Saturday, 7 September 2013

Breaking Bad Binging Habits

As Breaking Bad hurtles towards its conclusion, I – like many others – have started doing something I've ever done before: I'm watching the show weekly. A relative latecomer to the show, I watched the first four seasons back to back last year, and held off watching the first half of season 5 until I could do the same with that. But with new episodes appearing weekly on Netflix the temptation to get stuck in to the final episodes straight away became overwhelming, so now I am enduring an agonising wait each week for the next episode. You know what? I'm really enjoying it.

TV binging for me became a habit when I started watching 24. Waiting a week for the next episode of 24 was unbearable, and I only lasted 6 episodes before I snapped and bought the box set. Since then binging on shows has become my standard mode of consumption; blasting through entire seasons in a week has become the norm.

So many of the great shows at the moment are American, and only available on Sky or other channels, that it has become rare for me to actually watch anything on television. Therefore, when I do watch them, I usually have the whole series available to me from the outset. When you can see what happens next straight away, it takes great discipline to wait. On Netflix you don't even have to select the next episode – it starts playing automatically, which is the ultimate temptation.

Now I have to wait a whole week for the next episode of Breaking Bad, and, yes, at times it has been excruciating – but it's also been glorious. Each cliffhanger has real impact, and the excitement and anticipation I feel when Monday evening rolls around and I know I can enjoy the next instalment is something that I'd actually forgotten TV can do.

I also think that watching weekly episodes makes them more memorable. I spent most of the third season of Game of Thrones desperately trying to remember what had happened in season 2, which I had watched a year ago in the space of a few days. When a storyline is resolved within three hours rather than three weeks your brain doesn't commit it to memory in the same way. The entertainment it provides becomes fleeting, with no chance to savour the experience. Seeing as almost nothing memorable happens in season 3 of Game Of Thrones, I doubt I'll be able to understand season 4 at all next year.

The way we watch television has changed. As I said; actually watching a programme weekly is an option that's rarely available to me any more. But I think by blitzing through entire seasons of television we may be missing out on a lot. The structure of weekly programming emerged for a reason, and we would be foolhardy to abandon that. Though I doubt I'll watch another major drama weekly for a while, I'm definitely going to try and watch my boxsets more slowly from now on. After all, everyone knows binging is bad for you.

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