Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The trouble with binging

No, this is not about eating disorders (in case you found your way here through a search engine or activist group that didn’t bother to read the post before linking to it). It’s about television binging. It’s about watching a hundred episodes of DEXTER at one sitting and then never being able to sleep with the light off.

Binging is the new way we’re watching television. Viewers now have to make a tough choice. Wait a week for the next installment of your favorite show? Or send the kids to boarding school so you’ll have time to finally catch up on SONS OF ANARCHY?

I have binge-watched on occasion. It is addicting. I think I burned through HOUSE OF CARDS in two nights. I found myself saying: “What time is it? 2:30 am? Okay. I can watch one more.”

There are however, a number of drawbacks to binging.

You can’t just hop aboard the moving train. You hear great things about a show but you really have to start from the beginning. So if a couple of seasons have gone by chances are you’ll just skip it and thus deny yourself a terrific show.

This is how I feel about THE WIRE. Never watched it when it was on.  I have all the DVD’s just sitting, waiting for me. People say it’s the greatest show in the history of television. But they also say it takes about a season to get into it and it’s hard to pick up the dialogue. You have to train your ear. But they say, “Fight through that and it’s worth it.” I’m sure it is. But the prospect of all that effort and all the hours required just seems so daunting. Instead I watch baseball plays-of-the-week.

Another problem: these shows do very poorly in syndication. Once you know how they end you tend to move onto other things. And again, new fans don’t tune in midstream because they’ll be totally lost (especially with LOST). There’s something definitely wrong when THE SOPRANOS does way worse in syndication than THE GEORGE LOPEZ SHOW.

The easiest thing for viewers to do of course is jump right on board when a new series premieres. But a lot of them fizzle out. You devote seven hours to FLASH FORWARD and it’s cancelled. You’re saying, “Wait a minute? They never explained how this all happened?” Tough shit. You’re screwed.

So it becomes harder for networks to gauge which new shows are catching on because even if a show is promising, many viewers will hold off watching until they’re sure their time won’t be wasted. This is less of a problem with premium cable because they’re just looking to keep subscribers. They’re more concerned about buzz rather than ratings.   Not so with CBS.

Binging also eliminates the shared experience we used to have when a big event was on television.   There's something magical about the whole country coming together as one to participate in a television program.  Now the only time that happens is for major sporting events and O.J. trials.

I also worry that when you binge you don’t take the time to really savor and think about each episode. MAD MEN has always resonated because I had the time to contemplate each episode. As a result I got way more out of it. I appreciated the nuances, allowed the themes to reverberate. When you binge-watch you say, “Okay, that was a good one. Next!” It’s like when you go to a fine restaurant and bring home some leftover prime steak. You give it to your dog and he gulps it down in three bites. You want to say, “Hey, that cost $5 an ounce!”

And my final beef (tying it in the with last sentence and confusing the activists) with binging: when I was writing MASH we would usually do one hour-long episode a season. And I always hated them. Why? Because we packed so much into each half hour I felt that thirty-minute increments were how the show was meant to be watched. We’d include the same amount into hour episodes, but I felt the audience started getting weary about forty-five minutes in. The rhythm, story-telling, and pace were designed for the half-hour format. Now I know viewing habits have changed. Especially with Netflix and Hulu people binge on MASH and CHEERS all the time. And that’s great. I love the fact that new viewers are discovering our shows – as long as they understand that they were originally designed not to be seen all at once, but to be seen over and over again.

With Netflix you are encouraged to binge since all episodes of a new series are available at once. But that means you also have the chance to be a network programmer (which is something I'm sure you've always to be). Instead of watching ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK in marathon fashion, you can program a time slot to watch it each week. Then you move that time slot. Then you pre-empt it two weeks for The World Series. Then you decide you enjoyed the nudity in one episode so much you replay it on Saturday night. Then you get tired of it and stop watching but burn off the final four episodes next June.  Doesn't that sound like fun?

For you proponents of binging I offer the ultimate challenge. Grab some snacks, make yourself comfy. Now watch all 530 episodes of THE SIMPSONS in one sitting.  If nothing else, you'll shame me into watching THE WIRE. 


JohnnyEff said...

