Episode by Episode: The Story is in the Phone
One of the truly great things about those last lazy days of August is our ability to sink softly into the sofa and binge on old and new-to-us television series, uninterrupted by duty or commercials. I mourn their passing, as much as I leap up to the refreshing joys of lower temperatures and invigorating breezes hinting at fall and returned phone calls on the horizon. Of course, there is no real rest from noticing cultural nuances, whether the insight dawns during an admitted completist’s return to Pretty Little Liars, The L Word or Downton Abby.
We all wonder: Wither Retail. I suddenly had an (albeit minor) epiphany last month as I careened from one seven or eight season series to the next. Pretty Little Liars came to a halt this year after seven seasons. Meaning it arrived in 2010 and left in 2017. The L Word lasted six seasons, from 2004 to 2009. Both of these were contemporary stories: The characters and stories exist in the eras in which they appear. Downton Abby, on the other hand, is a period drama, spanning the years from 1912 to 1926.
What struck me this time through them is, in the first two cases, how little the fashion changed from one year to the next. Even watching them now, there are no glaring fashion faux pas or shocks to the system. What did change: The phones. When both Pretty Little Liars and The L Word came to the TV set, it was the flip phone era. When they left, they exited with smart phones in hand. Even the cursory viewer of Downton Abby, on the other hand, sees the remarkable evolution of fashion as the leading visual cue of time’s progress. Yes, there are telephones arriving, and horse drawn carriages departing, but gee-whiz, the wardrobes of men and women were in far more motion.
I can’t help but hypothesize that perhaps another leading indicator of retail’s declining relevance is we’re just not that into badging ourselves through fashion or other one-time bastions of excitement and identity, preferring to obsess in their stead to just one thing: Fashion accessory, statement and toy for all ages. Indeed, Toy For The Ages. Thus does the Apple Store swallow the old FAO Schwarz iconic outpost on 58th Street and Toys ”R” Us suggests bankruptcy may be just around their corner.