Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Attention binge watchers

I’m sure it must’ve been strange for anyone who directed a big Hollywood movie in the ‘30s and ‘40s to see it on television in the ‘50s. In composing his shots, the ‘30s director always imagined people would be watching his final product in a huge theater not on some 12” screen.

Times change, technology improves, new delivery systems are invented, and new habits of behavior are formed for how we consume entertainment.

I sort of know how those old time directors felt.  Like I recently mentioned, when I directed sitcoms for standard TV, some of the framing looks weird on HD. But who knew at the time? (Okay, everyone but me, but STILL…)

Same is true for writing. Practically all the sitcom scripts I wrote were designed to be shown for a half-hour once a week. There was no such thing as “binge-watching.” Even when VHS players were the rage, tapes were expensive (and took up room) and you watched a show as soon as you could so you could tape something else over it.

As a result, we writers did a lot of recapping. We felt we had to reorient people because a week (or two or six) had gone by since their last visit. We made sure each episode was pretty much self-contained since viewers tended to miss episodes along the way. (Those were the days when “life” came first.) And act breaks were really crucial because we always ran the risk that a sizable chunk of our audience was not willing to sit through commercial breaks.

And then there was the matter of tone. When I was on MASH, every season CBS would want to start with an hour episode. And those shows never really worked for me. MASH was clearly designed for the half hour format. We packed as much as we could into those half hours. The pace was always high speed and the dialogue was relentlessly jammed packed. Lots to digest.

We felt that expanding that to an hour would get exhausting for the viewer. That’s why I was particularly pleased when CBS decided to run the hour-long “Goodbye Radar” episode (that David Isaacs and I wrote) as a two-parter over two weeks.

But like I said, times change. Once MASH went into syndication (and had so many episodes), stations started playing them back-to-back. For a large segment of MASH fans, that’s what they were used to. They’re not old enough to have seen the series in first run. So they’re conditioned to consume an hour (or more) of MASH a day.

And just in general, the pace of sitcoms has accelerated over the years. What seemed like fast-forward in the ‘70s is normal speed now.

Still, I can’t imagine binge-watching MASH. Six episodes in a row would cause my brain to explode (especially ones we wrote). So I ask you dear readers who have binge-watched the 4077– what was it like? Did you feel sensory overload? Or was it a nice even pace? Did you need a break after two episodes? Or nine? Do you feel you missed stuff because the show was so dense? Did you rewind to pick up on jokes you had missed? Had you seen the shows before so it was more like catching up with an old friend? Did binging really immerse you in the series in a way you had never experienced? Did you power through all eleven seasons or just a few? If you did binge the entire run of the show, how long did it take you? Can you still walk?

And these are all questions I never thought I’d be asking at the time we were writing the episodes. Just as I’m sure the writers of MODERN FAMILY don’t know yet that in thirty years people will be watching their show from a chip implanted in their brain (that will also offer bonus features and a Spanish SAP option).

52 comments:

John E. Williams said...

I recently started binge-watching MASH, funny you should ask. I watched the show as a kid when it originally aired, and continued to watch reruns through the 80s and most of the 90s. What I have found is that my familiarity with the show runs so deep that I watch in an almost alpha state (to the point where I have found listening to episodes on my earphones while going to sleep helps me drop off, which is not a knock against the show). So for me it's a lot like listening to an album -- I know BORN TO RUN note for note, for instance, but I still listen to it and enjoy it. And like most Springsteen records, I find that MASH holds up decades later. For one thing, I enjoy it a lot more with the absence of late night commercials and ugly syndication cuts. And like an LP, it's easy to keep listening through to the next track, or in this case episode, and just like a record there are some episodes I can't stand and have to skip through. Anyway -- bottom line, there is a combination of easy familiarity with a show that still works, still delivers laughs, and for my money is sharper and funnier than most modern sitcoms. Oh, and there is also the pleasure of discovering scenes I never saw in syndication.

One more observation: for some reason, MASH and FRASIER still work for me, but aside from a block of episodes here and there, I find CHEERS harder to enjoy because it feels more dated.

