Can Binge-Watching Destroy TV?

Are you a confirmed/addicted/OCD binge-watcher? So are all of us at TVWriter™. We’ve written about its pleasures so many times that we occasionally forget that there are some who don’t share our feelings.

In fact, we totally disagree with the article below but believe that this is a topic worth debating. Fair and balanced, hey, that’s TVWriter™! (And we’re dying to know where you’re at on the subject. Well, not exactly “dying,” but, you know…)


Binge Watching Shows Kills What Makes TV Special (And It’s Also Bad for You)

by Cameron Summerson

You decide to check out a new show on Netflix. Before you realize it, you’re nine episodes deep and it’s 4:00 AM. Binge watching may be satisfying at the time, but it ruins what makes TV shows special in the first place.

Binge Watching Devalues the Show

When a show comes on weekly, there are seven days in between episodes. During that time, people generally discuss the episode with friends and family, dissect everything that happened, and just generally think about it. These thoughts are brought into the next week’s show, and the entire process is repeated. Week after week for a full season, these thoughts and feelings build up.

This leads to deeper relationships with characters, a better understanding of the world they live in, and almost a sense of “urgency” (depending on the show, of course) about what is going on with them. These are all things that are lost—to an extent, at least—when shows are binge watched. Instead of taking the time to really focus on the characters and the world, binge watching takes away the most valuable parts of what makes TV so great. The acting, writing, and storylines all become muted in a sense. The emotional impact of what happens to characters is lessened when the buildup is removed.

A recent study done by the University of Melbourne proved that binge watching devalues a show. The study was pretty simple: it has three groups of users watch the same show (the first season of The Game) in one sitting, one week, and six weeks. The participants were then quizzed after 24 hours, one week, and 140 days. The participants who binged the show had forgotten most of what they watched at the end of the study, and also reported enjoying the show “significantly less.”

By contrast, the group who watched the show spread out over six weeks—one episode per week—had the strongest memory retention and reported the most enjoyment in watching at the end of the experiment. Of course, one study isn’t the be all, end all when it comes to how every person will react to watching shows.

This is mostly due to a psychological phenomenon called “hedonic adaptation”—which really just means that new things don’t stay new forever. When you start watching a new show, it’s exciting and fresh, but, over time, it can start to become “normal” and feel stale. Binging the show keeps it feeling fresh in the short term (at the expense of more long term enjoyment).

But, as mentioned earlier, it also reduces excitement. If there isn’t a break between episodes, the feelings of nervousness and anticipation are greatly reduced. That’s a big part of what makes a TV series special….

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