The Art of Binge-Watching

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As Entertainment Weekly stated in a recent issue, “We don’t just watch TV anymore—we consume it, often swallowing entire seasons whole like pop culture pythons.” Spot on, EW.

I love television, probably more than what’s considered healthy (but—no shame). I once told my sister that I love TV shows because they’re like movies that never end. On a rainy Saturday afternoon, for example, I love the fact that you can just throw in disc after disc and spend the whole day with your favorite characters. Of course, true TV lovers know that they aren’t just characters to us. They’re living, breathing, beautiful people out there in the world somewhere. That suspension of disbelief is what helps us connect to them. It’s why we cry when they get into car accidents (and plane crashes and mass shootings *cough* Grey’s!) and why we squeal with joy when a will-they-or-won’t-they couple finally kiss (I’m lookin’ at you, Nick and Jess). I have a friend who just doesn’t get my affection for it. As he constantly puts it, “It’s just TV.” And every time he says it, I hang up the phone and shake my head and think, what does that even mean?

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I became a binge-watcher right after college. Most of my high school friendships had fallen apart at that point, so there was no one to hang out with. My college crew was miles away, some of them multiple states away. I didn’t really mind the me time. I dove back into some beloved favorites with reckless abandon. It had been so long since I’d even had the time to just kick back and relax that I did so with gusto. Boy Meets World. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sleep? Who needs it? Just one more episode. Then my mother signed us up for Netflix and at last I saw the light. Shows! Soooo many shows! Shows I’d heard about, but never got around to watching before. Shows I loved. Shows I’d learn to love. I clicked through title after title on our Wii and heard a halleluiah chorus. Thanks to Netflix, I finally watched Will & Grace. The Office. How I Met Your Mother. Parenthood. I was able to catch up and add the last three to my DVR for their current seasons.

Just over the past year, I’ve binged Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, and Alias (old faves), Friends and Freaks and Geeks (first time), plus I re-binged The Office because I had given up after Steve left but I heard the final season was actually pretty good—I’m still waiting for season 9 to arrive. And this was all on top of the 20+ shows I regularly keep up with throughout the season! (Seriously, I counted one day—and yet, there are still so many that I know are hugely popular right now that I just can’t fit in.)

Then in June, I was looking for something new. I was still unemployed and had just moved back into my parents’ house. So I scrolled through the queue and settled on a family drama my mother and former roommate had recommended: Brothers & Sisters.

I fell in love.

I view binge-watching as an event. (#PajamasOverPeople!) My sister didn’t understand why I was perfectly happy to retire to my room every night at 8 p.m. and watch six or seven or, on nights when I really had no control, eight hours’ worth of episodes. (It’s ironic that she now spends her afternoons doing little else besides watching Gilmore Girls—she owns the entire series on DVD.) But I loved every second. I devoured the entire series of five seasons in just two and a half weeks. I spent our week-long vacation in South Carolina watching season 4 on my phone, two or three episodes each night.

The thing about binge-watching is that when you get sucked into a show and devour it so quickly, there’s a hangover period afterward. It’s practically the five stages of grief. I miss the Walkers. I plan to devote a PSA each to the show itself, Kevin and Scotty, and Matthew Rhys. Especially because the series got cancelled before its time, I feel like I got dumped; I need closure.

After I finally get Brothers & Sisters out of my system (a month later, I’m legit still watching Kevin and Scotty clips before bed at night), I already have a line-up: To continue nursing my Matthew Rhys infatuation, I bought season 1 of The Americans on iTunes. So far, I’ve watched the first two episodes. I’m trying desperately to restrain myself, since I want to re-watch the pilot and do a PSA on that as well. Then I’ve been hearing a lot about Orange is the New Black—I watched the trailer and I’m definitely interested, plus for me it’s free, so that’ll be next. My boss also gave me his copy of season 1 of Game of Thrones which has been sitting on my desk for two weeks already, collecting dust. My mom wants me to watch that with her though, so that’ll have to be in between some other stuff … AND, speaking of my mother, she happened to see a couple episodes of New Girl last year and thought they were funny, so now she and I are watching season 1, which recently became available for streaming.

WHEW. I told you it was an addiction. So, what have you binge-watched recently? What are your Netflix/Hulu/iTunes guilty pleasures? What should I watch next?

P.S. I stumbled across these hilarious and hella accurate sketches on Google. The artist is Kiersten Essenpreis—visit her site here.

P.P.S. Get used to all the links to Urban Dictionary; I know you know what I mean, but I have adults reading this site who don’t speak the lingo. Someone tried to tell me I had a typo (moi?!) but she just didn’t know ‘cray’ was a word. Which, I mean, it’s not. I’m not even really a fan of the jargon, but when in Rome…

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