Once upon a time, water cooler chat was a company-wide thing. Anyone could gather in the kitchen during their coffee break and talk about last night's TV show. Gags and allusions to TV twists caused team-wide laughter or nods, and no one would really feel left out, since most would have watched the same thing. Nowadays, it's a whole different story. The market is so incredibly segmented. For some years now, there are hundreds of channels, catering to niche interests. On top of this, Sky Plus and other video recorders are growing in popularity, adding to the mix by enabling us to watch whenever we fancy it. "If you tell me what happened in last night's Lost episode, I'm going to have to kill you!"
To cause further fragmentation, YouTube and Google Video's user- generated content is beginning to rival commercially and professionally produced content in terms of appeal, watchability (let's pretend that's a word, mmkay?) and entertainment value. With broadband infiltrating British homes at the rate of 70,000 a week, downloading videos, movies or TV shows is becoming easier than ever.
In recent months, the only shows I can think of that have had wide enough appeal to reach across these itty bitty fragments have been Lost and Top Gear, really. (As an aside, if my license fee goes to financing the largest non-commercial rocket launch attempt in European history, I'm all for it!)
Otherwise, an unexpectedly popular topic of conversation is still the Nintendo Wii, which seems to have racked up fans from all ages and interest groups and endures as the best source of evening entertainment.
Personally, I'd be quite happy to see the couch-potato era come to an end to be replaced by interactive media and entertainment. Maybe the next water cooler chat will have to do with our tennis score next time.