The case for binge watching television
Itâs not uncommon for a college student to spend a lazy Sunday sitting around, watching Netflix and catching up on episode after episode of his or her favorite show.
Whether itâs Friends, Pretty Little Liars, or whatever the obsession is thatÂ week, quality time spend lying in bed enjoying the same show back-to-back can prove to be an relaxing, albeit lethargic, way to spend the day.
This habit of watching television for long periods of time is so typical these days that it has even earned its own term: binge watching.Â In fact, blogger Jim Pagels has even spoken out about this form of TV watching on the blog âbrowbeatâ in an article titled âStop Binge-Watching TV.â
In the article, he lists different points explaining why binge watching is not recommended. However, while Pagels clearly believes that this way of watching television is not healthy, one thing is clear: binge watching is happening â a lot.
There are many possible reasons binge watching has taken off. For one, it works as a glorious way to procrastinate. After all, watching seven hours straight of Â Breaking Bad is far better and more enjoyable than cleaning up or writing a tedious research paper.
And anyway, after postponing the work for one episode, whatâs the harm in watching another episode, and another episode after that one? Soon it turns into an unnecessary circle of enthused laughs, mystery, fear and character obsession.
Another reason people could be continuously binge watching is because shows these days are addicting.
For example, the show Fringe, which is quite possibly one of the most underrated shows of all time, is extremely addicting â watch one episode and there is no going back.
Take a dive into an unpredictable world where shapeshifters are sent from another time, bald men witness important historical events, and another alternate universe exists.
It sounds insane and geared towards sci-fi fans, but Fringe is a show that appeals to television junkies of all tastes. In the show, a group of FBI agents explore âfringeâ events â unexpected, scientifically unexplainable phenomenons âwhile ultimately trying to save two universes (but itâs less cheesy than it sounds, of course).
Each episode has a cliffhanger that leaves the audience in agony, wanting to know what happens next. This is how binge watching gets started: After one episode, itâs hard not to continue watching to find out what the crazy, hilarious, old man fighting crime is going to do next.
Moreover, in a show like Fringe, where science fiction is combined with dramatic love stories, hilarious one-liners and character-identity formation, it is easy to become entranced by all of these elements to the point that it becomes impossible to stop watching. Hence, itâs the ideal âbinge show.â
Yet despite the reasons behind binge watching, Pagels clearly is against it for a series of reasons. First of all, he says that âepisodes have their own integrity, which is blurred by watching several in a row.â
Pagels says that two story lines exist: the one in the whole season that continues through episodes, and the one in each specific episode. This argument, hence, means that watching multiple episodes in a row can hinder the contemplation of a single episodeâs meaning and importance.
This continuing story arc, however, is the reason why people feel the need to watch the next episode right away.
In the show Smash, the episodeâs story arc is instantly addicting (for example, both Katharine McPhee and Megan Hiltyâs characters audition for the same role), so most viewers want to know more right away and continue to watch.
And contrary to what Pagels says, this doesnât ruin the storyline; instead, it can help seamlessly progress ideas and characters from one episode through the bigger story arc, making the big picture more satisfying.
The second reason Pagels criticizes this rapid form of TV watching is because cliffhangers and suspense need time to breathe. Tying in with the above, however, itâs just the opposite. After watching one episode of Smash or Fringe, the viewer might be so busy with their daily activities and other shows they might not remember important details a week later.
Especially in shows where there are so many little details and actions going on, it can be confusing to watch the next episode later on (itâs almost necessary to have a recap right before the new one).
Pagelsâ third point is that âepisode recaps and online communities provide key analysis and insight.â Unlike some of his other criticisms, this is a great point. In fact, with smartphones and the Internet, feedback about episodes and important conversations can be viewed by anyone immediately, allowing ample research into the charactersâ motives, giving greater insight into the show.
These are just a couple of reasons why Pagels argues against binge TV watching. Despite his reasons, the concept of binge TV watching is a new and ubiquitous concept that comes with studentsâ hours of Netflix obsessions and an increase in television availability.
And if a show like Smash or Fringe is so good that it makes viewers want to watch multiple episodes at a time, the folks behind the camera are doing something right. So if someone is stuck in a binging frenzy â all the power to them (after all, itâs definitely healthier than binging on cupcakes or chocolate).
Mollie Berg is a freshman majoring in communication. Her column âMollie Tunes Inâ runs Mondays.