I have a secret. I love to binge. No, not chocolate (well, okay, that too): I mean television. Whether it is recordings stored up on my FOXTEL iQ, shows on iTunes or the traditional DVD box set, I love nothing more than lying on the couch and soaking up as many episodes of a TV series as possible. My husband likes to limit it to two episodes a night, but that to me seems hardly worth the effort. In order to totally absorb myself in another world, I need at least three or four. My record is eight, which isn’t that hard on a rainy weekend, particularly when “one hour” network television episodes are only 43 minutes long.
During the Christmas break I was immersed in the machinations of Washington politics via the first two series of the delicious Scandal. I also winced my way through the entire first series of Banshee: in between the excessive violence and some pretty full on sex scenes there is some great characterisation and enough story twists to keep you guessing.
And it appears I am not alone. Binge-viewing has quickly become the norm. When Netflix released every single episode of its flagship drama House of Cards all at once, many argued it was only a stunt and that few viewers would want to watch the show in this way. But the numbers tell a different story. Netflix recently revealed the results of a viewer survey that showed that about half of the respondents watched the full 22 episodes of series one of House of Cards within one week. And frankly, why wouldn’t they? Drama of this quality is like a long, complex and completely satisfying movie. Once you are absorbed into the world, you don’t want to leave. You can track complex storylines more readily, you can be “of the world” that has been created. It’s escapism at its best.
You do need to be careful however. I went through a “24 phase” a few years ago, knocking off several seasons over a few weeks, watching multiple episodes back to back. I ended up with lots of bad dreams with someone constantly chasing me. My husband posits this as exhibit A in his argument about limiting the amount of binge-viewing in any one period - probably not a bad point. It is also fair to say that a show like 24 doesn’t necessarily stand up that well to constant viewing, with plot weaknesses and credibility issues becoming all the more apparent when you are watching it straight through.
So, like all things, perhaps a bit of moderation is required. Worth considering, but I’m not making any promises.