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The Blessings and the Curses of Binge-Watching

Are we missing something special when TV is on all-access, all of the time?

Back in the heady days of just a few years ago, any exciting TV show would be an event. True, no need for a black tie or a cocktail dress, but an event nonetheless. You know what time it’s due to start; you know to either re-arrange your schedule or to set the recorder, and you could plan in advance.

Yet, there was more to be gained by waiting week by week for the next installment.

With streaming services being so ubiquitous, we can indulge in episode after episode, getting to the end of the story in record time. Sure, everyone loves to get to the conclusion of a riveting book, and we turn the pages with fervor and diligence, but TV is a different medium and should be treated in an opposite manner.

When the world’s bestselling author Stephen King released his classic The Green Mile (later made into a movie), he did so in a serialized format. Instead of just one long book, each month, the audience waited expectantly for the next mini-novella. In both the U.K. and the U.S., queues formed outside local booksellers, and the conversation in the line was bubbling with excitement.

And what were we talking about? The plot, our expectations, our reading habits … it had truly become an event. When we indulge in binge-watching, we miss out on two important aspects that add to the enjoyment.

  1. The ability to discuss our impressions of the show. We have made an often-solitary practice even more lonesome.
  2. The opportunity to think about what we have been watching.

This second point is perhaps the more essential. When we used to watch shows on a weekly basis, we could digest the material better. Of course, many modern shows (and classic shows for that matter) do not have much in the way of subtext, but that does not mean they are unworthy of examination.

Most of all, we have tossed the ideas of suspense and deferred gratification on the scrapheap. This disservice to ourselves impacts our engagement and enjoyment.

Let the tension build, let the story grip you, and, wherever possible, share the trepidation with friends and family.

~

Read more from Mark Angelides.

Read More From Mark Angelides

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