I need to preface this post by stating that I’ve never been a sci-fi geek. What I mean is that I’ve never seen or appreciated a television show, film, book, etc. solely based on the fact that it’s in the realm of science fiction or fantasy. That’s not to say I disdain anything sci-fi. Far from it, in fact. If a show or film that’s well produced happens to be sci-fi is okay with me.
I only bring up that clarification on science fiction as what I want to write about in this post has to do indirectly with a sci-fi show that Male Mode Me has taken an interest to in the past year or so. The name of the show is not germane either, although I’ll link to its web page here. What is germane, though, is the fact that the cable network airing the show is running its current season event-style, 10 episodes over 3 nights instead of the traditional one episode per week. In the modern day vernacular, this is what’s known as “binge-watching,” that is sitting down on your posterior and watching several hours of television (especially episodes from the same series) in succession.
With the advent of DVDs, DVRs, and the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and other online services releasing whole seasons at once, binge-watching has now become a big thing, and pretty important to the tastes of many. At least one essayist I’ve come across has equated binge-watching to reading multiple chapters of a novel in one sitting, which may add to the contemplation and appreciation of the material. Kevin Spacey, who has become to appreciate the building importance of binge-watching (he has a show on Netflix, you know), has endorsed letting viewers binge-watch and implored TV executives to let them do so. There has been criticism of binge-watching, however: One study from 2015 has correlated binge-watching to obesity and mental health issues. And one TV executive, the type that Kevin Spacey has encouraged to let people binge-watch, has criticized the practice as eroding a program’s social importance, i.e. a condensed schedule means fewer chances to anticipate episodes to come and fewer chances to spread word about how good a show may be.
Call me old school, but I actually endorse the latter concerns about binge-watching (no offense, Kevin Spacey). Especially if it’s a complex, serialized show, such as… okay, I’ll name names here, Orphan Black, I find myself watching them in the old, presumptively antiquated one-episode-per-sitting method. And the method of watching the show doesn’t matter either, whether it’s live-to-air, recorded on the DVR, or even a season-long DVD. My rationale is that having an extended time between episodes (days, not seconds) allows my brain to better absorb the content of the episode in particular or the series as a whole, whether it pertains to plot lines (“Whoa! Helena did that?!“) or character development (“Gee, I didn’t know Alison once did that”). Plus, it allows anticipation for that next episode to build in my mind (“I can’t wait to see how Sarah gets out of that predicament”). And perhaps even more importantly, it allows me to build an attachment to the show, and spread the good word about it if I so desire… because now more than ever, any show ain’t nothing if it doesn’t have a loyal audience.
So, yeah, you could say that when it comes to watching television, I prefer not to be a binge watcher when at all possible. Call me instead a TV connoisseur. Just as if it was a fine wine, I can appreciate a show’s attractiveness (“ah, an outstanding aroma”), composition (“intricately done, well developed, solid build”), taste (“quite a bit of wit in that glass”), and flavor (“great development, and quite surprising”), as well as how it lingers in the mind well after you’ve consumed a serving (“I eagerly look forward to another sample in due time”).
But then, I’m just a connoisseur and not a sommelier. What I mean there is I’m not a TV executive and can’t dictate a network’s schedule that’ll fit everyone’s tastes, let alone mine. Such as it is with the sci-fi show in question. Last night, I saw its current season’s first four episodes, which aired back-to-back with limited commercial interruption (such breaks lasting 30-45 seconds at the most). And that’s a drawback I pointed out earlier about binge-watching: Whether it’s between episodes or even between acts, there can be so much in an episode for the mind to absorb. (Yeah, commercial breaks are for more than just paying a show’s bills.) Plus, with social media being such a connecting force, it allows little time to spark that conversation with fellow TV watchers about what you just saw together. (Side note: Male Mode Me has gotten hooked to seeing the show live, when possible, and following the conversation on Twitter; Allison, however, not as much.)
As noted, the remainder of the show’s season is airing tonight and tomorrow — three episodes each night, with a little bit of breathing room for commercials and, thankfully, comprehension. It may not please the connoisseur in me to binge-watch a TV show this way… but thanks to circumstances partially beyond my control, there are times when even a connoisseur has to chug-a-lug.