Binge Culture

Family room

the scene of all my binge watching

On Sunday, as I watched my seventh straight episode of The Americans, Daniel walked into the room and mentioned how he didn’t even remember the pivotal scene that was on the TV, even though he watched it a week earlier. He finished the show and moved on to bingeing Killing Eve. What he watched a week ago might as well have been another lifetime. It made me think about how we consume media in a way that is very similar to the problematic way many of us have consumed food. We need to take in everything as quickly as possible. We will get to the chores or the work another time or another day. But today we are going let loose and binge watch.

I love binge watching as much as anyone. But it makes me a little sad. There was something special about waiting a week to see one episode of your favorite show. Then everyone would be chatting about Dawson’s Creek or Friends before school. We would marvel over an unexpected plot turn or relive our favorite jokes, then we would wait in anticipation for next week.

These days, you risk severing friendships if you talk about a TV show before painstakingly verifying everyone in the room has caught up on the latest season. If you want to give an opinion on a surprising plot twist, etiquette dictates everyone within 100 yards receives a spoiler alert telegram before you open your mouth. TV is at once too precious to spoil and too disposable to savor.

Technology has improved our lives immensely. Everything is getting easier. Everything is at our fingertips. But I worry that our relationship with media is becoming problematic like my own impulses with food. We consume so much, so fast—is it even leaving an impression? When nothing is savored, is it really being enjoyed?

I will ponder that right after the next episode :)

How do you watch TV? Do you like to watch shows week to week (one episode at a time) or binge watch? What have been some of your favorite recent TV shows? I am absolutely loving this last season of The Americans.

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14 thoughts on “Binge Culture

  1. Bethany

    I really overdid it on the tv/movie binges and recently started reading more. The fatigue is real.

    BTW, your living room is so cute. I had that same coffee table, I think, from overstock. Be careful because the top dings up sooo easily, and it’s actually like a sticker on top, not a veneer!

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  2. Marjorie

    I couldn’t agree more. I still remember being so excited for Thursday nights to watch the next episode of Seinfeld and Friends. It was practically an event! In fact my then-boyfriend and I took off work on Thursdays to watch Must See TV Thursdays back in those days.

    Although it’s still doable if you discover a good show early on in its run. And I rarely binge watch unless I’m desperate to get caught up to new episodes as they air, which is where I found myself several seasons in to The Walking Dead, so I binged that one.

    Current show I recommend: The Handmaid’s Tale. Bingeworthy shows if you haven’t already seen them: The Killing (US version) and True Detective season 1. Season 2…meh.

    BTW, I’m almost finished listening to your audiobook. LOVE it. Thank you for your candidness. Definitely good for the soul for those who struggle with eating disorders.

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  3. Deb

    I can do both. I don’t usually have time for binge watching but I didn’t have time to sit down at schedules times each week either (3 kids, work full time) however the magic of NETFLIX has solved my problem and I now enjoy watching during my commute to work. I was recently sick and indulged in binging shows but I was a bit depressed at the end of it when it was finished. I’m currently watching a show that is released weekly and find myself feeling joy on a Sunday when I remember that a new episode is coming out that night.

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  4. Christine

    This conversation also makes me think of how the DVR changed our lives. I rarely watch live TV anymore. Even if watching a current show, I DVR it so that I can fast forward through the commercials!

    My husband and I recently finished SHAMELESS on Netflix. He has been home with me as I have been recovering from surgery so we had a lot of time to kill (aka BINGE TIME). When we got to the end of the Netflix run, we were beside ourselves. What do we do next? How do we actually WAIT until the next season comes out?

    Not proud, but my 9 year old recently watched “A Series of Unfortunate Events” …..I mean binged, as well. Maybe it took 10-14 days, but that was her TV for time. That’s the way it works now.

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  5. Juliana @ Urban Simplicity

    I don’t own a television, so all my programs come binge-ready, but I rarely do that anymore. I used to binge-watch when I was nursing constantly and stuck in a chair (ahem, Grey’s Anatomy). Now I tend to watch an episode at a time (possibly two, if it is a shorter episode) and wait a day or two to continue. I tend to get pretty invested in the shows I watch, so sometimes I have to take breaks to really take in what I’ve seen (The Americans is a wonderful show, but super intense, so I’m still in season five, watching a little at a time). I have the same thing with TURN. I watched (and rewatched) the first three seasons because I wasn’t ready to move on to season four. I try to savor Outlander (and appreciate that it comes week by week) for the same reason.

    I find when I binge-watch a program, as with bingeing on food, it leaves me unhappy and unsatisfied after, so I’ve tried to be more disciplined. (That said, I do sometimes binge a season of a show over several days’ time).

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  6. sarah

    There is a great Portlandia episode about this and Battlestar Galatica. You should watch!
    Hope you are feeling well. big hugs

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  7. Karen

    How very true! I remember when TV mini-series were a huge thing and everyone at work would be talking about what happened the night before. Those days are over, sadly. I do love to watch my shows with no commercial interruptions but I agree, it is hard to turn off the TV (especially at night when I should be going to bed) just to watch ‘one’ more.

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  8. Judy

    I didn’t know about 24 when it was on. I binge watched all the seasons after I moved to CA and was having a hard time adapting to leaving WA state. Tony and Jack saw me through. LOL

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  9. Rebekah

    I’d never thought about binge watching TV as being similar to binge eating food, but it totally makes sense!

    Fortunately (unfortunately?) I don’t have Netflix/Hulu, etc., but I do have cable and am a DVR queen. My husband and I are guilty of watching so many shows week to week that we sometimes watch TV for 3-4 hours per night, which is also not healthy.

    He’s been on a business trip for the last 12 weeks (yes, TWELVE) and it’s amazing how much less TV I’ve watched. I only watch TV a couple of nights per week, right before bed. I feel like I’ve got a new lease on life and we are actually talking about getting rid of cable when he comes home (in two weeks)!

    It’s really made me more mindful of my screen time and how life is too short to squander not doing things you love!

    Thanks Andie for this reminder also!

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  10. Lois Erdmann

    I have caught onto to a few programs after the fact. I love it that I can get up to speed binge watching it. Some days it is just nice to cozy up to a good series. I can do the same thing with a good book.

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  11. Dana

    Depending on what I’m doing, I may go through two or three shows on Netflix and/or Hulu where I watch one episode of each per night (if I’m watching, and I don’t every night), and it’s almost like the old days with nighttime TV. If I’m watching something I really want to catch up with I’ll hit two episodes a night. We might do the bingeing like you’re talking about on the TV (when I watch at night, people are in bed and I’ve got my laptop in my lap with earbuds and I’m crocheting or knitting) when everyone’s still awake and just hanging out together, but it’s usually something we have already seen, so being distracted is not a big deal.

    The nice thing about streaming shows instead of bingeing food is that you can go back and watch something over if you missed an important detail the first time. I also like having the closed-captioning. Very helpful, since these days actors try to speak more realistically instead of enunciating like they would have done in plays and old TV shows, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up, especially if there’s a lot of background noise.

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  12. Belle

    When I was pregnant with my daughter, I binge watched Gray’s Anatomy from Season 1! My husband was worried that our daughter would recognize the theme tun music from hearing it in the womb.

    I do think the point you raise here, Andie, is very astute. My husband and I now have a rule that we will never watch more than two episodes of any show in one sitting – ideally we keep it to just one. Everything in moderation :-)

    http://www.thislifeisbelle.com/

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