“Look at that massive TV!” my friend exclaimed as we stood before a humongous hunk of Sony in another friend’s new flat. Coos and nods of approval went round the room.
When it comes to TV screens, bigger is supposed to be better. The more massive it is, the more it provides spectacle, intensity and excitement. Best of all, you can share the experience with your friends and family. Proper TV screens are the height of luxury, and anything smaller is a practical second best.
But what if we’re seeing it all wrong? I think we are. My firm belief is that laptops, tablets and phones are the unsung heroes of TV-watching, and that they can make for a better experience than big screens. When Sky Atlantic’s True Detective came out, I devoured it on a rather rubbish laptop — just me, my headphones and the Deep South.
But then this month I re-watched some of the show on a ‘proper’ TV screen with a friend who hadn’t seen it before. She found the show too slow and a bit dull, and I also found the episodes less enticing. But I’m certain that both of us would have enjoyed it much more had we downsized our screen.
The plot and acting was just as ridiculously good, but the way I was literally seeing it was different. Watching dramas close up can actually be a more immersive, intense experience, with no plant pots or books or ornaments in your eye line reminding you that it’s all fiction. True Detective on a laptop was more absorbing, so much so that I was almost convinced I was actually knocking back Bourbon with a brooding Matthew McConaughey in Louisiana.
I tested my theory with Game of Thrones, which I usually watch on a computer, by trying it on a proper TV screen. But I found myself switching Khaleesi and her dragons off half-way through and getting back into bed with my tiny, bashed-up computer.
But the best reason to choose small over big screens? Watching a show on a tiny rectangle limits the number of people who might want to watch with you. I’m a reasonably social creature, but not when I’m watching my favourite drama. Of course, some TV like Britain’s Got Talent is better enjoyed in a living room with lots of hysterical laughter, but series like True Detective are too melancholic for that kind of communal fun.
And I know many others (also not hermits) who feel the same way. Fewer people means there’s less opportunity for crisp-crunching, loud texting and mundane chatting that totally ruins the mood.
So if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to enjoy my latest pint-sized instalment of gory Game of Thrones. Sorry, I can’t really hear you — I’ve got my headphones on…