The Joy Of Not Being Able to Binge Watch

By  · Published on August 19th, 2015

We’re able to binge watch a lot of shows now. We can binge watch a Coen Brothers marathon, or wait for the current season of Mr. Robot to end so we can watch it all at once, or steam whatever full-season dump Netflix is planning next. We can gorge ourselves on TV shows and movies.

But it’s pretty damned great when we can’t. Not because technology won’t allow us to (although that might also be nice), but when a show won’t let us.

For me, that show is Hannibal – a 39-hour arthouse film that Bryan Fuller somehow sneaked onto network television. Its vulgar lushness and animal philosophizing form a wonderful cocktail that I don’t want to chug. The last thing I want when the credits roll is to see a new episode pop up. I’m not ready yet. I’d rather pour the show into a bathtub and soak in it for a while.

This happened in a different way back in college when my friends would binge watch entire DVD sets of The Office. My limit was three episodes simply because of how gloriously uncomfortable the humor was and because the formula would start to show through more than the gags (which happens while trying to binge almost every sitcom).

It’s usually a matter of density and absorption, though. Hannibal is a one episode per day situation while Mad Men was 2–3 and House of Cards could be demolished in one sitting like a bag of popcorn with Sour Patch Kids sprinkled into it. For some reason, Breaking Bad and The Wire have both stunning depth and an addictive nature that allows digestion even as the next episode queues up. Granted, Breaking Bad also demands even more bingeing to dig into all the nooks and crannies.

Meanwhile, I wouldn’t even attempt to binge watch Oz.

This situation feels like a close cousin to loving movies like Requiem for a Dream and Dear Zachary for the visceral response they create, but not necessarily wanting to watch them a second time. You might need a deep breath between Irreversible viewings.

I’m fascinated by all this, particularly because the arrival of streaming binge watching and its amplification by Netflix is so often viewed as a universally good thing. It’s an option to be celebrated, but equally important to buy fireworks for is the fact that there are still stories being produced that resist being binged. TV shows that make you slam your fist on your keyboard to stop autoplay from kicking in. Not just yet. Give me a second, Hulu.

What shows do it for you?

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