by Susan Quilty, author of The Insistence of Memory
In some ways, we’re living in a golden era of TV watching. We can DVR shows to watch at our convenience, stream from an incredible range of sources, and binge our way through whole seasons at whatever pace we choose. (Yes, Netflix, I do want to continue watching—don’t judge me!)
As a TV viewer, I love binge-watching. Instant gratification! No waiting a whole week to see what happens next! And, yes, there have even been times when I’ve waited to watch a new show until a full season is out, just to avoid that week-to-week wait
As a content creator, I’m less comfortable with my impulsive joy of binge-watching.
Binging is fun, for sure, but it also has some downsides. Some are minor, others may have more serious consequences.
From an artistic standpoint, there’s an effort that goes into crafting a story and deciding where to break it from one episode/season to the next. Setting up anticipation is an art and, when it’s done well, it adds to the emotional payoff.
Knowing that, I often wonder if I’m missing out by simply not giving myself enough time between shows to really contemplate and appreciate what I’ve just watched.
Case in point, Jessica Jones is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. When season one dropped, I wanted nothing more than to curl up on the couch and stream the whole thing in one sleep-deprived, snack-fueled sitting. But I had agreed to wait and watch it as a couple. (The things we do for love!)
As hard as it was to wait, slowing down to watch just two episodes each night likely made it a better viewing experience. More anticipation. More time to wonder, and imagine, and rehash the previous details while guessing where the story might go.
From a business standpoint, TV shows need viewers if they’re going to be renewed for another season. When too many people wait for the season to end before watching a show that is released week-to-week, there’s a higher chance that it will be cancelled before its time.
We’ve seen that happen to countless, amazing shows. Shows that ended too soon, often without a proper wrap-up.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Take a show like Orphan Black. It had an active, vocal fan base and viewers who turned in week after week. The creators were able to tell their story and end it when they were ready, on their terms, partly because they had the ongoing support of regular viewers.
BBC America is at it again with a mind-bending thriller called Killing Eve. Season one recently finished and is now getting a lot of recognition, not just for its quality writing, acting, and production, but also because it managed to have a growing viewer base from week to week.
We, as viewers, can do that with other new shows, too.
When a new TV show looks like it has potential, take a chance from the beginning. When you want a week-to-week show to succeed, watch as many episodes as you can within 3-days of their original air date. (They track that!) Spread the word on social media, have viewing parties, do whatever it takes to help others find that great content before it goes away!
Look, I get the appeal of binge-watching and I’m not saying we should stop entirely. Instead, let’s consider the messages that our viewing habits send and do our best to not let our own convenience kill amazing new shows.
In essence, find a balance to the binge. It’s worth it!