My failed attempts at binge-watching (Varsity column #3)

From Varsity issue no. 777, published 14/02/14.

Netflix

Nightmare on Netflix

Let’s talk about binge-watching, the condition that involves losing a few days of your life to a television drama. Last August Kevin Spacey heralded it as the future of television, claiming audiences were no longer prepared to wait a week for a new episode when they could just as easily watch three more there and then.

There’s also the counter-argument: television viewing is a shared experience. It’s about watching a show then discussing it avidly for the next week; look to Broadchurch as a prime example – and isn’t Downton Abbey just an excuse to get together for bit of an eye-roll? Not nearly as many people would watch it if whole series were available on demand. Broken jam jars and scheming under-butlers aren’t enough to sustain a proper binge. That was Spacey’s point, actually. He claimed that the Netflix format helps to nurture quality dramas that have longevity. He cited The Sopranos and Breaking Bad as examples of productions that reached their pinnacle only by their third or fourth season. Dramas like these are the future, he argued, and their place is online.

Great. I’m all in favour of an abundance of quality drama. The problem is, I’m rubbish at binge watching. Ridiculous, I know. How can you be rubbish at sitting motionless in front of a screen for the best part of five hours? You can’t. But it’s not the watching I’m having trouble with. It’s the getting started.

It being the penultimate term of final year, I decided it was about time I renewed my Netflix subscription. I’d had an epiphany whilst half-heartedly procrasti-watching a mediocre episode of Mr Selfridge: I could be enjoying a truly decent drama. Off to Netflix I went. I was going to watch The Good Wife. I’d also heard great things about Orange Is The New Black. But realistically how long could I dodge conversations about Breaking Bad? Likewise House of Cards? Then again, The Bridge was meant to be fantastic. I panicked and wound up watching Tangled instead. A couple of days later, I took to Facebook to solve my dilemma. To which, I asked, should I sell my soul? Naturally, five people suggested six different dramas, with one adding helpfully that ‘Breaking Bad will ruin your degree.’

I was back to square one. My inner-finalist knew I should only commit to one. I just couldn’t decide which would cause the least damage. That’s the advantage of Mr Selfridge, you see: it’s controlled viewing. Taken once a week with dinner, and middling enough to prevent addiction. So I think I’ll steer clear of the binge – until June, that is. Maybe being indefinitely unemployed won’t be as bad as I’d anticipated.

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