TV Binge (and Purge)

We cut the cord on cable over a year ago and haven't looked back.  Most of what we watch is readily available through the various streaming services (and subscriptions to multiple services is still far cheaper than cable), and the stuff that isn't we either wait until it is, pony up for it on Amazon or something (because it's a lot more palatable to pay for a program we do watch than thousands we don't on cable), or else skip it entirely.  It only ever seems to be a problem with sports - NESN doesn't stream the Red Sox, and NBC limited its online Olympics coverage to cable subscribers only - but as those are the only two sports we care at all about in our house, even that's not that big a deal.  And the upshots of this entire process are that we all find ourselves watching fewer television programs and reading a lot more, so we're better for the experience.

There's one aspect of the cord cutting lifestyle I haven't been able to adapt myself to, though, and that's binge watching.

With so many programs available in their entirety online - and with new programs being made specifically for the online audience that put the entire series up at the same time - a lot of folks are dramatically changing the way they watch TV, devouring whole seasons (or complete series) all in one go.  I saw an interview with Kevin Spacey recently where they talked about this in relation to his Netflix series House of Cards and he compared it to the way people read; most folks don't parse a novel out at the pace of a chapter or two a week, they read it all the way through until they're finished.

It's an apt metaphor, and I certainly read like that, but for whatever reason I can't watch TV that way.  It's kind of like eating donuts... I could probably sit there and eat the entire dozen given half a chance, but by the end, at best I'll be sick of donuts for a long time, and at worst I'll be just plain sick.  For instance, take The West Wing.  I never watched it when it was on but I heard great things from people I trust so when I found it was available on Amazon Prime and Netflix, I gave it a shot.  Yeah, as it turns out, it's a fantastic show, but 3 and a half seasons in my pace has slowed to a crawl, no matter how tense, compelling, or witty it may be.  Even with a show this good, I just need a break.

In the end, I need as much variety in my TV diet as I do in my real one, or at the very least I need smaller portions.  I've always like the British model for TV production... a single season/series goes for about 6 to 12 episodes, and if that's popular enough they do another set and maybe a Christmas special, and so on.  It's a lot easier to digest than the typical American 12-24 (or more) episode seasons because unless you're setting out to watch every episode ever of something with a long history like Doctor Who or, I don't know, East Enders, you're not as likely to get sick of it as quickly, especially if you're just taking a season at a time.  But I suppose portion control has never been our strong suit in this country, has it?

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