When getting to know someone, it is customary to ask a lot of questions, a lot of which center around an either-or situation. For example, the constant debate between whether a person is more particularly fond of the curiosity and independence of cats, or the perkiness and loyalty of dogs. But right now, on the minds of the younger generation is the changing debate of TV versus movies. I can confidently say that if you were to ask my preference between TV and movies, I would always choose TV. Though I used to be much more of a movie fan, the modern availability of TV makes it my ideal escapist relaxation tool, filling my binge viewing needs in a way the cinematic world cannot.
As a child, I would have to be available for a specific time slot every week in order to stay in touch with my favorite TV programs. At age 15 and below, no one really has any commitments that would require them to be away from their favorite programs at that time. The only real constraints on my TV and movie viewing habits were bedtimes and age limits, none of which ever affected my personal TV time. But, as I grew, so did my schedule and the amount of TV shows I wanted to watch. I swung over to the movie side, being confidently able to make that commitment once or twice a week for an hour and a half, and finally having the ability to go the movies without my parents.
But now, I am fully back on the side of TV, all thanks to binge viewing. In keeping with the traditional definition of bingeing, bingeing in the world of TV is watching a large number of episodes of the same TV show in a row. It could be just three episodes in a row, but its usually many more. My personal record lies somewhere around 17 consecutive 20-minute episodes, I am half ashamed and half proud to say.
With binge viewing, the story almost never ends. As is trending in many different forms of media, binge viewing is just another way that viewers have control over their TV watching. The suspense created by that cliffhanger season finale is easily resolved by simply continuing on to the next season just five minutes after the episode has ended. In one sitting you can complete a small arc in a plot or even an entire season. A story that would take a regular viewer months to go through as the episodes are shown weekly on TV now only takes a binge viewer a week or less to go through. It has gotten rid of suspense, increased TV addiction, and really made keeping up with TV shows viable for everyone.
Recently, Breaking Bad, a highly popular series about a dying high school chemistry teacher who has turned to selling methamphetamines, came to an end. Though a lot of viewers only knew about the series after watching season of it on Netflix, it has been one of the most talked about series of the past few years. The weeks and days leading up to the series finale on September 29th, my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds were all filled with the regular quotes, favorite memories, statuses of overwhelming anticipation and sadness, but mostly notifications on how many episodes of Breaking Bad people had watched in a row. It was amazing to see, really. Many people watched the series in its entirety in less than 2 weeks, some for the first time, and some for the third. But, thanks to services like Netflix and variety of illegal streaming websites, this bingeing is entirely possible. In fact, it’s more than possible, it’s the norm.
Another friend transitioning from college posted on Facebook about a week ago: “Post-college life: work, Netflix, and sleep. Mostly Netflix.” She has been talking to me for the last few days about Orange is the New Black, a made for Netflix series. Just yesterday she came into obsessed announcing she had finished the series. When I asked her how long it took her, she said with a sly smile, “Two days.” That means, with a full time job, she managed to watched 13 one-hour episodes in just two evenings after work. That’s impressive.
“Guess how many episodes of TV I just watched!” has definitely become the new “Guess how many slices of pizza I just ate!” It’s here, there, and everywhere and people are not afraid to take part in the epidemic. Though it is an unfamiliar and seemingly unhealthy concept to older generations, it has all too common for my generation.