Joel Keller said...

I've watched the episodes so many times in syndication over the last 35 or so years that I can recite the dialogue from a lot of them, especially from season 4 onward, like they're my favorite songs. So I could probably binge an entire day and not feel tired.

I think your answer will depend on the person's age; if they came of age with the tail end of the show's run on at the same time it was being heavily syndicated, they'll probably have a different response than someone in their 20s or early 30s who came of age when the reruns were a little harder to find.

Rock Golf said...

Friday Question: Dan Slott, the current writer of the Spider-Man comic book, recently put up this mini-essay: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sofggt

The gist: In long-running serialized fiction, early continuity is "fluid".

He gives examples from both TV and comics. For example, in some early episodes of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye was married. That, like Happy Days' Chuck Cunningham, got dropped and never mentioned again. The Huxtables had 4 kids then a 5th older sibling was introduced.

Similarly on Cheers, Frasier was an only child whose father had passed away. Rather than ignore that, the Frasier writers brilliantly played that for laughs.

Are there other "continuities" you've had to correct or ignore in the series you've worked on?

V. Anton Spraul said...

Here in Birmingham, Alabama, when I was young, MASH reruns played on the local NBC affiliate every night, after the late news and before Carson. It was a cherished part of the television lineup. There wasn't even a commercial break after the news--the local news anchors would even sign off saying, "and here's MASH" or something similar, and for a little while they had the MASH episode start in the window above the anchors' heads like it was the final news story of the night. This all started while MASH was still on the air and continued well after. So that's what MASH has always been to me, a daily show.

DwWashburn said...

When we first got the MASH box set, we would watch one disc per day. Because I was still working at the time and because we had more to our lives than work and TV, we would get through about three discs a week.

The main reason I wanted to watch the series on DVD besides the great entertainment value was 1) to see the clean restored prints, and 2) to see scenes that had been cut out for syndication and see if I could still remember watching them first run. We made it through eight seasons only skipping one episode -- Dreams, which I believe is the worst episode of the series. We stopped at eight because I believe the last three years were very weak. Even in syndication (MeTV) we usually don't watch seasons 9 through 11.

I never cared much for the movie so we didn't watch it. However the reunion show and the other extras in the box set we did watch.

emily said...

I've finally decided that using "but STILL…" is nothing more than a verbal Rim Shot...but STILL…

Anthony Strand said...

When I was in high school (early '00s), FX used to run a two-hour block of M*A*S*H every weeknight. My dad and I often watched all four of them, and we never got sick of it. But my mom - a moderate M*A*S*H fan in the best of circumstances - eventually got so tired of it that the sound of "Suicide is Painless" angered her.

Matt said...

Ken,

I was first introduced to MASH in syndication, after school, every day. I was lucky in that we received television from three different markets. That meant, in 1979-80-81, I could get at a minimum six episodes daily. And because each station ran different schedules, I would start off with "Henry Blake-Trapper John" episodes, then a few "Colonel Potter-B.J.-Frank" episodes, followed by "Potter-B.J.-Winchester" episodes, or a mix of all these eras. It was great.

So MASH, to me, has always meant binge watching. And here's something interesting: MASH never looks "old" to me. "Rockford", "The Jeffersons", "Lou Grant" (on Hulu) all look dated. MASH, because of the clothing and sets, still looks (feels) exactly the same.

Michael said...

I've noticed that MeTV has fewer commercials. So some of the episodes I've been seeing in syndication make sense again. I think of Stan Laurel offering to edit his old films for LA TV stations when they cut them up for commercials. It must be hard to see that kind of thing.

Stephen Robinson said...

I've watched the equivalent of a M*A*S*H movie (four episodes back to back). The pacing was fine, because it felt like four discrete installments. And yes, I'm 41 so I grew up with the M*A*S*H "hour" in syndication.

McAlvie said...

