Is it important to know what year it is when you’re watching a television show?
Television has a special relationship with time. As a serial mode of storytelling, what year it is at the time of release is more closely associated with television than it is with movies or books. We are used to watching movies and reading books whenever is most convenient for us, whereas historically television programs tend to be watched as part of a mass broadcast at one point in time. This is largely why the “water-cooler effect” is associated with television so much more than other forms of telling stories. This association is, of course, changing over time. Netflix and the rise of streaming, torrenting and on-demand services are changing the way we relate to serialized stories.
The Internet isn’t the only venue for breaking down the September-to-May model. Cable networks have been trying different airing models for years and the recent critical acclaim and mass appeal of shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and Louie are proof that North American audiences are ready for other ways of releasing content.