Do you binge watch? I have, a lot. My wife and I rarely find anything on TV worth watching and there are only so many movies worth seeing. So my son hooked us up with Roku. It’s a device that hooks up to your system and you get access to Netflix, Hulu, and like a dozen other services. You still have to pay any fees of course, but you can pretty much access the world. Add to this option, our cable provider which allows you to watch episodes you miss on TV, AND the digital recorder that lets you record as you go. I even have access to these on my smart phone, my wife’s Kindle, our computers, and my laptop.
It starts out with looking for something to watch. “Hey, I heard Breaking Bad was good, but we never really watched it. Look, it’s on Netflix.”
So we curl up with the hounds and check out the first episode. “Wow, that was pretty good. Would you like to see another one honey?” “Sure sweetie, why not?”
Twelve hours later in the wee hours of the morning our bodies are insisting that we stop and get some sleep. Watching episodes one after the other is like a form of visual and auditory crack. Not all shows do this of course. Some we watch for fifteen minutes and never watch again. Others though were popular for many years and have tons of episodes. Did you know that Deep Space Nine had over 170 episodes? The best and worst for me is the access to some great BBC programs. Foyle’s War was awesome! Catching up on all the Dr. Who episodes that my wife had never seen – awesome! Watching a few episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, or reliving a few original Mission Impossible shows… where does it stop?
Is this an addiction you also suffer from? I get 1,000 channels on my TV but rarely watch anything live. I usually record things and then zap the commercials. I can watch a 3 hour University of Oklahoma game in about 30 minutes now. (My alma mater – Go Sooners!) If you binge watch is that good or horrible?
Other than the obvious health concerns of sitting prolonged periods and the hygiene issues, some have noted other, artistic issues. Here are some points made by Jim Pagels at Slate:
1. Episodes have their own integrity, which is blurred by watching several in a row.
TV series must constantly sustain two narrative arcs at once: that of the individual episode—which has its own beginning, middle, and end—and that of the season as a whole. (Some shows, like Breaking Bad and The Wire, operate on a third: that of the entire series.) To fully appreciate a show, you must pay attention to each of these arcs. This is one of the defining features of television as a medium and one of the things that makes it great. A TV show is not “an imagistic tone poem,” and it shouldn’t be viewed as one.
2. Cliffhangers and suspense need time to breathe.
Taking the time to ponder which Oceanic flight 815 member the Dharma Initiative brought back to the island or why Peggy decided to tell Pete she had his baby are an essential part of the experience of a series. Take the first season of Homeland: Much of the pleasure it provided came from wracking one’s brain each week—and changing one’s mind multiple times—trying to decide whether or not Brody was a double agent. That pleasure evaporates when you simply click “play” on the next episode.
3. Episode recaps and online communities provide key analysis and insight.
Contra David Simon, TV recaps really do enhance one’s experience of a TV show. Even if you’re catching up on DVD or Netflix, you can still take the time to read recaps of nearly any episode on the A.V. Club, Hitfix, and here on Slate. They all provide great perspectives that you likely wouldn’t have picked up on your own.
4. TV characters should be a regular part of our lives, not someone we hang out with 24/7 for a few days and then never see again.
Our best friends are the ones we see every so often for years, and TV characters should be the same way. I feel like I grew up with Michael Scott, because I spent 22 minutes a week with him every Thursday night for seven years. A friend of mine who recently cranked through all eight seasons of The Office in two weeks (really) probably thinks of Carrell’s character like someone he hung out with at an intensive two-week corporate seminar and never saw again. Binge-watching reduces the potential for such deep, Draper-like relationships. While the Grantland piece argues that binges are the only way to forge “deep emotional connections,” in fact, the opposite is true.
5. Taking breaks maintains the timeline of the TV universe.
There are many exceptions to this rule, but TV series tend to place a few diegetic days between episodes and a few months between seasons. Thus, its rhythms match our own—when we watch them on their schedule. Watch an episode of Party Down a few days after finishing the last one, for instance, and notice how all the caterers have also had a few days off since their last gig. Or return to a new season of 30 Rock after a summer away, and see how the TGS writers are also returning from their vacation.
If you need to catch up with a show, here are the guidelines: Wait a minimum of 24 hours between episodes and at least a couple weeks between seasons. If one TV show doesn’t provide a full night’s entertainment for you, pick out a few programs you’ve been meaning to catch up with and watch one episode of each.
For the whole article you can read his commentary here: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/07/09/binge_watching_tv_why_you_need_to_stop_.html
I am not sure I agree with him on those points. It sounds more like the controversy when Ted Turner colorized movies that no one was watching. People started to watch them. Without Netflix, I would never have watched Breaking Bad. There had been too many seasons gone by for me to figure it out. I am SO glad I did see it. The same with Walking Dead and many other shows I only saw because I could “catch up.”
As a futurist, one has to consider what this trend will develop into when it is fully implemented. Just think, one day you will be able to watch anything, listen to any music, watch flash videos, plays, whatever you want, whenever you want, where ever you wish. As an author, that certainly gives legs to my books that did not exist when traditional publishers left you on the shelf for a few months then replaced you with a newer book. Something to think about, in between watching whole seasons…