I find that even binge reading tends to make me more aware of any flaws, so I can't say that it's much of an issue when I watch MASH marathons. Of course seasons tend to be a lot shorter these days, so I don't think we get invested to the same extent. When a series only airs 6-8 episodes a season, by the time the next season rolls around I've completely forgotten about the show. And I think that is why series seem to tank faster than they used to. There is no longer a "season" to get excited about, and once the newness of a new premise wears off, there goes your audience. I mean, why not wait until they all air and binge watch, rather than trying to keep track of whether or not the show is even on this week? Chances are good that it's not, since networks play fast and lose with schedules anyway.

I watch less and less tv every year, and when I do watch it's 90% PBS - no commercials! I can't even claim that I am driven to watch shows via streaming, I'm not invested in them enough to bother. And I figure before long the commercials will be just as bad that way as they are on an actual tv now, so again I see no reason to get invested. Even "on demand" programming is basically one long Cialis commercial.

Carson Clark said...

Will be a bit more difficult to binge watch MASH now. It is leaving Netflix on April 1st.

Hobbes said...

I have seasons 1-6 on DVD and watch them at least once per year. In a normal sitting, I watch 2 or 3 episodes and it's always a joy. The writing is still LOL funny and I always pick up something new that's happening in the background or in the dialogue. The dramatic scenes are thought provoking but not overwrought. MASH is and will always be one of my favorite TV shows!

mmryan314 said...

I confess to being a MASH binger. I started off slowly, one or two per night, but ended up spending entire winter evenings huddled up with my MASH buddies.I am trying to curtail this insane obsession by limiting my use but I`m not succeeding. I am now doing a second run through. For some reason I find watching MASH to be like eating comfort food - feel good kind of thing. I have very definate favorite characters too. My top three favorites are Henry Blake, Sherman Potter, and Charles Winchester but can run a sublist of other favorites ( yes Jeff Maxwell you are on the list). Watching the show has even lead me to do a study of the Korean War- the reasons for it, the participants in it, and the politics prior and after the " Police Action". MASH is such a smart show with intentional statements regarding the military, war, friendship,family ... I can`t seem to get enough of it. I call it the blessing of retirement.

Writer said...

Never binged MASH, but one show of yours that me and the girlfriend just finished a run through, with many binges, was Frasier. And that was great. It's fun to watch how the rhythms of the show really work. Also, since my girlfriend wasn't really pre-conditioned to dig something like Frasier, keeping her involved for a couple of hours helped her get used to the characters and like them more.

Alan Iverson said...

For a show to be bingeworthy, it requires quality and a level of complexity. MASH, or FRASIER.

But if the series plays too simple, or the episodes are indistinguishable, there is an increased likelihood of diminshing returns.

Same goes for shows which are predicated on shtick, like SEINFELD. That definitely wears thin in binge mode.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

When M*A*S*H turned 40 in 2012 and nobody did anything about it (seriously, how disrespectful to such an iconic series), I took it upon myself to celebrate in my own fashion, so I tried binge-watching the entire series (well, at least Seasons 1-7) in an entire weekend: I kept popping in the DVDs, playing them on "Rapid Play", non-stop for an entire weekend (including Friday) to cram as much in the weekend as I could, followed by Monday watching those reunion specials and such. I honestly don't remember if I succeeded or not - not because I couldn't binge-watch the show (I really could, I never get tired of it), but because I don't think I successfully crammed all of those episodes in an entire weekend non-stop - even on Rapid Play.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Alan Iverson I could watch SEINFELD in binge mode, but probably only the later seasons, like maybe 5-9. I know that's when most people say the show became too absurd and out-of-the-ordinary, but those are the seasons I remember seeing in first run on TV (not that I actually watched the show as a kid, I mostly stuck with Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, but my mom watched SEINFELD all the time when it was first on), so those are the seasons I think of when I think of the show: I've tried watching a few of those earlier, "more realistic" episodes, but they, too me, feel slow, dull, and uneventful. At least with the later seasons, each of the four leads had their own thread in each episode.

Allan V said...

With one exception --- Hogan's Heroes, and it was when I learned at the very last minute that I didn't have to come to work during a terrible ice storm years ago --- I've never binge-watched any show for hours on end. I don't really think that any show, even a classic like MASH, is worth that kind of viewing. But maybe that's just my age showing.

