, revelling in the extended respite from human interaction, and the smug box-set couples, revelling in finishing each other's Mad Men (above) rhapsodies; and for every telly aficionado among us, there is the telly snob, whose Wire obsession in no way contradicts their idiot-box antipathy: it is, after all, never a cop show, but a visual novel of Dickensian/ Dostoevskian proportions.
The only bother with all this independent viewing is that it cuts against our compulsion to share: where once we revelled in the watercooler discussion of our favourite programmes, now we must quench our thirst in haste lest unwitting colleagues throw a spoiler bomb our way.
Still, the advantages of box-setting outweigh the odd untoward revelation: seriously, is there any better excuse for spending Sunday in our pyjamas? And though the Murdoch-empire centrepiece Sky Atlantic may try to steal us away, we don't – and won't – buy it. For if there one's thing we hate more than the Man, it's the man holding our Mad Men for ransom.Reuse content