Binging on a serialized show is inimical to the viewing experience.

By Natalie Moronta

“What are the pleasures and perils of reviewing a show as it unfolds week to week? How has it changed the culture, at least for those serious enough about television to engage in the discussion?” This very significant question was brought forth by Scott Tobias in “How has the culture of TV (and TV-watching) changed?” by Scott Tobias and Noel Murray. Tobias introduces his liking for serialized type shows, known for their long story lines, like Gossip Girl. According to him, they should only be watched and started from the beginning. If watched in a different method:

…what’s wrong with you?

Tobias compares dropping in on a serialized show in mid-season to starting a book on chapter five. In doing so, you do not develop a comprehensive interpretation of characters because of missing information from past episodes. An onlooker who begins viewing a show from episode one of season one has been more invested in it, therefore providing them with a substantially greater grasp of the show. For example, lets assume one starts watching Gossip Girl from the middle of Season 3. How can that person watch the show and completely enjoy it if they missed all of the love, fighting, heartbreak and overall drama that occurred in the first 2 seasons?

Although there are some serialized series that are necessary to be watched from the beginning there are other shows who are serialized but are not worth it. Tobias provides the readers with an example of such a show, “…with Chuck, which had a middling first season that I’d have been better off skipping to get the much stronger second; I could have applied those precious units of time to wiser ends, like playing online poker or taking up smoking.” I found this to be quite humorous but very compelling. He exaggerates the poor quality of the show by saying that his time would have been more valuable if he were to start some harmful hobbies. However, this makes a great point about the content of a show and how meaningful it is to an audience. He states that “Greatness in a dramatic series isn’t possible without a strong (i.e. predominant) serialized element”. This quote is very representative of Gossip Girl in that it is a teen drama show that is serialized. You need to watch a couple of episodes prior to “jumping in” at any time because of the need to understand the characters and their roles which cannot be determined from just one or two episode being that it is not episodic. Gossip girl has a lengthy story line and is such a notable series because of that and its ability to arouse the curiosity of the audience. In Tobias’ words, shows that share these intriguing characteristics of Gossip Girl, “…thrive because they’re constantly moving forward and revealing new things about their characters and their cinematic universes.”

Todd VanDerWerff introduces the term “slow TV” in “In defense of slow TV”. He describes slow TV by referring to a show as an example. “If you start watching Mad Men tonight and watch just one episode each night between now and then, you’ll be caught up in plenty of time, and you’ll have seen the show the way it was intended to be seen.” VanDerWerff makes a great point. Usually, we tend to binge watch shows on Netflix, Hulu, etc. and miss important aspects of the show within the bigger picture. In a survey conducted by Netflix, 73% of people define binge-watching as “watching between 2-6 episodes of the same TV show in one sitting.” When you savor TV with patience, you are respecting the show and giving it time and space to develop. As an audience, we need to have patience and consider the time elapsed between each episode. Watching one or two episodes per week as it would usually be shown on television, allows for better comprehension of the situations that are occurring. If not, you will most likely end up saying something along the lines of:

You won’t understand a thing!

The plot that develops in every episode needs to marinate in our minds. It is normal for us to anticipate the next episode being that good shows provide us with desire and inclination. “Watching one episode at a time, it’s much easier to see the attention lavished on the individual episodes of this series.” Although it is frustrating to wait for new episodes, having the time to comtemplate the characters helps us to appreciate the show even more.
Personally, I binge watched Gossip Girl. I watched all 6 seasons or 121 episodes in two weeks and I honestly regret it. When I discussed the seasons of Gossip Girl with other people, I realized that I had missed so many small but determining factors and details and I didn’t want to discuss it until I re-watched the show so I was all like:

I went back and watched the entire second season ‘slowly’. In doing so, I gained an ample amount of information that I had otherwise missed and it made me a greater fanatic of the show. Gossip Girl, being a truly serialized show is not meant to be binge-viewed and requires much needed attention as I am saying this from experience. I was tempted to watch the episodes rapidly because the show was indefinitely tempting and dramatic. In a world where everything moves quickly and our attention is always divided, it is simple to get wrapped up in a show and get carried away with viewing. However, like Todd VanDerWerff says “watching some shows slowly and taking time to savor their episode-by-episode pleasures will often unlock a world you didn’t know existed…”

 

Scott Tobias & Noel Murray. “How Has the Culture of TV (and TV-watching) Changed?” · Crosstalk · The A.V. Club. N.p., 18 June 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <http://www.avclub.com/article/how-has-the-culture-of-tv-and-tv-watching-changed-42274>.

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