"There's so much you don't catch the first time around!" . . . but I do!

I just don’t get how “there’s a lot you don’t catch the first time through” is seen as a compliment on a show (or book, or whatever), and not an insult on the awareness of the speaker.

I find that most of the things people claim that “you don’t notice the first time you watch it,” I indeed have noticed, and for that matter didn’t find particularly hidden or tough to spot.

I can’t think of any good specific examples, but someone mentioned Arrested Development in another thread, and I’ve had many people tell me that it’s better the second time around because you get to notice all the little things, like Job doing such-and-such. I just sit and wonder silently how cursory a viewing theirs must have been to have not seen that the first time through.
Which is not to say that I don’t ever get anything from revisiting literature/media. But, most of the time in regards to TV stuff I feel like the stuff people don’t notice the first time is sitting out in plain sight. Like not noticing something in a book that was explicitly written. It might have been just a sentence or two, but if you didn’t notice it it means you were actually skipping parts.

Judging a little harshly, no? You said yourself you can get things from revisiting stuff. Some folks don’t take in all of a work immediately, especially if it’s a TV show or movie that moves at its pace rather than the viewer’s.

Most often what gets overlooked is foreshadowing (“Holy crap! Now that I know Colonel Mustard was the killer, I just noticed how every time someone mentions the killer the camera cuts to Colonel Mustard!”) or details in general that may or may not be plot-relevant, but the viewer didn’t notice them because they can only focus on so many things at once before the scene is over, so when they see the scene again they already know the things they saw the first time and can therefore focus on the stuff they missed before.

Do you catch every single detail of every scene as it passes by? I suppose eidetic memory isn’t out of the question, but relevancy bias must come into play at some point causing you to ignore details you think are unnecessary at the time. If your ability to see and understand everything the first time around really is that perfect, well…bully, I guess.

For books…well, I confess to a failing on my part with books. I have a tendency to skim the beginning and end of some paragraphs occasionally, especially with longwinded authors. Often what gets skipped is unimportant and I don’t notice it until I reread the book and happen to read those paragraphs in full. Sometimes they’re plot-relevant paragraphs and I either get lost, needing to back up to make sense of it, or continue on in a muddled fashion, and on rereading I catch what I missed and suddenly everything is clearer now.

Sometimes it’s just stuff that didn’t have a high relevance rating before but does now. I’ve read the Dresden Files series…a few times now cough, but I’m going through them again after reading up on the upcoming tabletop RPG based on the series. Since RPGs tend to dissect the setting they’re based on, a lot of things were pointed out that I’m now noticing as I read the books again. I read them the first time before, but at that time they were throw-away sentences that just added flavor to the text. Now they carry more significance and they’re standing out to me more.

Actually, with respect, AD is a particularly bad example for you to uses, because there are absolutely things in there that, I don’t care how genius you are, you did not catch the first time around – because they don’t mean a thing until later on. For example:

The many references to Buster losing his hand several episodes prior to the actual seal attack.
The strong implications that Sadaam Hussein purchased houses from the Bluths.

Several other shows and movies use the same device.

Mmmm, sometimes people will use that expression to mean that the writer uses a lot of foreshadowing that you might not get until you re-watch.

Other times people will have trouble believing that not everyone likes the same things they do, and will attribute it to a lack of attention.

As a personal anecdote, I’ve watched the film* Big Fish* half a dozen times, but until the most recent viewing didn’t appreciate the significance of the girls of Spectre telling Edwin Bloom that he was “quite a catch.”

When he left his home town the Witch told him that the biggest fish in the river got that way by never getting caught.

Pretty obvious, but apparently not to me.

Maybe you’re missing other things that most other people pick up.

“Wait, what do you mean those were the droids they were looking for?!”


This might not be the best example, but it’s the one that immediately came to mind when I read the OP:

In The Sixth Sense:

It might be obvious to some, but I didn’t catch the subtle references that indicate that Bruce Willis’ character was “dead” from the start. On subsequent viewing it was apparent, but subtle enough that I didn’t catch it the first time around.

I love how your first instinct is not to think that you might be exceptional, but that everyone else has a deficiency. You may have great recall, but your logic sucks.

As for your actual question: the benefit is that we can enjoy a show multiple times. We get more use out of the show, since we can see something new on each viewing. It would only be an insult to the speaker if everybody else didn’t feel the same way.

  1. It’s GOB and it stands for George Oscar Bluth. You did catch that the first time around, right?

  2. Did you really catch that Anyeong wrote “From Hello” on the sunken Banana Stand without knowing his name was “hello” until the finale?

  3. Did you pick up that Buster had a “hand” chair before he lost his hand?