Feminist Agenda // Taylor Kirby
As binge watching changed how audiences interacted with television, so too did it change how television was produced.
A few years ago, I was complaining to my manager about how I wasn’t falling in love with Buffy no matter how many episodes I watched in a night. She, who often came to work wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Willow’s face, wasn’t having any of my cynicism. “You’re doing it wrong, idiot,” she said. “That show was meant to be enjoyed exactly once a week for 42 minutes. Don’t binge it.”
I slowed down the pace, and she was right: I stopped noticing they only used three sets and two B-plots and started properly immersing myself in Joss Whedon’s banter and (occasionally) subversive characterizations.
Some shows fall apart under an intense gaze, but some writers are learning how to use that intensity as a source of strength. In our post-Breaking Bad world, gone are the minute-long recaps eating away at an episode’s runtime. Frank Underwood has too many deft political maneuvers to make to remind you of something important he said four episodes ago—which, if you’re watching correctly, should translate to four hours ago.
A Netflix poll conducted in 2014 claims that viewers would define watching two or more episodes at once a binge, but I call that weak. People who try to “spread out” or “save” a contemporary show might as well watch 10 minutes of Forrest Gump every Friday night for all the good they’re doing the story. Shows like House of Cards and Stranger Things are now written like a 13-hour-long movie, better regarded as one long story than individual installments; programs like Shameless and Game of Thrones are still navigating the space between crafting self-sustaining episode arcs and multi-episode bingeability, but they’re doing it well.
The upsurgence of full-season releases has revolutionized the industry. Formulaic plots will be noticed; lazy storytelling will be ridiculed; anything less than revolutionary will likely be cancelled. Next time you feel guilty for indulging in too much Netflix, know that there is no such thing—your addiction is such by design, and you’re supporting the television renaissance.