The first show I ever binged was Orange is the New Black.
Bingeing is watching several episodes (sometimes more than several) in one viewing session, and watching the entire season over a few days and perhaps the entire series in a few weeks. I’ll also add that to me, bingeing refers specifically to a show that you’re watching for the first time.
Rewatching a few old Gilmore Girls episodes for the fifth time is not bingeing to me, as you’re revisiting an old show that you consumed in what used to be the normal manner—week by week.
But back to Orange is the New Black. This might not have been the first show where Netflix dropped all the episodes at once, but it was the first show that really caught on. Everyone was talking about it—and yet, we couldn’t say anything specific, because everyone was on a different stage of the journey.
We went from, “hey did you see last night’s episode, I can’t believe x happened” to “what episode are you on?”
If you weren’t on the same episode, the conversation stopped dead.
Prior to Orange is the New Black, the only bingeing I had ever done was watching five consecutive episodes of General Hospital when returning from a week long beach vacation.
Those were sweet, sweet binges. But then again, I often couldn’t watch all five in a row because I would be watching in July in a house with no air conditioning and the VCR would overheat after episode three. I’d have to let it cool down or risk the tape in the VHS cassette melting and lose my precious Sonny and Brenda episodes forever.
But back to Orange is the New Black. At the time I was watching, I was obsessed. I thought it was the best show I’d ever seen. And the thrill of watching episode after episode of a brand new show! To go from an episode cliffhanger right into the resolution in seconds. I heard the theme song five times a day or more…the “skip intro” button hadn’t been invented yet, and I wouldn’t have used it if it had.
But here’s the thing.
After thinking it was the greatest season of television ever after season one, I lost interest almost overnight and abandoned it completely somewhere around season 3. (Orange is the New Black went on for 7 seasons.)
I’d burned out on my binge.
The truth is, binge is not really the right word for the way I consumed this show, and others afterward. I went on an Orange is the New Black bender.
And just like a drinking bender, I don’t remember a moment of it.
Seriously, I don’t remember a single individual scene from that show. The show I once thought was the greatest show ever made!
I remember the characters and the actors who played them, but they’re not in my heart.
I tried to figure out exactly when I stopped watching by reading the episode descriptions on IMDB, but few of them registered with me at all.
As fun as it is in the moment, there’s something very unsatisfying about gorging on episode after episode. There’s no time to let the plot develop, to let the action sink in. I used to mull on an episode of a show for an entire week, anticipating the follow up. The story was doled out to me in tiny bits, and this is the agony and the ecstasy of series television.
And yet I can’t stop bingeing. It’s why I don’t keep ice cream in the house—I can’t have just a bowl, I’ll eat it until the box is gone.
That’s why I’m so hesitant to start a new TV series—even if its mediocre, I’ll keep watching episode after episode, not really enjoying the process but somehow unable to stop.
Please tell me I’m not the only one.
Which brings me back around to The Crown, which I discussed last week. Now this is a show that I do love, but I think it is particularly unsuited to the binge.
It’s a slow moving show, packed with history and each episode would benefit greatly from a week to breathe. A week to settle in my brain, and a week me for me to fact check all the historical elements shown, which is something I love to do when watching this type of show or film.
But instead, I stayed up late, and by the time I got to the end of the binge, I’d forgotten what I wanted to look up from the first episode.
And after season one, I’ve already forgotten what has happened.
I remember an African safari, a fog, and a pissed off Margaret who didn’t get to marry her love.
And so I’ve decided that I’m going to slow down The Crown.
I’m going to start back at the beginning, and watch one episode and one episode only on Sunday nights, just like an old school show with a schedule. With 60 episodes, that will take me over a year (and they’ll be more by the time I get there.)
A year seems an incredibly long time to stretch out watching a show, but in the old days, four seasons would take four years.
So a year seems a good compromise.
Time to slow down. Savor. Remember.
The question is will I have the willpower to stop after one episode?
Only time will tell.