The Banner might not be the best place for a confession, but here goes: I was a bingewatcher.
That means, if I started watching a series on Netflix or on DVD, I’d sit down to watch one episode. Then I’d look at the clock and think, why not another one? And maybe a third or a fourth. The feeling of slipping into the story was delicious.
After working late, “a little bit” of TV to relax sometimes turned into six or seven episodes, way into the night, long after my wife had gone to bed. Such compulsiveness is what bingewatching implies. If someone had confronted me on my lack of constraint, I might have argued sheepishly that it was the library’s fault for only allowing a week to watch all the episodes in a DVD set. Or I would have blamed Netflix for allowing one episode to flow automatically into the next.
You probably noticed the past tense—I was a bingewatcher. Not so long ago, I gave up binging. It didn’t feel particularly true, noble, or right (Phil. 4:8) to spend so much time alone in front of a TV screen. A worse feeling was having to muddle through the following day on little sleep. Also, the plotlines and characters just got confused in my mind.
Critic Clive James, in his recent book Play All: A Bingewatcher’s Notebook (Yale), offers a better sort of TV “binging.” During his chronic illness, he has taken to watching multiple episodes of a TV series with one his daughters every Saturday afternoon. It provides a shared experience and, given the quality of many “long-form” shows, much to talk about afterward.
In a similar vein, I’ve developed some new habits. My wife and I have been making our way through some TV series. We usually stick to an episode once a week if we are busy. And as a treat, maybe one or two every night during a vacation. The combination of anticipation and dinner-time discussions about “what will happen next” is well worth giving up late-night binging for moderation. While I may not be up to date with every new series, I’m usually more relaxed and get regular sleep. I also enjoy each episode more as I share them in good company. That feels at once excellent and, I hope, praiseworthy.