Andrew said...

Add me to those here who binge-watched Frasier, and consider it one of my favorite TV experiences. What an amazing show on so many levels.

Once I showed a Frasier clip to my daughter. It was about Eddie. I thought she'd find it a cute dog video. She did, but also liked Niles. So I showed her an episode. She insisted on watching another one, and got my other daughter hooked. So now my two daughters (both teens) have seen most Frasier episodes. It's become a family ritual.

Off the subject, but I had never seen an episode of Breaking Bad until a few months ago. Then I read your after-the-fact review, Ken, and decided to give it a try. I was hooked from the pilot on. I binge-watched Breaking Bad in seasons, based on what the local libraries carried. It's the best TV drama that I've ever seen. So thanks for that (bitch!).

Doug Groetzinger said...

I grew up with the "M*A*S*H hour" as well but now that I have it on DVD I won't even watch it on TV anymore because of how the episodes are cut down to 22 minutes and that stupid laugh track which thanks to DVDs can be turned off. I find it easier to binge watch from Season 6 on because I can only take so much of Frank Burns. I liked that Charles Winchester was a smarter character than Burns & as a surgeon was Hawkeye and BJ's equal, if not superior. I think M*A*S*H is easy to binge watch because you know you're watching the best show television history. Cheers was the best of the '80s and Frasier was the best of the '90s but M*A*S*H was the best ever. Maybe Hawkeye did become softer as the years went by but I think that's still better than becoming dumb like Sam Malone, which I didn't like and I've read on your blog you didn't agree with that decision either. I wonder if, as readers of your blog, we have an easier time binge watching M*A*S*H because we're just fans of it but we don't have the connection to it that you have.

Jerry Gilligan said...

I haven't binge-watched the series myself but my 22 year-old daughter just recently finished a massive binge of all 11 seasons. She loved it and has even started watching again from the first season. She would watch a half dozen episodes or more at a time, mostly on weekends, and I would occasionally watch with her. The episodes hold up very well and had both of us laughing out loud.

benson said...

Netflix is becoming more and more annoying. First, the Dick Van Dyke Show is pulled, and now MASH. Fortunately, DVD is on Hulu.

I don't really binge the old shows, but I have trouble unwinding at bedtime, so I watch episodes on my phone in bed to help me fall asleep. I find myself having to watch one episode maybe three or four times in a week, to see it beginning to end.

Ken, it's funny, but with streaming TV shows, I clearly see parallels to Top 40 music programming. I watch "my" hits. DVD, Frasier, Andy Griffith, Cheers, Bob Newhart's two series, Odd Couple, Judi Dench's As Time Goes By. It's like some listeners will say, you play the same songs over and over again, too much. But, these are my favorites, and some of these episodes, I can watch over and over again.

Room Service, Martin Does It His Way, Merry Christmas Mrs. Moskowitz always still makes me laugh hard. I'm alone in this, but season 1 episodes of the Odd Couple, Floyd episodes of TAGS, Damn near any Newhart. etc. (I love the final season episodes with Kathy Kinney as the horny librarian.)

Andy Rose said...

The local station where I grew up aired one syndicated M*A*S*H rerun every weeknight after the news, PLUS an hour on Saturday nights and I think eventually an hour on Sunday, too. I remember at one point they were airing it so much that they occasionally had to find lame excuses to preƫmpt the weekend hours. The contract limited how many times each episode was allowed to air in a year, and they'd start running out of shows by year's end.

Joe Hass said...

I have the first four seasons on DVD which I've ripped to mp4 to play via AppleTV. There are about half the episodes in a special playlist which I regularly watch, and would have zero problem binge watching them.

But here's what's fundamentally changed for me: on the DVDs, you have the option the turn off the laugh track. I ripped the shows sans laugh tracks. This means you can hear where the show would give a beat or two to let in the laugh track. The best example is on "Deal Me Out" (my all-time favorite episode): when Klinger is ducking below the table, the shot is of his hat with glasses propped up on them. He pops up, looks back and forth a couple times, then ducks back to the original shot. Without the laugh track, this shot goes about a second or two long.

