Monday, June 9, 2014

Binge Is The New Black

by Megan S.

What was I doing at 5:40 this morning? Finishing the last episode of Orange Is The New Black's second season.  I would have rather have been sleeping for another 20 minutes, yet there I was glued to screen in the predawn darkness of my bedroom.  In the last eight days, I had managed to watch every other OITNB episode and I wanted, no, needed to finally finish the damn thing, not because I loved every minute (which I did, don't get me wrong), but because I felt compelled to complete it before I went to work.  And I'm not so sure that's a good thing.

Portlandia on the binge watching experience.

There are a number of additional reasons we binge watch. Instant gratification is at the top of the list. There's no need to wait to see how a cliffhanger plays out when you can immediately dive in to the next one. Boredom, convenience, and wanting to catch up are also factors.  But today, I just wanted to finally be free of that nagging feeling of a task left unfinished. Watching had become a chore.

Despite the growing popularity and ease of binging, the act of consuming multiple episodes of any given show over a short period of time has a number of downsides.  This is especially true for genre shows known for their complicated plots and layered metaphors. The first problem is it sucks the fun out of discussing the show with other fans.  What's the point in speculating what will come next when your friends aren't at the same point in the storyline as you are and the answers are a play button click away? Another complication is the lack of time to digest information.  I for one don't find it easy to remember nuances and discover details when I'm moving so quickly between storylines.

What I find most detrimental, however, is my waning enthusiasm when episodes aren't being doled out week to week.  The lack of new material means there is nothing to sustain my fandom love until the next season is released.  Absence doesn't always make the heart grow fonder; it can make it easier to forget it all together.

Maybe I'm in the minority here.  Enabling binge watchers is clearly working for Netflix.  The company's other original programing including House of Cards and genre show Hemlock Grove also have multiple seasons under their belts. What do you think?  Does binge watching work for you?
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