We’ve all binged a television show. Being glued to your screen cliffhanger after cliffhanger… watching the entire new season of Stranger Things in a single eight hour session… the Netflix Pop Up of Shame is there to remind you that you have, in fact, done nothing today. But recently I took it to the next level. My friend showed me the pilot of Grey’s Anatomy at her house, and it was the beginning of an epic and truly unnecessary journey. For those who may not know, Grey’s Anatomy has been on since 2005. There are 13 complete seasons, and the 14th is airing right now on ABC. As of now the episode count is 300 episodes of roughly 43 minutes (with no commercials, thank you Netflix and Hulu). That makes about 12,900 minutes or 215 hours of content, and I binged all of it in 1 month. 215 hours in a month equates to about 53 hours per week. That is a full time job, technically including over time. I work an actual full time job. I have a boyfriend, and friends, and a social life. I spend time with family. I do errands, read books, cook and bake, and hit the gym at least a few times a week. And yet I decided to take on a second job of staring at a laptop or television screen for 53 hours per week? My work never suffered. I still saw my friends and family, got in my workouts, and did my meal prep. And yet I pulled those extra hours from sleep and writing and other work I could be doing, just because I had to keep watching.
You might very fairly being asking yourself, WHY? This whole culture of binging television shows seasons at a time is truly a bit insane. But I don’t believe it is even a conscious choice. No rational human would say to themselves, “I have a full day of work, exercise, chores, and socializing tomorrow. However I am actually going to watch an entire season of Scandal and stay up until 4 am”. I bet that 80% of the times you’ve binged a show, you went into it with the best intention of Just 1 or 2 Episodes.
It also goes against the entire purpose of a television show’s body of work. Waiting a full week for a new episode, or months for a new season, can be frustrating. But it’s the way shows are truly meant to be consumed. I almost worry if binging could be the death of fandoms. Television fandoms are created by communities of fans coming together to share a common love show, theorize about it, express opinions, make fan fiction and fan art, and more. How am I going to write a blog post about how much I loved episode 4 and wondering what will happen next, if I’m watching episode 5 immediately after. A few seconds between episodes essentially robs me of the chance to reflect, find meaning, make connections, form opinions… it takes me from an active viewer to a passive viewer.
If you think I sound judgmental, I’ll remind you that this epiphany came after watching what equates to 10 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy per day for a month. It was like a drug. I literally could not stop. I would stay up until 4am, go to work exhausted, and still not be able to close Netflix at a reasonable hour the next night.
It’s definitely safe to say I love the show, but I’m almost disappointed at myself that I let the experience fly by. Part of why I love Game of Thrones and Doctor Who is they have such massive online fan communities, and there are always creative and intelligent people active on fan sites to get involved with as you watch. I’d imagine a show as popular and long-running as Grey’s would, as well. But I wouldn’t know. I didn’t Google or write about a single theory, consider a single character arc for more than a few minutes, make any guesses as to what would happen or who would end up together… I just sat glassy-eyed in front of my screen, endlessly clicking “Next Episode” and “Continue Watching”.
I also haven’t started a new show yet. I’m almost afraid to get sucked back into another universe like that. Which is truly a terrible reason to avoid a medium that I love so much. We (I) need to learn that patience truly is a virtue, and Make Watching Television Great Again.