The hit series Dexter finally came to a close last night. (No spoilers here, I promise.) I didn’t love the show, but I stuck with it. Here’s why.
Dexter, the hit Showtime Networks program about a blood-spatter expert who doubles as a serial killer ended last night. Like countless other cable TV nerds, I’ve been faithful to the show since season one, episode one broadcast on Oct. 1, 2006.
This is not to say that I thought the show was especially good. I was keen at first, but by the end of the second season I’d come to the conclusion that the only thing worse than the acting on the show (save for the impressive lead, Michael C. Hall) was the writing the actors were forced to breathe life into.
I started watching Dexter because I thought Hall was strong in Six Feet Under and because the new show struck me as unique in a way that prime time television seldom is. The ick factor never bothered me. (It was gory, to say the least.) In fact, the fuss about the show’s premise only hardened my view about it. I became invested.
So as time passed, and Hall was reduced to mouthing awful lines about his “dark passenger,” I found it hard to turn Dexter off.
What’s all this got to do with today’s economy? Well, my undying (sorry) loyalty to this mostly juvenile show was a neat illustration of a useful economics concept called sunk cost dilemma. I couldn’t stop watching Dexter for the same reason business leaders resist discontinuing failed product lines, or consumers hesitate to sell a car after too many trips to the repair shop.
I couldn’t get my head around stopping my project (watching Dexter) because the promise of future success (better writing and acting) remained intact for me. I knew the show wasn’t likely to improve, but stopping meant admitting that my sunk costs had been wasted.
The flip side of all this is opportunity cost. That’s what I gave up by continuing to watch the show. There was almost certainly a better use for my time. Just as the business leader could invest her resources more productively and the consumer could purchase a more cost-effective mode of transportation. This is another key economic concept. Resources will always be limited, so the choices we make about how to employ them are important.
Speaking of which, I have to get back to work. If I get home early enough, I can catch up on Boardwalk Empire.
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