I agree with everything you wrote Ken, and I aslo have a box set of THE WIRE sitting on the shelf for almost two years now. I will watch it though.

I've binge watched, it's fun. But what a difference it will be for those who end up binge-watching for example this current run of Breaking Bad compared to the excruciating weeklong wait for the next episode. Especially if like me you're into the online banter and analysis. Two totally different experiences. I prefer waiting the week.

JohnnyEff said...

Hi Ken, a Friday question...

As I said, I’m a huge fan of Breaking Bad and I follow their weekly Breaking Bad Insider podcast with editor Kelley Dixon and showrunner/ creator Vince Gilligan (highly recommend it; this week’s podcast “Ozymandias” is one of the best ever). I’m not in the business but it’s still a fascinating inside look of the nuts and bolts of putting this masterpiece together. They have various actors, directors writers etc. as guest every week.

Three things that really strike me about this are 1) the people involved seem to be the best in the business; 2) the incredible engagement and perfectionism (despite the budget and time challenges) they all seem to have; and 3) everyone seems to put their egos (and in this business there have got to be plenty) in their back pocket. Gilligan’s style must help as he is said to be an incredible collaborator and leader and obviously he must look for the kind of folks that will fit in.

I come from government work in Canada and of course found that that many people were not doing what they loved to do, but rather were there for the pay and benefits. (That said, I worked with some incredible people who excelled despite the culture).

My questions to you are: On MASH and Cheers (two masterpieces as well) was it like that? What is it like to work collaboratively with the best in the business? Were egos a big issue? Were any of the crew just not that good or engaged but had to be retained because of union rules? That kind of thing. Or were you in heaven working with a group of people who all gave a damn and were the best?


JIm S said...


You make excellent points. Back when The Sopranos was on (hard to believe it's been off the air for more than six years) I had a work colleague who didn't get HBO. He was a nice guy so I taped the episodes for him. Come Monday, I'd hand him the tape and he had until Friday to return it. (I wasn't going lose tapes that way. Costs add up).

I didn't want to be a jerk, so I wouldn't talk about the show with other people in the office so as not to spoil the experience. It finally got to the point where I said he had to watch the show Monday night so the rest of us could talk about the show.

You can't do that these days because so many people watch the show via Netflix or OnDemand or DVR.

The exception is "Breaking Bad." That show is so tense, people can't wait to talk about it. You had to go to some wedding on Sunday night and it's on your DVR waiting to be seen? Tough, we're talking about it.

I just read an interview with David Cross and Bob Odenkirk. Cross hadn't been watching the show despite the fact his longtime comedy partner was in it. His wife finally got him to watch it. He binged and finally caught up. Now he has to watch it when it comes out on Sunday night because people do want to talk about it. He even said he preferred not to watch the show the "old fashioned" way.

I'm with you Ken. Being able to go to the office and talk about last night's episode of "Seinfeld" with everyone else really added to the experience. Unfortunately there are only two episodes of "Breaking Bad" left. It will be the rare TV show that can demand audience attention like that.

Bryan L said...

I agree with what you said, Ken, but I think you overlook a third possibility that lies midway between binge-watching and traditional weekly watching. I rarely have time to binge, so I watch an episode a day, while I ride my stationary bike (yes, fitness fanatic). It's a way of life for me now. Makes me think of the old "Tune in tomorrow night, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel."

Chris G said...

Everybody tells people the wrong thing about THE WIRE. What they should say is this: Watch the first scene of the first episode. It's hilarious and sets up the rest of the season, thematically, in under five minutes. If you don't like that scene, don't watch THE WIRE. But don't worry, you will love that scene and want to see what comes next.

Stu West said...

My girlfriend and I recently suspended all our current TV watching and blew through the entire series of The Wire in about a month (so not exactly binging - I think it was an average of around two episodes per day). All I'll say is: there's nothing quite like finishing one of the greatest shows of all time and realising you now have to catch up on eight episodes of The Newsroom.

Anonymous said...

Some good points but you've been badly advised on the wire. Watch the first two episodes. Hell the first half of the first episode is enough to hook most people. It is pretty much everything people say. Except it doesn't need a series to get into.

Larry Schnur said...