Now, on the rare occasion I catch an episode OTA, the laugh track has become grating, to the point where I'll actually pass on an episode I really like because I'm gonna be stuck watching with Mr MacKenzie.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

TBS seems to think that people like binge-watching THE BIG DANG THEORY, because it's like they keep dropping long-standing shows like SEINFELD, and increasing their airtime for BBT. I mean, seriously, they air like eight episodes, back-to-back, every night. And the show's on like three different networks already. That seems way too excessive!

K.W. Leslie said...

Binged on it a few years ago when I found the first season at the local library—and discovered they had a soundtrack which removed the canned laughter. Way better without the laugh track. Digital downloads should always offer that option.

Obviously since I had to keep going back to the library for the next season, I couldn’t slam through the whole of it in a weekend. Plus that’s not how I binge anyway. Eight episodes at a time is my maximum. Not because my brain’s gonna pop, but because I was raised to not sit and vegetate in front of the television (or, nowadays, monitor) for crazy stretches. So that’ll knock out a season in three or four nights.

Yes, I’d seen it before. Grew up on the reruns. Fun to finally watch them in sequence. Some definitely hold up; some don’t. I’m a bit of a nitpicker so there are certain little things that bug me—Alan Alda’s accent is obviously New Yorker, not Mainelander like Hawkeye’s should’ve been; plus how everyone aged 10 years over the course of a 2-year war—but the important thing, as you regularly say, is the show is funny. If I’m laughing and entertained, I don’t care so much about inconsistencies. Those who do: They’re watching TV for all the wrong reasons.

Gwendolyn said...

When MASH first aired my husband and I both worked… he got to watch while I cooked dinner -:( However over the years I caught up. Am distressed now ... our beloved Time Warner has dropped MeTV, so am missing lots of the oldies but goldies.

If you can believe it, I never saw or HEARD of Frasier until 2012! (Have no idea how that happened, I wasn't living under a rock.) So I binge watched all 11 years in 2 weeks. (A bit of an exaggeration…but not by much.) Googling for Frasier info is how I discovered your blog and David Hyde Pierce got me back into theater going after decades…so all was not lost.

Mr. Ace said...

Friday Question:

How detailed and how long should an outline be?

Roger Raines said...

Ah yes...remember when life came first?...(sigh)...

Jeff Maxwell said...

This is a little sideways, but my wife has been recovering from some health issues, including surgery (she'll be okay). She loves MASH, a prenup requirement, but her comfort binge show of choice is Frasier. She's been watching four-five shows a night for several months. I think she's gone though all the episodes at least a few times and could probably write a decent script.

Because Frasier presents no fatigue from fatigues like MASH could, binge watching Frasier offers her the right amount of smiles and enough relaxation to fall asleep. That's a compliment, not a review.

She asked me to pass along her thanks for knocking her out with a smile on her face.

Anonymous said...

Went to the annual, state of the company lunch for CBS alumni employees. Stages at TV CITY and Studio Center are all full. Bad news was itended sale of radio div. Jamie Farr was guest speaker. Great guy! Found where he got his fabulous dresses. Fox wardrobe. Klinger? That's another story

Diane D. said...

I agree with you--more than 3 or episodes of MASH would make my head explode, same with FRASIER. The only shows I binge watched were CHEERS (years 1-5 only) and BREAKING BAD.

Kyle Burress said...

As a kid growing up I would change the station whenever MASH came on, only because the theme song wasn't appealing to me. Granted, it was in syndication by that point, but I never watched a single episode. Years later, having been a long time fan of Cheers, I came across your blog and saw MASH related posts and stories. It wasn't until last year that I binged the entire series on Netflix. It has since become one of my favorites. Luckily, having found out on here that the finale was not on Netflix, was around the same time that the finale was aired again with cast and your interviews on I can't remember which station. I recorded it and waited to watch it until I saw the rest of the series. I liked binge watching it, and I don't think there was anything lost in watching it back to back to back. My only question is why wasn't the finale available on Netflix?

