Pace-Watch, Don’t Binge-Watch
Last spring, the fantastic show Mad Men was in its final season. I listened to a podcast interview with series creator Matthew Weiner, who had previously been a writer on David Chase's The Sopranos. He had been recently rewatching the series with his now grown children (they are in their late teens now, but single digits when the show originally aired, far too young for The Sopranos). He mentioned that they weren't binge-watching the show, watching multiple episodes, even entire seasons, in a single sitting, rather one or two at a time, with a few day separation. He said that as a writer, he understands the dramatic tension writers and show-runners build into these prestige shows (not just the ones he writes), and that it's a disservice to their craft, and to you as the audience, to skip all that by consuming the entertainment in one sitting.
And he's right. I've binge-watched shows before. Most of the time it was shows that I had watched in my youth, and wanted to revisit. It was Star Trek (all five of them) or The X-Files or Cheers. But I also got really into Doctor Who about five years ago, and just tore through the five seasons that were on Netflix at the time. When Netflix started producing House of Cards, I tore through that.
Then I wanted to try something (and this was before that Weiner interview that put a fine point on what I was trying to accomplish). When Daredevil was released last year, I took my time with it. I watched two episodes, then waited a week. Watched two episodes, then waited a week. Sure it took me a month a half to get through, but a lot of my friends were done with it by the Saturday after it came out. and bemoaning that they had to wait SOOOOOOO long for more episodes. I didn't watch any more or any less episodes than they did. I just took my time with it.
Personally, I felt I enjoyed it more. I got to sit with it. I got experience a build-up of dramatic tension. I was forced to focus on it, because I had to keep track week to week of what was going on, much like the classic model of broadcast/cable. I didn't consume it all at once, then move on to the next thing to watch. I internalized what I watched more so than had I done that.
A buddy of mine who prefers to binge-watched likened it to sitting with a book, or watching a really long movie. The movie analogy doesn't make sense, because of the vastly different narrative beats, but I get the book analogy. The shows have long narrative arcs, tied together by the shorter, episode arcs, which are like the chapters. OK, I get that.
I still make the case for pacing it out. I did that with Netflix's Jessica Jones and Master of None, Amazon's The Man in the High Castle, and now I'm diving into Sons of Anarchy, which I missed during its original airing. I feel I've enjoyed the shows more, sipping on them 2 episodes at a time, rather than chugging them down without a second thought.