As an aid to training your ear, consider turning on the closed captioning, that's what I did, and it helped enormously.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

But they also say it takes about a season to get into it and it’s hard to pick up the dialogue.
What anonymous just said, two or three episodes and I bet you're hooked. I found Breaking Bad took much longer to hook me, but it did.

Maybe I'm weird but I've rewatched the Sopranos in its entirety twice and frequently watch a rerun on HBO, just to watch the acting and see some of greatest and/or funniest scenes. Also, Deadwood for the dialogue and Ian McShane and Calamity Jane; Rome because it's a fun historical cartoon. There are parts I FF through and probably an episode or two I skip altogether, but I'll watch it again, probably. I'll definitely get the BB box set just so I can see again the way Gilligan ties everything together, like that thing that is so important as things wind down but I still for the life of me can't figure out how/why Jesse made the connection. No spoiler there, I think.

Murray said...

I've never enjoyed the "morning after water cooler analysis" experience.

By bad luck, the shows I enjoy and the current crop of coworkers never line up. They're yammering and hooting like baboons about who won the "Yodeling with Has-Beens" semi-finals while I want to talk about the twist in "Justified". Or, if we are talking about the same grown-up show, I want to marvel at the tense stand-off hostage scene and they're snorking away..."Yeah, and we saw her boobies!"

Roger Owen Green said...

I know it's an acceptable alternative, but I HATE the spelling 'binging', which to me rhymes with singing. I always use bingeing, which the Blogger spellcheck claims is wrong.

Ane said...

Ken, if you haven't watched Ricky Gervais' "Derek" yet, you should. Soft comedy at it's best.

Scooter Schechtman said...

When it comes to the pronunciation of "binging", I go by the old school method of not using nouns incorrectly as verbs. Example:
"I was in the middle of a bourbon binge when I typed this."

Jeffro said...

My surefire way to keep from binging: I subscribe to MLB.TV and NHL GameCenter Live, which are the Internet streaming subscriptions services for these two sports; I usually watch through my Roku player. What I'll do is watch a game once a day, and maybe when I'm in the mood, I'll go over to my Netflix "channel" and watch a show like House of Cards (or Cheers) after the game. Also, I've got a lot of stuff in my Instant Queue, so there's always something expiring soon that I got to make a priority to watch before anything else. So I end up being lucky to watch one or two shows of any series per week. I'm still not all the way through either House of Cards and Orange-ITN-Black yet.

By the way, the Internet streaming subscriptions for sports—it's the best way to watch them. I always wait until the game is over (usually the next day) to watch so that I can fast-forward through all commercial breaks. For the NHL, once the "archive" a game (about 90 min after the end of a live game), they actually cut-out all the breaks and the intermissions between periods, so there's no need to manually FF through a game. They also put up a "condensed" game, which cuts out some periods where there's not a lot of action that determines the game's outcome—it's somewhere between a full game and watching the highlights (I rarely use this option, though). And for baseball the pace is much more tolerable with no breaks. Another great thing is that I no longer need to worry about taking-up three or four hours of space on my DVR.

DBA said...

For me, whether I binge-watch has a lot to do with the type of show. For example, Doctor Who, I used to watch weekly and at a certain point realized I'd rather save several and watch them in bunches, rather than seeing one and needing to wait. Same thing with Fringe. But those sort of shows all have a certain "I need to know what's going to happen next" factor. Less serialized shows, I usually prefer watching once a week, having some time in between episodes and rarely binge-watch those, even if it's a series I missed originally and am watching on DVD. If there isn't impatience about finding out where it's going, I'll watch one or two and wait a few days, etc.

Jacky K said...

The only show I ever "binged" on was Curb Your Enthusiasm (got the DVD around 2003). I had seen 1-2 episodes before, loved them. Then binged and about halfway through I started really to dislike the show -- actually, I really, really disliked Larry David. From then on I never binged on Curb again but went back to watching him once a week. And I love the show again. Perhaps there should be a term for this, "the Larry David effect" - great in small doses, terrible in large ones. Bingers beware. Anybody else have a similar experience with a different show or character?

Covarr said...

