Binge watching content has become a normal part of our culture. The concept of binge watching has been around for a while, with people able to watch hours of continuous content uninterrupted on YouTube, or on DVD box sets of popular TV shows. Recently, the ability to binge watch has been worsened by the introduction of streaming platforms such as Netflix, Prime Video and the online versions of traditional television channels like BBC iPlayer and the ITV Hub. These platforms often make the entirety of a new TV show available all at once.
Just hours after a new series or film has been released, the internet is rife with spoilers. I am sure we have all been on the ball with keeping up with the latest episodes of our favourite series. When the last series of ‘Game of Thrones’ was airing, my sixth form friends and I promised not to spoil the episodes for one another, and would all watch them as soon as we got home on the day they came out. However, the show only released one episode per week. I describe streaming giants such as Netflix as worsening the habit of binge watching because I think that it is both unhealthy and an inadequate way to get the most out of a series.
I’ll admit that I’ve binge watched series in the past – my morbid fascination with ‘Tiger King’, watched in isolation, being the most recent culprit – and I can understand the novelty of doing it with documentaries, and perhaps more plot driven shows with a handful of episodes. My housemates and I recently watched ITV’s new release ‘Quiz’ in one sitting, which is made up of three 45 minute episodes.
This is probably just personal preference, but after watching TV for a couple of hours, even if I’m loving the show, I find that I get an itch to move onto another activity. I find it very difficult to watch TV for an extended length of time or tackle a whole series at once. Whenever I have done this, I find that I feel a bit rubbish mentally by the end of the process. I understand that consuming the whole of a narrative at once holds a short term satisfaction, but I believe that far more can be gained from a production if the instalments are spread out. For example, I really enjoyed the first series of Netflix’s original show ‘Sex Education’, so I watched one or two episodes a day until I gradually completed it. I feel that I appreciated the high production value of the series, and the topics that it dealt with, more for letting it sit in my mind and consuming it in smaller chunks.
I am writing in the unusual time of isolation, when students have more time than is normal on their hands, but I think it is generally unrealistic that a student of today’s university generation has the time to binge watch shows. Ultimately, I think that clicking ‘next episode’ gives us a short term sense of satisfaction, but that our time should be used in other ways than spending a whole day watching one show.