As I spend more and more time watching shows on Netflix, and less and less watching broadcast TV, I’m coming to the slow realization that I was wrong in the past. Previously, I’ve made the argument that we lose something by binge watching shows. If every show is released in giant episode dumps like House of Cards or Orange is the New Black, we lose much of our ability to discuss it with friends in real life or strangers online.
That fact hasn’t changed. I’m currently fleeing from websites and friends alike toting their analysis of House of Cards season two because I was out of town this weekend and couldn’t binge watch the entire season like half the country. I mercifully watched the first episode before I accidentally stumbled upon a huge spoiler by editing an article by a writer on my own website.
That said, I don’t care any more. I’m over this argument, and I’m coming to realize that this really needs to be the future of television.
This has happened to be me quite a bit recently, where I’ll binge watch a show to catch up to present day, then find I don’t actually watch to watch the show live week to week.
I caught up on the last two seasons of Justified I’d missed over the course of two weeks, but when it came time to start season five on live TV? I balked. After the joyous experience that was watching a season in a few days, I didn’t want to have to wait two to three months to watch the whole of the next season. So now, I’m waiting until the end of March when the season ends, and I’ll catch up in one giant lump. I’m artificially creating a binge-watch scenario where none is supposed to exist.
I’m doing this because shows that I have started to watch week to week after binging just seem…worse. This happened with Arrow, and influenced my decision to hold off on Justified. I was quite pleased with the marathon of episodes I watched to catch up with season one and half of season two, but now? The show loses something when you’re relegated to only 45 minutes every week. Arrow is compounded by the fact that it’s a network show, meaning there’s at least 22 episodes a season. Therefore, they also take sprawling breaks for stupid reasons like holidays and the Olympics. Now a season runs for five or six months, not two or three. Even though the total running time of the episodes is the same when added all up, it’s much more preferable to finish off a show in a week than in six months.
This isn’t true for all shows. With comedies especially, I don’t know if it’s necessarily the best idea to say, watch 20 episodes of Parks and Recreation or New Girl in a few days. While I love both shows, comedy tends to lose its effectiveness when binged, I’ve found. There are exceptions like Arrested Development, but for the most part, 22 minute comedies are single-serve. I doubt many people are going back and binge watching entire seasons of Seinfeld or Friends these days. That’s now how those shows were meant to be consumed.
The same goes for procedurals, aka everything on CBS. Those shows are self-contained 45 minute ministories. Watching a ton of those back to back with only the barest of threads connecting some large plot can be exhausting. In fact, I think it’s the reason many of these shows are the ones thriving the most in this DVR/streaming era. They’re practically binge-proof.
I guess it all comes down to whether you value timely discussion and delayed gratification over convenience and expedience. I used to, but I don’t any more. I want to watch TV entirely on my own time, and I’m finding the shows I like have stories that are better told without yawning gulfs between chapters.
What about you?