I guess I'm more of the pseudo-binging type. I tend to watch one episode a day of shows I'm catching up on (sometimes two if they're half-hour shows). Usually two different shows a day, one during my lunch break, and the other before bed. Lately it's been The X-Files and Orange is the New Black, before that it was Frasier and House of Cards.

One nice thing that would make binge watching better is if Netflix had partial current seasons for in-progress shows. It's tough to try and catch up with a show mid-season on Netflix, only to find the current season missing. Breaking Bad, for example, only has through Season 5 Episode 8 (where they split the season last year), so you can't fully catch up... but the rest aren't airing on TV as reruns either. There's no way to get to where the show currently is. It sucks.

chuckcd said...

I have piles of shows on dvd that I need to get to.
Sons Of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Homeland...the list goes on.

I love to binge watch tv shows.
Getting really involved with the story and the chatracters and not having to endure long breaks between episodes.
The best was watching an entire season of 24 at one time.

If felt how Jack Bauer looked...

chuckcd said...

Sorry for the typos.

Anonymous said...

I'll binge with maybe 2-3 at the most. This is how I went through the Larry Sanders Show, so maybe I'd feel differently for an hour long drama.

A good one for anybody out there: Terriers. They're all on Netflix and they are outstanding. It's only 1 season, so this could easily be done over the course of a few nights. One of my favorite shows!

Tommy said...

A lot of what is said of binging can also be said for bandwagon jumpers: For a show like Breaking Bad, getting to know the characters over the course of 3-5 years is definitely something to be valued. Marathoning through the five seasons in 2 weeks just to be able to catch up to the live shows, you won't get as much out of it that way.

And it's even worse for comics such as The Walking Dead. With those you can read through in about 5 minutes, and then have to wait ONE MONTH or more for the next issue. Getting to know the characters over the course of 7 years is way more rewarding than blitzing through that 7 years over the course of 5 hours.

But as Ken said, the hard part is scheduling a time to get measured doses when it's all available to you at once.

Lou H. said...

I was binging on 24 during its later years, and it made me realize how little actually happened in each episode. It was basically "Jack gets chased for an hour". More happened in a 4-minute episode of Rocky & Bullwinkle, and those included 90 seconds of recaps.

YEKIMI said...

When I saw the title of this post "The trouble with binging", I thought it was going to be a gripe about Microsoft's search engine.

Becca in Seattle said...

Hi Ken,

Quick bit of advice, make some time for the Wire, you won't regret it. I finally gave into all the people who said it's the "greatest TV show of all time", once I started I couldn't stop, watched the whole series in about a month and you know what? They were right, there is nothing else like this show. When several of the recurring charachters died I greived for them as if they were real people in my life.

Also, I'm currently binging on Cheers, just started Season 6 and don't plan on stopping. Last night I watched a "Ken Levine and David Issacs" episode called "The ast angry mailman", it was awesome! I truly don't believe there is anything this good on television today. Thanks Ken and Netflix!

Cap'n Bob said...

Anent water cooler discussions of the previous night's shows: A guy was telling a male co-worker about the Seinfeld episode where Jerry couldn't remember his girl's name, which she said sounded like a female body part. A woman in the office overheard this, filed a sexual harassment suit, and the guy was fired.

Loosehead said...

My wife and I travelled 5000 miles to Boston, splurging on British Airways First Class flights (the caterers were on strike, so we got sandwiches with our champagne) and stayed at the Fairmont, for our 25th wedding anniversary...and watched a 24 marathon for 2 days in our room. Best way to watch 24, worst way to spend a 25th wedding anniversary in Boston.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ken,

LOVE the blog- really fantastic. You wrote about one of my all-time favorite subjects- "The Wire". I admit, I watch ALOT of TV (I commute everyday so I watch on my tablet) and it's a MUST SEE. When I talk about the show I tell people "watch it- it'll change your life." People look at me funny and say "Really?" I reply with the same answer: "Will change your life." Rarely does a work of art (TV, movies, theatre, sculpture, etc) change your perspective but "The Wire" does. It touches on everything from race, drugs, poverty, education, class, sexuality, money, age, economy- virtually every social/political theme you can come up with.
The problem is, when it's over and you compare other "cop shows" to it- they all pale in comparison.

Sue said...

