More and more, I find myself joining the bingers in the way I consume media. It started with the monthly comics that keep rolling in. With my teaching regimen, I found I could no longer read everything as the boxes of books arrived. I found myself accumulating two or three months of some titles and then read them in a cluster. More recently, I was a good six months behind on most of the Vertigo titles and discovered they actually made a lot more sense in large doses. A lot of that has to do with their annoying habit of providing no recap so thirty or more days later, I don’t always remember what has been going on. Six issues, though, allows me to really dig into a series and see what the creators are doing. There are still some that make no sense whatsoever but for that I blame the editor.
With Deb’s travel schedule, I find I collect episodes of shows only I watch and run through them in clusters when she is away. And there were some stretches when I ran out of shows on the DVR so turned to Netflix where I was able to consistently work my way through one series then another, such as the guilty pleasure of Lost Girl or the wonder that is Orange is the New Black. Based on a recommendation I heard at a con, I also sampled the first season of Longmire and after raving about it, Deb decided to try season two with me and got hooked. We just completed a condensed watching period and were able to dig right into season three which started in early June.
Given the dumb limitations of FIOS’ standard DVR, we can only record two shows at once so on Thursdays, NBC’s Parenthood became the odd series out so we were finally able to watch the entire season long after it stopped airing in April. We’re up to the final episode and it has given us a chance to see how the creators sowed seeds for the season-long arc along with all the ups and downs for the wonderfully diverse cast. (We didn’t mind the Joel-Julia marriage stress but felt Joel was woefully out of character at the beginning, becoming recognizable towards the back third.)
I understand binge viewing has had a permanent impact on prime time showrunners, now burning through arcs and plots at a faster clip (witness Scandal) to hook viewers. On the one hand that gives the cast more to do, letting us get to know the supporting cast in ways we haven’t in previous generations of television but it also begins to strain credulity at just how many crises any one set of players can experience before it feels overdone. It has also seemed to force series to introduce Big Bads that either menace the regulars all season long or come back with the same sort of regularity comic readers can expect the Green Goblin or the Joker to turn up. In serialized comics, we’ve been trained to accept this but on prime time, it feels out of place. The over reliance on Pelant, for example, turned us off to Bones so we dropped it earlier this year.
I’ve been giving this all a lot of thought as I begin to figure out how to teach creative writing and want the students to better understand plot by reverse engineering an arc or season of their favorite shows to figure out how things were paced out by episode and by season. Could prove enlightening as they prepare to craft their own original tales. In the meantime, I have plenty more stuff to get through (seasons of True Blood, Vikings, Homeland, etc.) and see the binge approach as one way to help experience lots of different approaches to story and character.