Sunday, June 8, 2014 - 11:49 p.m.: I feel a little grimy, a little sleepy and just a tad guilty. I've just finished the entire second season of the Netflix original hit Orange Is the New Black in one weekend. That's about 13 hours of quality TV viewing in just two days. And on a precious, rare sunny Canadian weekend at that -- for shame!
The crazy thing is, the real reason I feel bad is because I know I just blasted through an entire season's worth of TV in a fraction of the time it would normally take, and now I have to wait until next YEAR to see new episodes. But I wear my slothful weekend as a badge of honour -- and I'm not alone.
Saturday, June 7, 2014 - 11:30 a.m.: I'm well into episode three of the series, and post a random quote on my Facebook page. Almost instantly, three friends comment indicating we're all watching the same episode at the same time. Isn't that sweet? A little community forged by people isolated in their homes, starting at their computer screens.
Bingeing is one of the more popular ways to watch TV these days. According to a survey conducted by Netflix in 2014 "73% of people define binge-watching as 'watching between 2-6 episodes of the same TV show in one sitting,'" and 61 per cent said they "binge watch regularly."
Obviously, Netflix has put this information to good use, releasing OITNB S2 on a Friday -- tricky geniuses -- knowing most people would probably spend a good half of their waking weekend hours glued to their Netflix pages. They did the same with their other runaway hit, House of Cards, the first program by an online video distributor ever to win an Emmy. Funny story -- after months of decrying that show as ridiculous, I gave it a try. I ended up watching two full seasons in a week. That's like 26 hours of television, people. Somebody slap me, I'm out of control.
Now, binge-watching is not all fun and games -- they don't call it a marathon for nothing. Sometimes you need to plan. (One of my tricks is not to binge watch with another person -- he or she might suddenly feel guilt and want to take a break, but now you've committed to watching with them and can't continue the binge. Rookie mistake.)
But I think bingeing is the best way to watch TV, especially for a show you love. Here's why:
1) Nothing's better than on-demand content
Gone are the days of waiting until next week for that cliffhanger to be resolved. Gone is the need to dash to the bathroom on commercial break -- and lord help you if you only had one bathroom and three bladder-filled viewers. You can pause to do your business, you can rewind to see your favourite monologue over and over, for god's sake you don't even have to push "next episode" -- it does it for you! Bingeing is designed to facilitate the most perfect vegetative weekend possible. Considering how much time people spend at work these days, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Sit back and keep your snacks within grabbing distance, it's going to be a great day.
2) You can't get spoiled
The best defense is a good offense. I hate being spoiled -- but what am I supposed to do, avoid the Internet?! Not going to happen. If you binge watch a show, you are unspoilable, every plot twist a surprise!
3) You don't waste your entire life watching only one show
If you get turned on to a show late in the game and the seasons are all finished and available, you have some quality bingeability on your hands. The only trouble is, five seasons of hour-long programming has the ability to take over all the TV viewing you'll be doing for the next few months if you watch, say, one episode a night. When you binge, you make headway and hit milestones with the show that leave you satisfied enough to take breaks. This leaves room for other cultural events in your life (try reading a book once in a while, OK?).
4) It makes for a very active viewing experience
This may be my theatre degree talking, but there's always a lot going on in the background of shows that you might not notice when you take week-long breaks between episodes. When the last episode is fresh in your mind (because you just watched it, like, five minutes ago) you pick up on cues and clues from the director more easily, you notice themes emerge, and you're more aware of directorial choices being made. (Anyone else notice how OITNB employed a lot more PA announcements in the background this season? I thought that was a cool and funny detail.)
5) It creates a sense of community
I know which of my friends also spent their weekends watching an embarrassing amount of television because we were all talking about it online as we watched. Bingeing ups the ante for fandom and creates a buzz and sense of excitement around the show. How excited are you to dissect a show's finer points with your friends once you all emerge from your disgusting room-caves and shower for the first time in days? So excited!
Sunday, June 8, 2014 - 2:30 p.m.: My computer starts making a funny noise. The LED light won't come on and the fan is running full blast. Like everyone, I rely on my computer more than I care to admit. The smart thing to do would be to take it to get repaired right away -- I have to work the next day, after all. Instead, I plug in my headphones to block out the loud whirring sound and tell myself I'd take it to the shop soon...
...just one more episode.