Binge-watching detracts from TV-viewing experience

Valentine’s Day and the long weekend for President’s Day made last weekend perfect for bingeing. No, I don’t mean the type of bingeing where you drown your loneliness and sorrow in a box of chocolate; I mean binge-watching “House of Cards.”

The highly-anticipated second season of the political drama premiered in its entirety on Netflix at midnight on Feb. 14. In the first 24 hours, 16 percent of Netflix subscribers had watched at least one episode of the show, according to Forbes, more than eight times the number of viewers that watched the series opener a year ago.

And, according to a report by Procera Networks, about 670,000 people – two percent of Netflix’s 33.4 million U.S. subscribers –  binge-watched all 13 episodes during its first weekend, about four times the number of viewers who binge-watched the first season.

Binge watching has become a common practice, particularly on college campuses, but is it worth it?

In December, the Wall Street Journal reported that a Netflix study of viewer patterns found that, among 10 “currently popular shows” including “House of Cards,” 25 percent of viewers finished an entire 13 episode serialized drama in two days and 48 percent of viewers finished within a week.

It’s certainly a great feeling when you find a show and can’t stop watching, but it’s a rough feeling when you finish.

It’s not that binge-watching is unhealthy —  I really could care less if you don’t leave your room for three days and the pizza guy is your only form of human contact. But one of the things that makes television so great and distinguishes it from movies is that viewers can form a long-term relationship with characters. Viewers grow with the characters. The high school students who started watching “Grey’s Anatomy” when it began in 2005 could have graduated from college and gone on to medical school, or gotten married and started their own families, much like the characters on the show.

But when you binge watch a show everything happens at warp speed. The three years between Meredith and Derek’s wedding and the birth of their child becomes one week in binge time. Lexie Grey appears on the show for four seasons, but in binge time, that’s just a few weeks.

But it’s not only your relationships with the characters that are different when you binge watch; it’s also your appreciation for the details. A friend recently turned me on to “Veronica Mars.” I watched all three seasons of the show in less than a month over winter break and I’ve already bought my tickets to see the movie next month.

There’s no doubt I’m a fan of the show, but when I finished, I wasn’t quite sure why fans were called “marshmallows.” 

I asked my friend, and she directed me toward two lines. The first comes from the pilot. Veronica’s friend Wallace says that, regardless of her tough exterior, on the inside, “you’re a marshmallow, Veronica Mars.” In season two Logan, echoes Wallace, describing Veronica as a girl who “smelled of marshmallows and promises.”


That’s all it was. Two lines that resonated with millions of fans but in my binge watching frenzy I just grazed over them.


The biggest problem is figuring out what you do when you’re done binge watching a show. If you’re bingeing just to catch up on a show before the next episode airs, you’re golden. But, among college students in particular, the chance of watching live TV is slim, so you’re probably binge watching an entire series. Before you know it you’re done and you’re stuck watching YouTube videos to relive your favorite moments.

But I’m not going to stop binge watching, and you shouldn’t either. But choose carefully the shows you binge watch, because your love for those shows will be more fleeting than the shows you commit to weekly.

Kate Guarino is a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism. Her blog runs Fridays.