Every Episode Ever: Thoughts About TV Completism

Persons Unknown, NBC

My son and I liked NBC’s short-lived, suspenseful Persons Unknown so much, we had to watch the last two episodes online after NBC had given up on it, even when we hadn’t. The cast included Chadwick Boseman (42), Daisy Betts (Last Resort), and Alan Ruck (Bunheads!). Not pictured: Reggie Lee from Grimm.

In my childhood, seeing every episode of a TV series was next to impossible. Series were allowed to last for at least a full year, even multiple years — no instant cancellations after two failed airings — which meant you really had to maintain long-term dedication in order to catch a show in its entirety from pilot to finale. Syndicated reruns were kindly kept in chronological order but always skipped episodes. Woe betide the star-crossed younger viewers who found their viewing rituals disrupted by finicky parents who controlled the channel dial. Also, sometimes I liked playing outside with friends instead of keeping appointments with my favorite small-screen characters. No, really. That used to be a thing.

In this present age of DVD boxed sets, TV series completism is easier than it’s ever been in world history. Buy a complete-series set (or collect seasons one by one as funding permits); set aside multiple weekends for binge-viewing; repeat until you’ve become an authority on the series long after it departed the airwaves. Cable networks provide reruns of many series for your catch-up pleasure, if you’re patient enough to wait until the ones you missed take their turn. Even easier to complete are those fledgling upstarts that grab your attention, air two or three episodes, and find themselves axed by ill-tempered TV execs who’d rather be flooding the airwaves with cost-effective reality stunts instead.

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