I can’t help but wonder if other people do this: any time I find a TV show, or podcast, or book or magazine or any kind of media that I like, I feel compelled to catch up on all back issues before I move ahead. Like, if I catch an episode of an interesting TV show, I want to watch all of the previous episodes before seeing any more new ones, so I know the back story. When I find a new podcast, I want to listen to all the previous episodes, and the same with books by some author. I feel like I’m missing something if I don’t get the whole back story.

Arrested Development is a great explanation for this. That show constantly referred back to previous events and made countless in-jokes and callbacks. People that didn’t see the previous episodes would miss half the jokes, and that’s probably why it failed - people who watched the show were undying fans, but anyone who came into the middle of the series wouldn’t find it entertaining.

Increased serialization of TV shows may lend to this. For example, I wouldn’t bother to start watching Lost, or Heroes, or The Wire without catching up on the old episodes, because I would be missing big parts of the back store. This seems to be true of most popular shows these days, and not just those that are generally considered to be serials like that - even sitcoms like The Office and My Name Is Earl have a good deal of back story that come up in jokes and plot lines again and again.

Maybe other people don’t feel the need to catch up like this, but I almost never take people up on it when they recommend a TV series to me, because I know I won’t be able to enjoy it without first putting in the time to get caught up. Entertainment is hard work.