Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Perils of Binge Watching

Binging on food is bad. Binging on booze is bad (allegedly). Binging on credit card shopping sprees is bad. Basically, anything you can do that can be described with the word “binge” is frowned upon. Except for watching TV and movies, in which case binging is considered a selling point.

I prefer to watch TV shows after they run on TV. This way you get to skip the blasted commercials, watch at your own pace, and basically take control of your own entertainment schedule. This works for me.

But what doesn’t work for me is binge-watching. Maybe it’s a young man’s game, or maybe I broke my binge-bone, but in any event I have come to the realization that binging out on TV is no bueno.

You Don’t Chug Champagne

Remember those wonderful nights in your youth where you and your pals would just chug Boone’s Farm wine straight from the bottle? More than likely in a parking lot of some kind? Even though it’s a fond memory, you still know better than to try the same thing with a magnum of fine bubbly.

Champagne needs to be savored. You sip it, you admire the taste on your tongue, the way the fizz tickles your throat, and the way it gets your light headed with surprising quickness. Guzzling out of a beer bong would only detract from the experience.

And how, pray tell, is Breaking Bad any different?

It’s a textured show, with intricate plot lines, unpredictable stories, and mind-blowing acting (don’t take 
my word for it, ask Sir Anthony Hopkins; if he were any more of a Breaking fanboy he’d be wearing Aaron Paul’s face as a mask). Why on earth would anyone not want to savor its excellence?

Sure it’s great, and sure you can watch an entire season in one sitting… but Snickers bars are great too, and
common sense tells you not to eat 12 of them in one sitting.

What happens if you do? You stop enjoying them, and start forcing them down your gluttonous maw mechanically, with no more joy.

And that, my friends, leads to the death of loving something great.

It’s Great and I Just Don’t Care

Netflix has two very, very good original shows that I have yet to finish watching. Orange is the New Black, and House of Cards. I won’t give plot summaries for them, because I assume you do not live under a rock. But you know the ones I mean.

Both shows were met with a wave of critical success, and a tsunami of binge-watching. Caught up in the swell, I grabbed onto the bandwagon and climbed aboard.

Both experiences were uncannily similar – on the first exposure to these excellent shows, I binged. I watched 3 episodes of House of Cards in one sitting. When the credits rolled, on instinct I hit NEXT to start the following episode.

About five minutes into it, I paused it. That was three weeks ago, and I haven’t gone back yet. It’s not that I didn’t like the show – in fact I’d be hard pressed to give a negative assessment of any of what I saw – it was just too much of the same thing.

Soon after, I sampled Orange. What a treat that pilot was; smart and funny, yet still well conceived and dramatic. I immediately plowed into the second episode, and the third…

I was chugging the champagne, and it gave me an Orange headache. As I finished that third episode, I said “maybe from here on out I’ll just watch one a week.”

Just because you live in America, and are used to over-indulging, doesn’t mean that you should. And while there are many good reasons to avoid binge-watching tv shows, ultimately there is only one that really matters:

What’s the damn hurry?

Unlike champagne, and unlike Snickers bars, truly great tv shows are not in infinite supply. There are not dozens of warehouses filled with pallets of great stories. They are actually pretty rare.

They are so rare that even shows which are merely “decent” or “pretty good” will get lumped in with
the great ones, simply to shore up the numbers. There are 100 episodes of Fringe, and there won’t be any more. Breaking Bad and Dexter, Twin Peaks and Sopranos,  are all finished and finite.

If you chug them now, you’ll be left with nothing good to drink for a while. So why not slow down the pace, savor every episode, and enjoy them while you can.

And when you run out of champagne, then go back to chugging the Boone’s.  Or in this case, Revolution.

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