I am unabashedly a proponent of cord-cutting. Even the idea of paying an ungodly amount for cable channels makes me a little nauseous. That said, I’m glad to have my subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. There’s plenty to choose from and I always feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. The only problem that seems to plague those of us who call ourselves “cord cutters” is the abundance of shows and movies being released every week, whether we know it or not.
This has led to the cultural phenomenon of “binge-watching”. If I’m not mistaken, this term was popularized by Netflix, going as far back as their DVD mailing service. Nowadays, binge-watching is a regular household activity. I’m sure you do it, too! I do… well, I did.
When season two of Stranger Things dropped on Netflix at the end of October, I was as excited as it seems the rest of the world was. The problem for me, though, was that my wife hadn’t watched season one. It isn’t really a rule that I can’t watch things without her, but I had an inkling that this may be a should that she would really enjoy. We had to go back and watch the first season.
We decided not to binge the entire series over the weekend, but instead watch one or two episodes each day until we had finished the whole thing. This led to an interesting experience on my part: I could actually keep track of what was going on with the show! (Amazing, right?)
As reviews came in from friends and family, I kept hearing about one episode that they “could have done without”. When we got to that episode and it was finished, my wife and I looked at each other and asked, “What was so bad about that?” Sure, it wasn’t a typical episode for Stranger Things, but it was important in the development of Eleven’s character. It was also a good set up for things I’m sure are coming in season three.
What I realized after this was that not only was I able to understand what was going on better, I was able to get the experience that the creators – be it show runners, directors, writers, etc – had planned from the beginning. There are nuances about characters and story points you’re going to miss out on and appreciate less if you’re just trying to get to the end. This is another reason why I’m working harder to put down my phone or iPad when I’m watching something and why I think movie theaters are great places for those of us trying to soak in a film.
I’ve taken this mindset into watching Hannibal, a TV series that was on NBC for three seasons. Every episode is on Amazon right now, but I’m only watching one or two episodes in a sitting. There’s a lot to digest in them (pun intended). If I were to binge them, I’m missing out on small pieces of character and story development that would lose me a season and a half in. Even watching them in small doses, I still find myself having to think back to previous episodes and finding that… um… connective tissue.
What do you think about this idea of not binge-watching? If you enjoy binging the latest season of a show, what do you find appealing? Let me know in the comments.
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