When most people hear the word bingeing, certain images come to mind. It might be some poor girl scarfing down everything in her refrigerator and freezer, only to bow before the Porcelain God soon after and return it all in liquid form. Or maybe pictures of drunken college students in a bar form, with one lucky (?) person downing 21 Jello shots in honor of reaching adulthood.
But food and drink bingeing are so passé.
The new bingeing has everything to do with visual media—in this case—watching. From empty nesters with time on their hands to college freshmen who just think they have time on their hands (and haven’t learned how to study), the new American pastime is gorging (via Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, Hulu, or Showtime on Demand, to name a few) on series TV. Everything from Newsday to the AARP is making recommendations on what to binge view.
But just like a great book with cliffhanger chapters where you simply have to turn that page, people are now doing the same with binge-watching on their TV sets, iPads, or laptops.
I became familiar with this several years ago when I recommended to a friend that she and her husband would enjoy 24. Every week my family followed the adventures of Jack Bauer as he found new ways to save our dismal world, losing a little bit of his humanity by the end of each “day.” Sometimes it was torture to have to wait until the next week to find out what would happen. Boxed sets of TV shows were just started to be the rage and since our 2-week Christmas break from teaching was coming up, my friend said she might just give 24 a try.
We returned to school after our vacation, and she was hooked! They had watched not just a few episodes of the 1st season, but they’d devoured Seasons 2 & 3, as well. In thinking about how many hours they spent with Jack & Chloe, I wondered how they’d had time to sleep—much less open presents and visit with relatives. Yes, an addiction had been born.
When Game of Thrones started, I was eager to see how HBO would bring this series of books alive for the small screen. Not my husband. He had zero interest (even though I told him every week he was missing out on incredible TV). After the 1st season ended, he must’ve been bored or couldn’t sleep or wasn’t thinking clearly . . . because he went to HBO on Demand and called up that 1st grab you by the seat of your pants episode until you freaked out. He not only watched it, but he FINISHED the entire 1st season within 3 days! Now we faithfully watch Game of Thrones together, and I try my best to keep the smug “told ya so” look off my face.
He also decided to binge on Breaking Bad when AMC re-ran every season leading up to this last one. With it being summer and not as much on TV, he was watching 2 & 3 shows a night, trying to get caught up and become part of the national phenomenon before the final season began airing. He made it, then had to agonizingly wait each week for a single episode until the sounds of Badfinger’s Baby Blue played in the gripping finale.
My only binge experience has been with The Vampire Diaries. I’ve always been fascinated with vampires, long before pop culture climbed aboard the speeding freight train, but this series came on at a time when I was really busy and just couldn’t start a new TV show.
Until my daughter bought the 1st 3 seasons and started watching them. She kept telling me it was the most amazing show. She loaned me Season 1, and . . . so it began. I put everything on hold for this love triangle in Mystic Falls. The 1st 6 shows? Those writers crammed so much in, I thought it was an entire season’s worth of drama. And since in bingeing you have no commercials, I could watch an episode in about 40 minutes. Suddenly, I was watching 2, 3, 4 a day. I couldn’t get enough of the Salvatore brothers (Team Damon!) and sweet Elena, caught in the middle of them. It was intriguing, interesting, frightening, maddening fun.
I’m happy to report I caught up on those 3 seasons in binge-worthy record time, then began watching Season 4, which had stacked up on the Tivo. Once again, I could zip through commercials because it was on the DVR.
But that’s where the frustration began. I finished everything there . . . then I HAD TO WAIT FOR THE NEXT SHOW TO COME ON! TVD always ends on a cliffhanger, like any good serialized show should, and it was torture waiting for the next one to come on. Even worse, the show would take a break due to holidays, so sometimes I might have to wait 3 WEEKS before an episode appeared. Not good, people. Not good at all. At least this season I’m slightly mollified because not only do I get my Thursday night dose of TVD, but the producers have been quite cooperative and scheduled the spin-off, The Originals, on Tuesdays for me and my viewing pleasure.
My daughter is now bingeing on Scandal and Homeland, 2 shows I’ve recommended for her as absolute, must-see TV. Other popular and binge-worthy series I’ve heard people gobbling down are Firefly, Downton Abbey, Lost, Justified, In Treatment, Ray Donovan, and even older mini-series such as John Adams, Band of Brothers, and Rome. Even series such as The Sopranos, In Treatment, MI:5, and Torchwood are seeing new life and gaining new fans through . . . bingeing.
And me? I recently signed up for Amazon Prime and have started streaming Friday Night Lights. At least this kind of bingeing has no calories!