Just one more: Binge watching TV shows

Latest soundcloud audio artworks-000090009161-havr1e-t200x200for my ABC Radio pop culture segment with Leon Compton on 936 ABC Hobart. This week I’m talking about the dangers and pleasures of binge watching TV.

As mapped out in this article there has been a dramatic increase in the number of serialised, as opposed to episodic, tv shows. giving rise to phenomenon such as binge watching or hate watching – that is, watching shows because you enjoy mocking them.

Hate watching is an unuseual viewing habit that also includes those die-hard fans who love the show but may dislike the current season still insisting on desperately watching in the hope for an improvement in quality or final resolution. This is not to be confused with guilty pleasure, as the wikipedia and PopWatch survey of watching patterns points out, which is often occasional viewing, rather than the religious viewing of a hate watcher.

But, let’s leave hate-watching aside for a future chat and instead look at the buzz word ‘binge watching. This term has been around for some time now, but some recent examples include:

  • House of Card or the latest season of Arrested Development where all the episodes in a seasons were available at the same time to watch when it launched on Netflix.
  • The recent Simpsons marathon of all 552 episodes to date which lasted for 12-days of continuous Simpsons episodes. And resulted in the FXX cable channel which screened it going to the top ranks of most viewed channels during that period .
  • Celebtrities and creatives from the TV industry were also recently involved in an amusing mock health warning about the dangers of binge watching.

Now that we’re coming out of winter, people may have some confessions about binge watching?

Why have these terms around watching everything become more common today and an increasingly common way some people spend their free time
– the complexity of story telling lends itself to more prolonged and sustained viewing habits
– various services and platforms make complete tv shows more available and easy to access (Hulu, Netflix, iTunes, Blu-ray box sets, etc)
– you have to catch up on seasons missed when you’re late coming to a show
– social annoyance of not being able to engage in the conversation around a show you haven’t watched.
– is it like binge eating?
– Do we want some immediate comfort and gratification to revel in an enjoyment and pleasure?
– is it a type of postermodern act, the void left by the loss of the big narratives and stories has left us searching for alternatives big worlds to believe in – maybe we’re finding those on TV today?
– extending this maybe we want to be part of something bigger, to debate and

Possible dangers of binging can be seen in the impact this practice has on conversations. If you’re talking to someone who hasn’t seen all the episodes or series of the show you’re talking about:
– giving away spoilers
– boring conversation of abstract encyclopedic type knowledge

imgresAnother interesting question raised by scholars such as Henry Jenkins  is, as the generation which grew up with more elaborate media-mix, transmedia franchises like pokemon where the viewer is much more active in playing in the world of the narrative will they require similar multi media entertainment the spreads across various viewing platforms. What will future storytellers be stretching themselves to say in the future?



For further thoughts on going deep into pop culture, listen in to my Pop Cosmopolitan show on Edge Radio streamed here.
Today’s chat (2014-08-28) was with Keira from the MAICON (the Launceston based anime convention) chatting about the upcoming anime convention and the thrills and events that await attendees. For information on MAICon go to their website here.