I binge watched The West Wing, don't know how I missed it the first time around, when it became available on Netflix in January. I finished 7 years in about three weeks and enjoyed every minute, well maybe not the first season without Aaron Sorkin, that one became sort of dark. The best part was not having to wait the entire summer to find out the cliff hanger from the previous season. I guess I am part of the group who needs instant gratification. The most amazing and sad part of my endeavor was that they (on the West Wing) were tackling the same problems we are tackling now.

Johnny Walker said...

Argh. I think it was me who listed the golden rules for watching the THE WIRE -- and apparently they had the opposite effect, so let me explain why you SHOULD watch it:

1. Remember that feeling you had the last time you got REALLY hooked on a TV show? You felt blessed every minute you got to watch it. Well, that's the experience you get with THE WIRE.

2. Remember feeling both eager to find out how a season end, but simultaneously genuinely sad that there will be one less story to watch when you do? You get that with THE WIRE.

3. Remember watching a show that didn't insult your intelligence as a viewer? That wasn't aimed at teenage boys, didn't bow to the lowest common denominator, that tackled adult subjects with wit, intelligence and, and above all, insight? Yep, that's THE WIRE.

4. Remember that show you vowed to watch this year in your New Year's resolutions? You know what I'm going to say.

It's time, Ken! Take the DVD out of the box, tell yourself that this is something you're going to love, and watch an episode. And then another. Like a great book, it will start reeling you in.


Marty Fufkin said...

The Wire took me four episodes to get into. I almost abandoned it after each one. But boy, what a payoff for sticking it through. The reason people feel this way is because each season is structured like one long show. Instead of having your setup, exposition, and payoff in 20-minute blocks, it happens over 12 or 13 hours.

Each season has a different theme. The most plodding was probably the fourth. But the fifth focused on media issues and how reporters and the police manipulate each other, and it was actually quite funny.

Ken, it would be great to hear your take on it. Watch one season and blog about how right or wrong everyone was in pushing this show on you so hard.

Paul Duca said...

For many reasons, sitcoms have always done better in syndication than drama series.

T.J. said...

"There’s something definitely wrong when THE SOPRANOS does way worse in syndication than THE GEORGE LOPEZ SHOW."

While that's true, have you SEEN an episode of The Sopranos in syndication? Edited into unwatchability. And watching shows through syndication is a dying form of TV consumption, I'm afraid. "Man, I sure miss the Pony Express!"

Janet T said...

Hi my name is Janet- I’m a binger. Blew through Veronica Mars on DVD, Scandal and Friday Night Lights and Hell on Wheels on Netflix until we caught up to the new shows on TV. And we blasted through House of Cards in 3 nights (in Spring! and we own a greenhouse nursery) I’ve only watched Burn Notice, 24 and Lost on Netflix/Hulu/whatever. Currently watching Breaking Bad- I think we are in Season 2. Part of the reason we prefer this is what Ken stated- you invest in a show, only to have it canceled, or a show starts and is then preempted for Christmas/President’s Day/a Full moon, or they rerun shows in every week that is not a sweeps week- Our biggest reason for our binging is probably because we despise commercials- on regular TV we record everything- The Daily Show, Sunday Morning, college football, so we can fast forward through the commercials- I have a woman who works for me, who used to always ask- “have you seen the commercial for…….?” she has finally stopped asking me this question because my answer is always- NO, we don’t watch commercials. I don’t see breaking this behavior anytime soon- and I’ve wanted to watch The Wire for a long time so it may be the next show on the list.

mdv1959 said...

Friday question: Most of the highly regarded non-network shows you mention (The Wire, Sopranos, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, etc...) differ from standard network shows by doing 13 episodes per season instead of 20+ episodes. Do you think doing less episodes is a big factor in achieving a higher overall quality of the show? (Would CHEERS or MASH have been even better if you only did 13 episodes per year?) Do you think networks will gravitate to doing 13 episode seasons soon?

Mark said...

Lawrence Block said that the Wire was the best thing on television but he was only able to get into it once he started using the close captioning.

Ness said...

Fascinating true it is. First experienced binge-watching w/ "24". Every episode ending on a cliff-hanger keeps you going.

