A Mouthful of Megapixels: Why Binge Watching TV is the New Big Thing

Artiii via photopin cc
Artiii via photopin cc


This post first appeared on inclassicstyle

I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not but life has gotten crazy busy of late.

Like rushing out the door to work eating a bagel and finish getting dressed, juggling the finishing touches on three presentations on your laptop while calling your mum who hasn’t heard from you in weeks (“Why don’t you ever call honey?”) BUSY.

You know, that kind of busy.

Chances are you have noticed, and in between reading Oprah’s latest book of the month, and beginning that online course in Peruvian tile painting, you’ve realised that the idea of watching TV when it is actually on your television falls into the realm of pixies, Sasquatch sightings and cell phone plans you can understand.

So what to do if you want to catch up on your favourite TV shows but can’t wait them in the traditional manner?

Well, like many people in your situation, which let’s face it is pretty much everyone in the Western world (not that you’d notice; you’re busy remember?), you’re probably going to end up watching TV in large blocks of episodes that pay no heed to schedules, reasonable times of the day or night, and yes sadly, sometimes even hygiene.



It’s a phenomenon known as Binge Watching and according to a recent study by Netflix, which knows a thing or two about watching a lot of television in one sitting – witness their releases of season 3 of Arrested Development as one example – 61 per cent of people admit to “watching between 2-6 episodes of the same TV show in one sitting.”

It also noted that the majority of people usually finish all the episodes available to them within a week of downloading them.

Furthermore, 73 percent reported feeling pretty positive about an activity that once conjured up images of people in dirty hoodies and track pants sitting unwashed for days watching their flickering TV sets in dim, dark, socially unacceptable rooms.

In fact now people are more likely to make an event of it, popping some corn, pouring some wine and settling in for a day where the only demanding activity is pressing the play button on the remote and trying to figure out which aristocratic figure is doing what to whom on Game of Thrones.

It helps these days of course that the TV programs, of which there are many of ever increasing quality, are so accessible.

While you can still go and buy as many DVD box sets as your arms can carry, increasingly people are either accessing services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus or forming long and passionate relationships with their trusty DVRs, many of which, like TiVo, know what you want to watch better than you do.

And it’s this very accessibility in our time poor, grab the opportunity to watch TV while you can lest it never come your way again lifestyles, that it driving the phenomenon.

Grant McCracken, a cultural anthropologist (this is a cool job and I want it) who was hired by Netflix to trace the evolution of binge watching had this to say about it in an interview with Huffington Post:

“TV has got better in terms of the quality of the shows, and we can now have access to them anywhere at anytime. In the old days you used to sit down and assume the posture and attitude of the couch potato, and you’d take what you got — you’d go with the best of bad options. These days I think you zero in on good shows, and they’re easy to find and easy to access.”

It means of course that the old catch up around the water cooler in the office ritual is increasingly a threatened species, if not already dead and buried in landfill somewhere.

It’s well night impossible to discuss any show these days without someone piping up with “Wait no I haven’t seen that episode yet!” or “Oh man! You’ve ruined it. I was saving the entire five seasons of Breaking Bad for my 2017 vacation!”

So tread carefully my friends and do not mention that Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) on Orange is the New Black is actually … Ow! That’s my foot you’re stomping on!

Oh you knew that? Oh right sorry …


Laura Prepon plays Alex Krause in Netflix's Orange is the New Black and you'll never guess what she ... (image via zimbio.com)
Laura Prepon plays Alex Krause in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black and you’ll never guess what she … (image via zimbio.com)


And it’s also changing the way in which writers and producers craft their shows with more and more series resorting to bigger and bigger reveals and ever more elaborate plot devices to keep people clicking onto the next episode.

TV programs, as more than one commentator has noticed are resembling books or movies more and more with the old episodic hard breaks increasingly a thing of the past.

Noted Sue McCluskey, Partner and Communications Director of GS Branding when she wrote about her own laundry-neglecting plunge into the world of binge-watching:

“On reflection, it occurs to me that the Netflix model is closer to a novel, with each episode a chapter—which is how people have consumed entertainment for centuries …

Substitute the term “binge-worthy” with “a page-turner,” and it makes sense. The feeling of binge-watching, in fact, reminds me most of a time when, as a young adult with a voracious appetite for reading, I’d complete a novel in a day, devouring chapter after chapter (“just one more, then I’ll turn the lights out,” I’d lie to myself), only to emerge, dazed, not even knowing what day or month it was, and needing a few days to shake off the desire to re-inhabit that world.”

The beauty of binge watching is that almost any show lends itself to being enjoyed in this way (although it can almost be too much of a good thing as some viewers of Arrested Development noted when they consumed all 15 new episodes in one sitting, helped by Netflix’s model which releases all the episodes of show’s new season in one sensory-overloading hit).

Concerns of over-indulging aside, it looks like binge-watching is here to stay, helped along by a surfeit of quality programming, easy access and crazy schedules which make filling that unexpected block of free time with as many episodes as you can handle mighty tempting indeed.

Just beware of spoilers and lack of spray-on deodorant in the meantime …

* Should you be tempted to surrender to bricking yourself into your living room or forgoing sleep, showers and proper nutrient intake to watch all the episodes of a show at once, you might want to note of these 9 crucial safety tips for binge-watching TV shows.


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