In the age of instant access, the concept of binge watching TV is still relatively new. But with Netflix’s go at episodic programming and full seasons of shows on demand at Hulu and Amazon, the way audiences like and even expect to watch media is shifting.
More and more we see viewers, and some network executives, praising “the binge.” Online distributors have even jumped on the binge-wagon when it comes to their own original programming, which includes Emmy winners Transparent (Amazon) and House of Cards (Netflix).
Meanwhile, this summer NBC became the first broadcast network to attempt a version of the online binge model with its dark Charles Manson drama, Aquarius. It’s a big step for networks that rely on the week-to-week model, not just in terms of narrative, but for business.
Binge watching does, in its own way, offer a more immersive and personal viewing experience. You can watch as much or as little as you want, when you want, over whatever period of time you want to do so, with the added bonus of no commercials (in most cases). It’s media-on-demand, and a level of control most TV watchers have dreamed about for years.
But despite its silent, creeping takeover, there has been some push-back against the consumption model as of late. Even Netflix, a pioneer in the arena, is stepping out of form with the introduction of Between, a Canadian co-production set to be released in weekly installments. So far there hasn’t been any negative response the distribution shift, with viewers still flocking week after week to catch a new episode.
It raises an interesting question though about whether binge-watching is a new format or a new fad. While it’s clear that watching this way has its merits, both Netflix’s foray into the weekly release as well as some negative opinions about the binge platform itself suggests that the format doesn’t necessarily reign supreme for all series or watchers.
Is it better to binge or not to binge? What kinds (and qualities) of series are better binged, as opposed to those rolled out over time? To answer that question, we’ve put together a list of things that can help make for a good (or bad) binge series.
As television has embraced the serial more over time, it has also developed a habit of living by the cliffhanger. Episodic, bi-seasonal, seasonal — it doesn’t matter. What does matter? Having to wait to find out what happens to your favorite character.
If you read comment sections across the web, you’ll find that fans constantly struggle with how they feel about cliffhangers. However, it’s also clear that fans who binge watch a show tend to have more favorable opinions of those cliffhangers.
The reason being they deal with them in a very different way. Unlike traditional network shows — especially when it comes to weekly cliffhangers and short hiatuses in the name of sweeps — shows that are binged don’t demand the same level of unyielding patience.
If something bad happens at the end of an episode you can go straight to watching the next one. And while the wait time between seasons may be longer depending on whether the show is still airing or not, you have the option of switching to live viewing or dealing with only one major end of season cliffhanger versus a drawn out, patience-testing many.