I couldn’t pinpoint it before, but you hit the nail on the head! Once you know how a show ends, hard to keep going.
(probably why I’m still stuck on 1st season of Sopranos)
I do find watching shows that are STILL on tv work for binging…ie) Newsroom, Homeland, and Entourage (at the time)

Funny, I was too young to appreciate MASH in its hayday, but have recently found it on syndication. Realizing how FUNNY the show is has created a “mash-binge-watcher” out of me. DVRing every episode I can. (To which my roommate will lose it if she hears the “Suicide is Painless” intro once more)

Terry said...

I never seem to have time to binge-watch. I don't know how people do it. If I have time to watch an episode a day of a favorite series, that's pretty extraordinary.

Craig L. said...

This just shows Microsoft's lack of wisdom in naming its search engine "Bing" because nobody Binges on Bing.

Friday question:
How many things about regular characters that never come up on the show do the writers know? This is because Eddie Deeson, in one of his posts to the blog Neatorama, addresses the mystery of "What Did Barney Rubble Do for a Living?".

Of course, I know the thickness of a "Show Bible" can vary widely, and in many cases, especially in the earlier TV eras, and ESPECIALLY on an animated show, nobody may care. (The weekly "reset" of continuity in The Simpsons is legendary, while Matt Groening's other show, Futurama, allowed much more stuff to be re-referenced)

Which raises the secondary question: is the length of a "Show Bible" often indicative of a good vs. a bad show, or just an indicator of the OCD of the creator or developer?

ODJennings said...

I'm binging on MI5 (Spooks was the original title in the UK), and that's a big mistake. I'm up to season 7, so that's 70 episodes, and every single one of them involves someone trying to commit an act of terrorism (generally blowing up London using schemes so complicated they would make Wylie E. Coyote shake his head).

I watch the news now, and I just assume that everything I see is a CIA plot, I scan rooftops to try to spot the best place for the sniper to hide, I assume my cellphone is tapped, and I find myself scanning the street for closed circuit television cameras.

It doesn't help that the show kills off characters with such alarming regularity that when you're introduced to the new guy on the team you don't even bother learning his name for about 4 episodes--if he lasts that long.

I'm sure it was great entertainment in hour long doses, but the week long gaps between episodes are vital to your mental health.

Kosmo13 said...

A real test of one's binge skills would be watching all 1,225 episodes of Dark Shadows in one marathon.

Craig Russell said...

I LOVE when people already bring up/ask/complain about what I was going to! Then I dont have to say "isn't 'Binging' something MS does to you when you use Bing?"

Tony said...

I've been binge-listening lately to Jack Benny radio shows. Funny, funny stuff. The man was a genius.

I had a coworker who lost his job due to binge-watching. He was staying up until two or three every morning watching his shows, and as a result was coming in late, not to mention that the effect it was having on the quality of his work.

Johnny Walker said...

I sort of feel it's the sign of a good show if I can binge on it without getting sick. I remember binging on Family Guy when it was new, and getting sick if it mainly due to the fact that its "formula" became obvious. THAT joke (which The Simpsons has since retired) where a character says, "remember what happened the last time you got ice cream..." FLACKBACK to some absurd event involving the ordering of ice cream.

That joke is so lazy because it requires zero setup. Just a character saying, "remember the last time..." I don't know if they still use it, but once you see a show rely on it almost exclusively for its humour, it becomes unbearable to watch again.

Anonymous said...

Friday Question:

What say you about the recent Michael J Fox debacle on NBC?
Bad writing aside, can you center a traditional comedy format on someone with a progressive degenerative disease?


Barry Traylor said...

I don't binge watch on purpose, but as my wife and I do not get HBO, Showtime, etc. when the seasons are released on video it is hard to stop with one episode (of say) Boardwalk Empire. I don't know about the Sopranos but some cable networks do not run these shows in the order they were first showed. Law and Order is a case in point. TNT runs these on Saturday and Sunday mornings which I record to watch later. A couple of weeks ago they ran an episode where the female ADA is murdered by some very bad guys and the episode after she was alive and well.
As far as Lost goes I was a fan of the show and I still have not forgiven them for the "it was all a dream, we were actually in purgatory the whole time" ending!

Bob Summers said...

I've binged a few times. It's a great way to catch up on a show you missed the first season(s) of.

