An Argument in Favor of Binge-Watching (crawfishing on an earlier statement)

Back on January 1, 2020, which seems a lot longer ago than it should, I published a post titled An Argument Against Binge-Watching (Happy New Year!) in which I outlined the reasons I prefer not to binge-watch television or streaming series.

I stand by those reasons. The Macmillan Dictionary blog defines binge-watching as the “now common practice of watching many episodes of a television show in a single sitting.” I have done this in the past, but have discovered that the practice actually leeches some of my enjoyment of the series in the process. I’ve flat out stopped watching some series that my wife and I were bingeing, like Orange is the New Black. I most recently binge-watched the series Supernatural, watching fourteen seasons of the show in about a year. Technically, however, that wasn’t binge-watching either. I would watch five episodes each week, on average, but not in a single sitting. It was still probably too much. I went from loving the series to just liking it most of the time. I think my opinion of the series would have remained higher if I had watched only one or two episodes per week. Familiarity breeds contempt, I’ve heard.

In that previous post, I revealed my plan to watch no more than two episodes a week of any series going forward. I watch a lot of different television series. You may have noticed. But, my working plan is to watch no more than two episodes of all series each day. Doing the math, that means I watch fourteen episodes a week. A typical weekly schedule would have me watching two episodes a week each of The West Wing, Shameless, and Hell on Wheels, for instance, and then one episode each of eight other series. I don’t even make allowances for whether the episode is a 30-minute or hour-long show.

Do I always follow this plan? No. My philosophy is that we make plans so that we have something to deviate from. Things come up. Priorities change. And with all this unwanted free time on my hands currently, I sometimes watch more than two episodes a day. Usually, I’ll watch things that never made it to my plan, like series that I want to take for a test drive before committing it to my longterm plans, or documentaries and movies that I tend to watch fifteen or twenty minutes at a time. So, while I always have fourteen slots on my weekly watch schedule, it usually ends up being much more.

But, not through binge-watching.

I like the variety of watching a lot of different things. I have no problem compartmentalizing my knowledge of each separate series. In fact, it helps keep my mind engaged in all of the shows. This pathology spills over into other things in my life as well. I seldom have only one writing project at a time, and switch off from one to another as I find my energy flagging. I also read more than one book at the same time. Okay, not at the same time, that would be weird. I mean, I have several books that I’m in the process of reading and switch off between them. At the moment, I’m rotating my way through seven books, fiction and nonfiction. This is a lot, even for me, and it doesn’t even account for the comic book trade paperbacks that I’m also reading.

I realize that this isn’t normal behavior. It is normal for me, however. It’s something I’ve done as far back as I can remember. I wish I was able to focus on a single project for a long period of time, but it seems to go against my basic programming. Even back when I was a professional retail manager, I would break down major projects—like, for example, a store remodel or opening—into smaller component projects that would often allow me to switch my focus from one to another. It’s that old adage about eating an elephant one bite at a time. A routine, mind-numbing job like working on an assembly line sounds like my personal definition of Hell.

If all of this makes it sound like I am still against binge-watching to you, then you are correct. I’m still against it.

The title of this post is “Arguments in Favor of Binge-Watching.” What does that mean?

I made a rule that I intended to stick to. Another old adage: There are exceptions to every rule. Netflix, which I’ve been a member of since the days before streaming was commonplace, made me aware of an exception that I needed to make.

I found out that The West Wing was being pulled from Netflix in about three weeks on December 25. Also, Hell on Wheels was vanishing from the service by December 31.

I realize that shows are added and removed from Netflix all the time. It’s just never directly affected me before. I was watching the sixth-of-seven seasons of The West Wing when I read the announcement, and the third-of-five seasons of Hell on Wheels. If I stuck with my two-episodes-per-week vow, I wouldn’t finish these series in time.

So, while I’m aware of the hypocrisy, I am now a binge-watcher. At least, on a temporary basis, and only with these two shows. I’ve watched twelve episodes of The West Wing alone already this week, just to get me to the place where I’ll easily beat the deadline while watching no more than one episode a day.

But, it goes against the grain. My reasons are justified, of course. I’m a frugal man who doesn’t want to pay for alternate methods of watching the remainder of these series. These are the exceptions that prove the rule, though. I still don’t like binge-watching.

Shameless is the only other long series run that I’m watching, but I should be okay without breaking the rule here. I’m already on Season 9, and best guesses say the show will remain on Netflix until 2024. The final season—Season 11—is just now airing on Showtime, and all the seasons are relatively short.

Do as I say. Not as I do.

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