Binge-Watching: Too Much of a Good Thing?


Editors Note: We’d like to introduce you to David Douglas, a good friend of the General Store partners and a grown man with the enthusiasm of a 12-year-old child. He’ll be chiming in with posts on TV, movies, games–basically anything except sports because he can’t be bothered to watch grown men in competition. Like Bennett, he loves comics, Marvel, and any form of entertainment that can be dispensed via 60+ inch HDTV’s. You can find him on twitter dot com at @daviddouglas268.

Your friendly neighborhood David Douglas here to bring up a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Who am I? Well, I’m a cinephile and television fanatic. I’ve been called Abed quite a lot, and I want to bring you into my love of television. As we all know, we are in an era in which regularly programmed television shows are becoming less the norm, while television shows instantly streamed are increasing in popularity. Now, this is not a bad thing, in the slightest. A favorite of mine, Netflix’s House of Cards, would fall under this category of a show that puts its entire season online without waiting between episodes. I have also started and finished seasons of shows after they have aired, and that was great because I did not have to wait a whole week before the episodes aired. I recently started and finished HBO’s True Detective within a 24-hour period. Some of you may call that unhealthy; I call that efficiency. (Let’s be real. It was only eight episodes.) Then, there’s a third category. This is the show that I’ve watched from the start, or nearly the start, which is the case for AMC’s Breaking Bad. This category is one that is a dying breed. Our society preaches instantaneity. While this is not the end of the world, I would love to appeal to the majority of you. I hope by the end of my stay on this soapbox that you’ll at least understand where I’m coming from when I say that this is not the way television should be enjoyed.

Now, before any of you thinks that this is a long rant about how Breaking Bad is the greatest show ever made, I want to tell you two things. Firstly, it is the greatest show ever made. Secondly, I will save that for another day. Let us first dive into what it looks like to binge-watch a show, from start to finish. The following is a clip from Portlandia, a hip, sketch-comedy.

While over-exaggerated, I think the video may start to bring my point across to my readers. I have binge-watched an unhealthy amount of television shows. That being said, I’m here to show you why you, as a viewer, are supposed to take it slow and enjoy television shows, and I’ll show you how it’ll change the way you view each show.

house-of-cards-netflixHouse of Cards was a fantastic show-case of great acting and an appealing story, and we did not have to wait on a week-to-week basis to marvel in all that is Frank Underwood. When the first season was released, my roommate at the time binge-watched the show in three days. I cannot say that I was more respectable. I finished it in four, and I loved it. Even when season 2 released this past February, I got together with close friends for a viewing party in which we binge-watched four episodes. It was fun. It was breathtaking. But it was fleeting. After watching the fourth episode that evening, I probably could not tell you distinct differences between the episodes. They all blended together, and I even forgot some things (albeit, minor things) that occurred in the first episode. Now, maybe that’s just my faulty brain playing tricks on me, but I think that’s how the majority of viewers feel when binge-watching television shows. There are some shows when this is fine. Let’s take The Office, for example. If you dislike The Office, you’re kindly asked to bounce from this page. [Just kidding. I need the pageviews. Please don’t leave me. (K: Seriously, he needs the pageviews or it’s curtains. CURTAINS.)] I’ll constantly throw on some episodes and keep it on for hours because laughing is fun. Comedies generally do not have heavy plots that you need to follow with your magnifying glass. They’re light-hearted and simple. Dramas, on the other hand, require a bit of focus, if they’re somewhat respectable. A good drama, and House of Cards is a great drama, should captivate you so that you’re wanting more. But no one leaves breathing room between episodes. It’s a sprint to the finish. Now, let’s take a look at the other side of the coin.

Breaking-Bad-Season-51I started watching Breaking Bad during its second season. That being said, I binge-watched one-and-a-half seasons before catching up to the live premieres. Right around the time I caught up to the show, I also started getting involved in the Breaking Bad community over at /r/breakingbad. Each week, there would be a slew of Redditors that would flock to the Breaking Bad subreddit to discuss the current week’s episode, discuss speculations, and even submit fan-art. While I was not nearly as involved as some people, I became more and more attached to Vince Gilligan and the boys due to the community of fellow “meth-heads.” Now, this is not to say that you need to find some support group for your television show addiction. This is simply saying that beauty can come in times of waiting. I had more fun speculating with people who I had never met than watching the actual show, at some points. That level of waiting was necessary for me to grow as close to Walter White and Jesse Pinkman as I did. Another tradition I do between episodes is reading reviews and others’ views on that episode. If I could recommend anywhere to go to get some great television reviews, I’d say head on over to Grantland (specifically The Hollywood Prospectus) or A.V. Club. I know plenty of people who blew through all five seasons of Breaking Bad (if you say six seasons, you’re wrong), and they grew attached to certain characters. They didn’t take their time and do some research, and they didn’t take a break between episodes. I’m not implying that you cannot love a show even though you binge-watch it. I’m stating that if you take your time, you will enjoy the experience so much more.

So, what is the solution here? Am I telling each and every one of you to ration an episode per week? Of course not. I’m not even telling you to ration to once-per-day. I’m saying that when you get down to brass tacks, you will enjoy your show-watching experience if you take breaths between episodes. I’d say that the length of the breath depends per person. I have started to wait a day between episodes, if it’s a show that I truly care about, but I also wait as little as twenty minutes between episodes. When season 3 of House of Cards eventually rears its head, I will shoot for moderation because I know that I will enjoy the experience more. I know that I’ll be able to soak in the information a bit more rather than rapidly inhaling the show.

Final Thoughts

  • Take it slow between episodes, whether this is twenty minutes, or this is a whole day.
  • Watch the shows with friends. You will enjoy it more, in the long run.
  • Go read everything on A.V Club. Seriously, it’s the best site for anything related to TV/film. (K: We do not corporately endorse the A.V. Club or any other entity that can’t distinguish the difference between Coruscant and the Imperial Palace.)

David Douglas is a Business Administration major at Georgia Tech. You could read Bennett’s bio and adjust it with descriptors like “tall,” and “hipster tendencies,” and it would be appropriate for David. In addition to sitting in his bed alone watching television, David also downloads and binge-plays any PS4 Beta he can get his dirty hands on. He then tweets about it while @’ing corporate accounts and using their hashtags.

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