Friday question: I remember hearing about Fred MacMurray shooting all his stuff and then going away the rest of the season. Thus the kids would do their reactions to a mop being posed as Fred or something.

Is that one of those things you couldn't get by with today? Is it a thing that only worked with one camera and a laugh track? It also begs tne question: How far in advance did they plan the seasons?

ODJennings said...

Binging also quickly reveals the corners they cut making the show.

It doesn't register when you're watching over a period of weeks, but when you're rolling through a season in a weekend you start noticing the locations they use over and over (on MI5, the show I mentioned earlier, the same office space is both CIA headquarters and the Russian secret service offices in different episodes), the recycling of stock footage starts jumping out at you, the props get reused (they've disarmed the same bomb about 4 times at this point, but they still agonize over which wire to cut) and even whole blocks of dialogue get repeated.

Nothing new of course, that's why the guys on Dragnet wore the same suit and tie every episode, but maybe something that will need to be considered if binging becomes the norm.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Ken, THE WIRE is just an awesome show. All the fol-de-rol, all the caveats, all the pre-requisites -- well, fuck all that. Jesus, there are some lousy salespeople in the world.

Just watch it because it's just a damn good show. Some seasons are better than others (3 is my personal favorite, and David Simon does a commentary - yes, I'll recommend a commentary track! -- during the second season which is passionate and compassionate and dismayed all at once) and I think I enjoyed it more because I watched it one episode per night (rather than once a week, mostly because of the number of characters), but you should have no trepidation about enjoying this fine fine show. It ain't medicine, but it's good for ya.

Mel Ryane said...

I gulped FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS over the last couple of weeks. Delish! I don't want to return to week to week. It was like reading a huge, yummy novel. Check out Mary McNamara's front page story in today's L.A. Times.

George said...

I don't know what people are talking about needing to pick up the language on The Wire. It's pretty obvious, and the show picks up right at the first episode.

And no, it's not the greatest show ever. It is a pretty racist show in my opinion, but written in a way that people think they are being anti-racist for liking the show.

AndrewJ said...

Another problem: these shows do very poorly in syndication. Once you know how they end you tend to move onto other things.

OTOH, everybody knows how lousy Seinfeld's finale was, and that show still does great in reruns.

mickey said...

I binge-watched the two seasons of "Girls" a few months back and since then, I have wondered if watching it that way detracted from the experience. The show I watched couldn't possibly be the one that people were raving about as a comic masterpiece. I thought it was not funny, gratuitously offensive in an effort to shock, and stocked to the gills with self-absorbed and unlikeable characters. Would that have been my experience if I had watched it week by week without the annoying parts accumulating to the tipping point? Because I binge-watched, I felt guilty that I was being too harsh in my reaction, that I had not viewed in the way Lena Dunham had intended.

McAlvie said...

Two things about binging:

first, there's a point when it becomes harder to suspend disbelief when you watch too many episodes back to back. Maybe it has to do with attention span limitations? I think you can lose the sense of intimacy and that makes plot holes stand out that much more. I find the same think happens when I binge on books by a single author.

Second, too many series today are written as a season or even series-long arc. I think this is why older shows do better in syndication. Personally, I think a long arc is asking for trouble anyway. Take the recent penchant for shows about a hero hunting a seriel killer or mysterious evil. There's a point when the audience is going to get tired of being strung along and want some things wrapped up. Remember the, what was it 5 or 6 episodes? Anyway, NCIS had a really long story arc with Richard Schiff as the bad guy. Love NCIS. Love Richard Schiff. But, seriously, after the 3rd episode I was finding it hard to care. And the danger in that is that your audience might not come back.

Mike said...

Richard Schiff appeared for all of 3 episodes. Either you are thinking of La Grenouille, or perhaps Hawaii 5-0 with Iron Chef?

The Truffle Dog said...

I have a tip for watching The Wire - turn on your closed captioning. I didn't figure this out until season three, but after I did it made the dialog a whole lot easier to get on the first try.

Realsurf said...

After the removal of an unused internal organ I was relegated to the couch for a week. It happened to be COPS week...24 hours a day.
Now if I get pulled over by the police I just scream "I RAN BECAUSE I WAS SCARED!!!"