Death of the Water Cooler

It happened with Cheers. It happened with Seinfeld. It happened with The Sopranos, Friends, ER, and so many others.

After the series finale aired, I joined my work colleagues at the water cooler the next morning to discuss the ending with fervor, happiness, or outrage. I loved hearing my colleagues’ reactions to what the rest of the world was talking about. Most recently, with the latest beloved American sitcom taking its final bow, How I Met Your Mother, I was very excited to get to the office to talk about all the highs and lows of the series finale.

But stop right there. “SPOILER ALERT!” was yelled into my face when I dared mention the anticipated discussion. “Don’t you dare…” was the common theme of the morning, as several of our Millennial employees hadn’t seen it. What? They missed the most anticipated finale of their own generation's favorite sitcom?! “I DVR’ed it,” I heard, or even worse, “I’m just going to wait until it’s on Hulu or Netflix.” I began to worry that my water cooler discussion wouldn’t happen for months. In a generational pop culture vacuum that is BridgeWorks, this felt almost uncalled for.

Now, mind you, the water cooler (or for many, the Keurig machine) morning discussions have changed significantly over the years because every generation watches live TV differently.

Xers see all the promos and read all the online reviews to know exactly what will happen. We know what Survivor has the best chance to outlast the other backstabbers and what big name star is going to get killed off on The Good Wife finale.

Busy Boomers may not catch it live but will watch the online recap Last Night on TV that showcases the entire night of TV in about four minutes.

And Millennials fall into two camps. They are either 1) watching it live while also chatting with their legion of Facebook friends/commenting in real time through tweets, or 2) waiting to watch on Hulu, Netflix, or YouTube.

I realize that we’re all watching the series finale at some point, but technology has given us the power to choose when we do so. Families gather on Fridays to watch the Modern Family episode that aired on Wednesday, Millennials wait to binge-watch an entire series one weekend with their roommate, and Xers like me prefer to watch it live. And it may be hard for this Xer to say “back in my day,” but back in my day, we knew that Seinfeld was on at 8pm central time on Thursday night and we made darn sure we were in front of the TV if that was our favorite must-see TV program. But it seems that the generation often stereotyped for their impatience is patient when it comes to TV. I may not be able to relate to this Millennial mindset, but I can understand it.

I will continue to mourn the death of the water cooler. It’s a Keurig and House of Cards world now and that takes adjusting.

So, I will wait for my Millennial colleagues to catch up and talk the end of How I Met Your Mother in July. I guess I have to possess that same “patience” that I ask my kids to have when they’re waiting for their birthdays or summer vacation.

How do you watch TV these days? Do you have the patience to wait and discuss when everyone else is ready?