Rachel del Valle | It's okay to binge
Duly Noted | With so many outlets for TV, there’s better programming but not more time to watch it
February 5, 2013, 12:07 am·
Rachel del Valle
When was the last time you watched a primetime TV show during prime time? Or on a television? Or without pausing it to check your Facebook? It’s probably been a while.
I’m currently watching 12 television shows, with varying degrees of loyalty. With HBO GO, Netflix and Hulu, the definition of watching becomes a little complicated. I define a show I’m “watching” as one that I follow and wouldn’t want to have spoiled.
But that doesn’t mean that I watch every episode as soon as it airs. Some of these shows aren’t even on the air anymore. Some are in between seasons. Some are already airing the next season and I’m still on the first one and I compulsively shut my laptop whenever I stumble upon Claire Danes’ face (I’m looking at you, “Homeland”).
There’s also a whole list of shows that I want to watch eventually, and of course I don’t want those spoiled either. Really, I just want to have a few months to catch up on every television show I’ve ever had the least bit of interest in. Is that too much to ask?
Every time I flip through a culture magazine, scan an entertainment website or even have a casual conversation about television, I fear spoilers.
A few months ago, I binge-watched the entire series of “Felicity,” a late ’90s, early 2000s WB teen drama. Everything I’d heard about the show turned out to be true — Felicity does wear a lot of sweaters, her haircut in season two is unfortunate and college is nothing like the University of New York (TV code for NYU).
But that was all I wanted to know. You see, at the center of the four-season drama is a love triangle. It felt like a race against the clock to get to the end of the series before I came across something that divulged the answer to the question: Noel or Ben?
I’ve also just started “The West Wing,” which was recently added to Netflix streaming. A few days ago, a Sorkin-devoted friend revealed a major character departure sometime in season five. I was not pleased.
Spoiler dodging is harder than it looks. With so many shows and so little time, binge watching seems to be the only solution. Netflix is catering to this trend towards marathon viewing with its new “television show.”
This past Friday, Netflix premiered the entire first season of its original series “House of Cards,” which has generated lots of “Netflix is the new HBO” headlines. This bold move eliminates much of the anticipation of old-model television viewership.
With all the episodes already online, any one of the 25 million Netflix subscribers in the United States can tune in whenever they want and watch how much they want. And with the reviews that have come in so far, they’ll probably want to do it soon.
But viewers have already been watching shows in this way. Jumping on the bandwagon after a season has aired and catching up on an online streaming service is becoming more and more common.
It seems unusually smart for a business like Netflix to create programming that skips the broadcasting phase. With the exception of live-tweeting and spoiler-phobia, there’s little need — or time — to watch live airings for most people. Netflix gets that.
It would be easy to criticize the proliferation of television options as a reflection of our overstimulated, easily distracted culture. The logic seems simple: more shows, more ways to watch them, lower quality. People are only squeezing them into busy schedules anyway. The only issue with that critique is how good television is right now.
Critics have dubbed the era we’re living in the second golden age of television. The formula seems to be something more like “more outlets, better content.”
The only problem is that more access to quality shows doesn’t create more time to watch them. So don’t feel guilty about bingeing — it’s not junk food (or even junk).
Rachel del Valle is a College junior from Newark, N.J. Her email address is email@example.com. Follow her @rachelsdelvalle. “Duly Noted” appears every Tuesday.