Terry said...

I never seem to have time to binge watch anything. I don't know how people do it.

J Lee said...

I can't remember if it was WTTG when I was living in Washington or some other station, but they would run an hour of MASH -- but not back-to-back episodes. They'd air, say, a Season 1 episode and follow that with one from Season 5 or 6. So you'd get the same show twice a night, but from different periods in the show's history, which made for an interesting contrast.

James said...

The most glaring thing to me is the continuity errors, or "creative changes." Henry's wife changed from Mildred to Lorraine, and then Potter got Mildred. Hot Lips's dad was dead and then resurrected. And so on.

Pat Murphy said...

I binge-watched M*A*S*H a few of years ago. It took me about 3 months to watch the whole thing, including the movie. It was the whole Martinis & Medicine collection.

Brent said...

About as close as I've come to binge watching anything was making my way through the FRASIER complete series DVD set, and that took me several months. I rarely had time to sit down and watch more than a couple of episodes at a time. I really don't understand. I don't think I keep an extraordinarily busy schedule. I just can't figure out where people get two or three hours a night, or an entire weekend, to plow through one TV episode after another. Sometimes I'll hear a guy at work talking about watching an entire season of this or that series over the weekend. How? When do people who binge watch do things other than sit in front of the TV?

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@James If you thought M*A*S*H was bad, you should see all of the continuity errors with THE ODD COUPLE: Felix and Oscar met on jury duty, then they were childhood friends, then they just met at random, then they met in the army.

Come to think of it, GREEN ACRES probably has the worst continuity for any 60s sitcom.

Pat Reeder said...

I can't recall ever binge-watching any series. Just not enough free time. But I grew up watching "MASH" reruns back-to-back on cable and now have the entire series in a boxed set. So when that glorious day arrives when I'm bedridden in a vegetative state, I'll finally have a chance to binge watch it sans commercials and laugh track.

I do come pretty close to binge watching "Frasier" every night, since the Hallmark Channel shows it for three hours in the middle of the night, and that's when I'm up cleaning the parrot room and getting our birds ready for bed. We all watch "Frasier" and eat cheese crackers together. The birds and I can watch half-a-dozen episodes in a row and never get tired of it, especially if they show any of the shows where Niles has a cockatoo.

One weird thing about the Hallmark Channel is that they bleep any words that might be remotely offensive, even "butt" and "breasts" (you'd think their largely female audience wouldn't be bothered by "breasts"). There was a line about Niles regaining his manhood, and they bleeped the word "manhood." But the censor must have fallen asleep because the other night, Daphne used the word "pissed" as British slang for "drunk," and they let it go by. Considering the context, it was as startling as if she'd let out with an Andrew Dice Clay routine. Frankly, I'm amazed that they don't bleep "cockatoo."

Breadbaker said...

I binge watched Get Smart! and realized that the episodes had an awful sameness to them after awhile. The only other sitcoms I've binge watched are Dick Van Dyke and NewsRadio, which frankly hold up. Which goes back to Ken's longstanding point about the characters being what makes a series work. If you care about them and they perform consistently, you can watch a lot.

I've never tried to binge watch M*A*S*H, I think instinctively for the reasons Ken describes. The episodes are very self-contained. After all, the series lasted far longer than the war so you couldn't really have the kind of narrative arc that might work in a Sopranos.

estiv said...

@Pat Reeder, the Hallmark Channel bleeping is often nonsensical. Once on a Frasier episode Martin referred to someone as a "jack" [pause], and it took me a few seconds to realize that the censor had removed the syllable "ass." So "pissed" gets through, but "jackass," which probably would have been acceptable on the Andy Griffith Show, does not. And somebody got paid to make those decisions. Yeesh.

SimonMoon5 said...

I'm not much of a binge-watcher in general, but...

One year, my girlfriend (now ex) got me the first two seasons of MASH on DVD for Valentine's Day (weird,huh?). And then, Amazon was having a sale on MASH DVDs (and since I don't like having an incomplete collection, I bought the rest of the seasons too.

