A few weeks ago I asked my brother a question I’ve put to many friends and family since the pandemic hit: “What are you bingeing these days?”
“Well, what’s your binge watching definition?” he asked.
I assumed we all knew what binge watching was. I mean, in my mind, it’s basically a slack-jawed, red-eyed session on a sofa in front of a multi-episode form of entertainment. But he wanted me to be more specific.
“Uh, I guess for me it’s watching episodes past midnight,” I answered. Because I’m a stickler about my sleep, staying up late to consume ever more of Peaky Blinders or Schitt’s Creek feels transgressive, the point at which I’ve lost control of my better, somnolent instincts.
My brother’s idea of bingeing is watching more than two episodes in a row. If a show is really good, he told me, he and his wife might get crazy and watch a third episode.
But this definition of binge watching seemed pretty lightweight. In my mind, bingeing needs to make feel you mildly guilty or especially indolent to be the real deal.
What the Experts Know
There’s one thing I’ve learned to do when I have a pressing question like, “What do you consider bingeing?” I go to the experts. In this case, the experts could be found in a NextTribe Facebook group where we discuss current TV shows and movies and give recommendations.
I posed the question to the group, and I got many responses that were in line with my brother’s thinking. “If you’re spending more time than you would watching a movie, that’s a binge,” wrote Thea Wood. “If they are only 20 minutes episodes, watching more than five is a binge. Of course, I’m making this shit up.” Gotta love that honesty because really, aren’t we all?
Still, it’s fun to see how others organize their binge time (or not).
“Bingeing is watching multiple episodes in a row, three in a row all the way to 16 hours a day, several days in a row, ” said Penelope Froelich. “I’d call the three-episode binge a tiny binge and the three-day marathon a truly spectacular binge (and then I’d call to ask if you are OK).”
Lesley Dormen relishes the ecstasy of “having a show of many seasons and a gazillion episodes ready to plow through in great multi-episode gulps until we (meaning my husband) fall asleep.” She reports they usually get through three or four episodes at a time at least. “More on weekends,” she adds. “Wait. Every day is a weekend.”
A Pot of Coffee, Please
Sleep, or lack of it, played heavily in the definitions of binge watching. “Reed Hastings, the head of Netflix, said that his competition for watching is not other networks or shows, it’s sleep,” reported Andrea Stein, “My definition of bingeing is when you are fighting to keep awake.”
Cassaundra Melgar-C’De Baca couldn’t agree more: “Making a new pot of coffee after 8 is a true sign that you’re binge watching!”
“I really prefer binge watching to one-off watching,” said Joanna Meiss, “but I’m also that girl who will read until 5 a.m. to finish a book in one day. Bingeing is the `can’t put it down’ quality of a book transferred to the screen.”
To Binge or Not to Binge
Even though there was much enthusiasm for binge watching on the Facebook group, there was also some re-evaluation of the tendency. Mary Vest Powers admitted to being a master binger, able to watch a show straight through to the end if it grabs her. “However, I do find myself going back to rewatch an episode or two when I realize I’ve slept through one or two! I’m trying not to watch more than two episodes now. I appreciate it more.”
Others reported that as satisfying as bingeing can be, it was the suspense between episodes that they really cherish. “I have a hard time binge-watching more than a couple of episodes at a time, especially if I like the series,” says Tracy LaQuey Parker. “I want something to look forward to, like `olden times’ when you eagerly waited for the next installment every week. Miss that.”
At least one NextTriber achieves something like that by stalling a binge with another binge. “I’m working through After Life, but interrupted myself with Doctor Foster. Is it possible to have simultaneous binges going???”
Knowing that series are extremely addictive, Diane MacEachern has tried to game the binge-watching system somewhat. “Even when I start watching a show I’m not totally crazy about, I will almost always fast-forward binge it to the end just to see what happens,” she says. Now, she takes a hard look at series before she decides to commit. “I’ve started considering restricting the series I watch to those that don’t have many seasons or many episodes per season. Sometimes, I’ll even calculate how much time I’ll waste if I get involved with a multi-season series. It’s one thing to watch an hour of Game of Thrones every week for its 10- or 12-week season. It’s quite another to watch 12 hours times seven seasons in a couple of weeks or even a few days.”
So, how well do you manage your bingeing?