"Play It Again, Sam": Repeated Exposure to Television Programs
Percy H. Tannenbaum Graduate School of Public Policy and Survey Research Center University of California Berkeley
Devoted Humphrey Bogart fans may argue about whether he actually muttered (through clenched teeth, of course) the now immortal words of the above title in Casablanca. They agree, however, that the film's protagonist wanted to hear the tune (titled coincidentally, given our topic, "As Time Goes By") time and again -- just as they, the aficionados, return to see the film at every opportunity. Many can recite whole strings of dialogue, wax on about plot and character development, even camera angles in critical scenes, and so forth. Nevertheless, that intimate familiarity does not deter them in the least from going out of the way to view the film repeatedly in revivals or on television.
That, I suppose, is what being a devoted fan is all about: There is never too much of a good thing. Not only are repeated exposures not dully redundant, but they are apparently intrinsically rewarding and whet the appetite for more of the same. In this case, familiarity breeds renewed commitment rather than contempt.
Is this a unique phenomenon, or does it apply as well to other ordinary daily activity? At least, does it apply to other media activity, especially television fare? Are the followers of certain series and regular prime time programs equally "hooked" on their favorite shows? Do they become devotees of a program and watch it regularly, even religiously? Given the opportunity, will they choose to see the same episode of a favorite program repeatedly?
These may not be the most compelling questions to ask regarding the functions of the media in our social existence. However, they do take on more significance when we try to understand the role of entertainment and play in our individual and collective lives. These are critical components of contemporary popular culture, so much of which is conducted in terms of vicarious experiences delivered through the mass media, primarily through television. The role that the