Admit it we have all gotten hooked on television shows that lead to us binge-watch the whole season at least once in our lives. We may not like to admit it, but since services like Netflix provide every episode to each season, binge watching is at an all time high. I myself have just started watching The Office (2005-2013) and I have noticed the more I started getting into the show, the more I started watching three or more shows in one sitting.
More recently I binge watched the first six episodes of House of Cards (2013-present). I had never seen the television show before and did not know much information about the story line. After completing the first six episodes I wasn’t in love with the show, but at the same time I could not turn it off. Between engaging characters, narrative structure, and themes it was easy to get hooked. In the series we as the audience encounter many different characters that showcase power, addition, sexual drive and motivation to drive to success in congress. One interesting fact is the episodes are referred to as “chapters” instead of your standard numbers or name of episodes. By placing the episodes as “chapters” you are pulled in to different frames or sections like a book would. Casey McCormick writer of “Forward is the Battle Cry’: Bing-Viewing Netflix’s House of Cards” (The Netflix Effect, p.101-116), explains it links the show to a history of serial fiction, it separates it from the dominate way of organizing TV, and it creates continuity across seasons. Since the user has all the “chapters” already present in front of them, the user can continue to watch the whole at once. The user doesn’t have to wait a period of time for the next episode, which creates a deeper connection to the characters and storyline. House of Cards also doesn’t have to worry about a recap of what happened in the season earlier since all “chapters” are in all one place.
Never seeing House of Cards before I was blown away to find out how much the theme of addiction was used in its story line. Some form of addiction strikes almost every character in the series. One character deals with drug, alcohol and sex addiction. Other struggle with addiction by wanting to get revenge on people, while some have an addiction to learning scandalous information on people in congress. The viewer experiences all types of addiction in the show and can learn from people’s mistakes. The characters deal with their addiction differently of “good” or “bad” way of handling them. Viewers get a front row seat in watching these addictions unfold. If a character doesn’t handle their situation well, then the viewer at home can learn from this situation.
While we can learn about serious topics in binge-watching television shows, I don’t agree binge-watching needs to occur for every show. McCormick claims binge- watching “is a productive, often deliberate, and potentially transformative mode of viewing,” I agree along the lines that binge-watching does create a tighter focus in on building a connection to the characters and storyline, you don’t need to binge-watch every show you encounter. When I binge-watched the first six episodes of House of Cards, towards the end I felt like I started to loose my mind a little bit. I mentally couldn’t take anymore, I tried so hard on focusing in on the character development I lost my scene of reality. Zachary Snider writer of “The Cognitive Psychological Effects of Binge-Watching (The Netflix Effect, p. 117-128), claims that too much of can cause “loneliness, depression, and anxiety.” Snider also states, “Television viewing, and binge-watching in particular, serves to illustrate different cognitive functions ranging from one’s ‘beliefs and behavioral strategies’ to how one’s ‘patterns of behavior’ are affected by media consumption, and how one’s ‘thinking and belief system’ are modified…” I’m all for binge-watching a good show, but it’s also important to remember to get up and take breaks every now and then. Just because you have all episodes in front of you, doesn’t mean you need to watch them all in one sitting.