Rabbits, turtles and binge TV watching

Does anyone else remember the time in the 90s when commercial TV wasn’t showing Star Trek: TNG or Deep Space 9 in any kind of consistent order, and you suddenly discovered that your local Video Ezy was bringing VHS tapes in a couple of episodes at a time? There was a glorious period where you realised that the video stores were a good couple of years ahead of what you’d been watching on TV, and you were able to gorge yourself renting out videos and watching  as many episodes as your sleep deprived brain could cram in each night.

It was a feast. A fiesta. A good time was had by all. Right up until the time when you caught up, and then suddenly you were finding excuses to pop into the store every few days on the off chance they had the next tape.

There’s a word for that. Rhymes with pladdiction.

Now, of course, we engage with TV series this way as a matter of course. They build up on our Foxtel until our hard drives groan with their weight. I recently bought my wife series 1 and 2 of Orphan Black. The actual heart of the gift was not the DVDs themselves, rather it was the sensation of relief she felt when she was able to delete all those episodes from our IQ hard drive and get our “percentage free” figure up into double figures.

And then you find yourself tearing through a season, watching a couple of episodes each evening, having debates about whether you should head off to bed at 10:45 or whether you could fit just one more slice of Walking Dead action in. And it is excellent, consumerism at its best. A constant sugar rush high.

But – and I grant you this may be old age setting in – but…. do you remember any of it?

I enjoy watching series that way. I know I do. I remember enjoying myself. But the episodes all blur together and 6 months later I’ll catch 5 minutes of something while I’m channel surfing, and be struggling to remember whether I’ve seen it before or not.

Recently, I’ve been watching a few shows where I’m seeing the episodes week to week. And, while the shows haven’t necessarily been the highest quality in and of themselves, I’m finding my recall of them is much better. I spend a small amount of time each week wondering what’s going to happen next, testing out particular scenarios in my mind. I’m engaging with them better.

So, culture vultures I’m wondering – is your experience of a TV series changed by the manner in which you consume it? And do you think this will have an impact on future fandom? Will the next generation of fans be as across the detail (“No, I didn’t spend a week obsessing over what happened to the bump on the eye of the lead actress in Continuum. I just pressed play on the next episode”)? Or will they engage utterly differently with the material?

Go on. Be honest. This is a safe space.

I promise.

Author: mark

A writer of speculative fiction and all round good egg. Well, mostly good.

OK, sometimes good.

4 thoughts on “Rabbits, turtles and binge TV watching”

  1. I don't find my recall suffers when marathoning. In fact, if I watch episodes week to week I often forget what happened the previous week and it flows worse and my recall/understanding of the overarching plot suffers. I definitely prefer watching seasons at a time and have been doing it that way for… well I think longer than most people.

    I will say the only time I do forget what I just watched is when my mind wanders to internety things and I get distracted by twitter/blogs etc. Reading something while ostensibly watching something is a guaranteed way to take less TV in.
    My recent post Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

    1. Ah yes, the curse of multi-screen distraction. You see some actor in the background of a show and wonder "hey, what has that guy been in before?", then you look up IMDB and find the relevant bio that leads you onto their website that has an interesting link to a flame war that has developed over the minutia of some other show and then…. "holy hell, is that ANOTHER new werewolf in Teen Wolf – where on Zeus' green earth did they come from?" and you're rewinding the show for the third time that evening.

      I may be somewhat familiar with the phenomenon.

      Interesting point regarding week to week recall.

      -m

  2. My viewing has changed. The scifi channel aired the whole first season of Orphan Black in one day so I recorded it. Rather than binge watching it, though, I put my own limits on it and only watched one a day. I'll admit it was hard to stay disciplined when I just had to know what happened next. The problem is, there's not that many GOOD shows on at the moment, and if I binged watched, then I'd be left with nothing again.
    I don't like having to wait a whole week for the next episode, but the next day is perfection.
    My recent post Bits and Bobs and Some Other Meanderings

    1. A very sensible idea. I tried to do something similar with the BBC series Musketeers, but I must admit I might have slipped in an extra episode one or two times!

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