Why we cannot stop binge-watching our shows

Photo courtesy of YouTube

Photo courtesy of YouTube

Nivi Khatana, Alum

With a fuzzy blanket and a movie snack within arm’s reach, I turn to my latest obsession: Luke Thomson—more specifically, Luke Thomson as Benedict Bridgerton from Netflix’s hit series “Bridgerton”. However, now I have to settle for an unsatisfactory rewatching of the series. When the series premiered, I binge-watched all eight episodes in one go. Consequently, I felt notably unhappy as the final credits rolled on screen. It’s not that the show wasn’t a dazzling rendition of regency era drama, it’s the recurring post-binge-watch melancholy that’s become an all too prevalent theme in my entertainment routine.

Commonly defined as the rapid one-after-the-other viewing of a series, binge-watching has become an ingrained part of my life as an individual who blankets herself in alternative worlds to alleviate the reality of day-to-day life. An overdramatic description certainly, but in today’s age of Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and other quick-access streaming giants, the existence of binge-watching is almost unavoidable. An entire series’ worth of material is released in a day allowing viewers to proceed at their own pace, which sometimes is far too quickly.

Binge-watching certainly has its time and place — it’s not all bad. Like other behavioral addictions, binge-watching provides a (much-needed) dose of dopamine and instant gratification. It’s a comfort activity. It’s a form of necessary stress relief. Similar to being so enveloped in a book to read it in one sitting, cover to cover. There is an element of reward equally present in viewing a show’s story, start to finish. 

However, the precious detail of proper film is lost with binge-watching. Directors, casts, cinematographers and a whole team pour their artistry and effort into creating a perfectly put-together product. But with the hasty nature of binge-watching, these thought-out components are easily missed. Something that took well over a year to make can be over in a night. Going back to Luke Thomas, the filming alone for Bridgerton took nine months. My viewing of it took up the better part of a weekend. 

Some shows just can’t be binge-watched. Although, some viewers —myself included —simply cannot be trusted with the responsibility of self-control while pacing through a series. Luckily, some producers have taken the lead on managing the issue. Wandavision streamed on Disney+ earlier this year and nearly took over the internet. Disney+ released the show’s episodes on a weekly basis and, in between, viewers stormed social media with memes, theories and jokes. This way, the audience was able to truly absorb the show’s themes. This linear release model facilitates long-term conversations in a world where viewers simply watch-and-go. 

A break between episodes creates vital elements to a complete viewing experience – anticipation, reflection and most importantly, appreciation. After all, I don’t mind rewatching “Bridgerton”. But it’s the details I recognize I missed that make me wish I had thoroughly enjoyed the experience the first time around. Perhaps I’ll do better with season two.