When binge-watching MASH, I tried looking out for various things like: (a) developments (and un-developments) of Radar's character or (b) the timeline... I always wanted to figure out exactly what year things were happening... but, boy is it ever a mess. The year-long episode really was the straw that broke the camel's back, but even before then, there were problems. One season, a Christmas episode came before a Halloween episode (so did ten months pass between those two episodes?).

Jimx said...

Wait. I've never actually thought about this before. I'm serious, this might sound weird, but do people actually just sit and watch TV and do nothing else?

I'm 40 and since I was a kid we've watched TV a TOn. But always while playing a game, having a conversation, reading, cooking, whatever. Nowadays all that plus or maybe on the internet, or working. Do folks actually sit still and do nothing but watch? Aren't they bored? Tv is just so... slow.

Not kidding, not being snarky. It never occurred to me until I read this piece that folks might just... Watch... TV. My mind is kinda blown.

Mark O'Neill said...

...at my peak, I could watch several episodes of MASH in a row, easily. The thing with MASH, that most don't understand, is that the camp itself, became a character. I don't mean the war or Korea, but the actual stage 9 or ranch set. So, fast paced dialogue or not, the camp was always consistently there. I don't know how to explain it better, but that setting was an anchor, and so my brain was never on overload. And, unlike the final seasons...where every single second had to be filled with dialogue...which I found somewhat unrealistic, earlier seasons used dialogue more naturally, in my opinion, giving your brain a chance to relax.

Dennis said...

Regarding the comments wondering how people have time to binge watch. Depends on how you spend your time. I had a roommate who, after supper, arranged himself in front of the TV, with his laptop and phone, and spent his entire evening there. Generally three hours or so. That's how he spent almost all of his nights. He used to binge watch all the time. I binge watch occasionally, but I guess my attention span is too short for binging to come to me naturally. A couple episodes of anything and I start to get bored, even if I'm watching a really great series. About as close as I've come to seriously binging on anything was with GAME OF THRONES, which I came to late and had to play catch up with on season one a very short time before season two started.

Steve said...

I'm watching MASH on Netflix, a few episodes a day. I'm also from the generation who watched it on TV a few times a day as a teenager, plus the first-run episodes on Monday nights. After not seeing them since the '80s, it's amazing to me that I remember them almost verbatim. I'm at season 9 now and starting to fast-forward through some episodes. It's fascinating to watch the gradual fading of overall quality of the show, which began around 1979. The pacing changed, story lines get weak. Margaret Houlihan became almost a completely different character. Even the theme song was re-recorded for later seasons and it noticably just wasn't as good. But still... my favorite TV show of all time.

cadavra said...

As an old person who grew up accustomed to watching shows once a week (and loving the old movie serials to boot), I'm just plain disinclined to binge-watching. I might watch two half-hours back-to-back, but that's it. That someone would sit down and watch an entire season of "24" in three or four days simply defeats the purpose--part of the fun is waiting to see what happens next week.

Daniel said...

This essay about binge-watching M*A*S*H* just popped up online, and it focuses on a character many people have forgotten:

https://fatheffalump.wordpress.com/2016/03/27/a-tribute-to-nurse-kellye/

It's lovely.

Johnny Walker said...

I've tried to watch M*A*S*H recently (with the laughter OFF, of course) and I found it an oddly stressful experience. As a kid I loved its bitter-sweetness, as an I adult it feels a tough watch... maybe I'm getting soft in my old age. I certainly don't think I could binge on it, but then again, maybe I could (I should probably give it another go). I can certainly can binge CHEERS, WINGS, and FRASIER after all.

David G. said...

I do what could probably be called "anti-binging": I watch DVDs of TV shows on the nights they used to air ... and only on that night. Currently, I'm watching "Cagney & Lacey" and "Northern Exposure" on Monday nights. Sundays it's "All in the Family" (which is still AMAZINGLY funny) and "The Carol Burnett Show." Thursdays? Why, "Family Ties" and "The Office", of course. (I don't own any of the "Cheers" sets. Sorry.)