“It’s like you’re punch drunk, and saying ‘come on feed me another one,'” Greg Dillon associate professor of psychiatry and public health at Weill Cornell Medical College says, of the effects of binging on modern television drama shows like The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. “Even a single episode has so many highs and lows that by the end of it you’re so beaten up, you’re less receptive to the emotional and intellectual ideas being put forth. Yet still we click and watch another one.” – Chris Smith
The television format was designed for greater story-telling ability to be flexed, for a longer tale to be told in more detail. Through this, viewers connected to characters and the issues they dealt with each week. By binge-watching, people are depriving themselves the experience of mulling over an episode for a week and pondering what might happen next, which would increase their attachment to the show. Instead, people are desensitized by repetition.
“Those final eight episodes of Breaking Bad… now that was an extraordinary experience. From the countdown to it coming back from the mid-season break to the anticipation of a new episode on TV each week… wow!” Said Thompson. “That was just a different kind of buzz that [binge watching] doesn’t give you.” Ironically enough, the week-to-week format we enjoyed/endured during our last hours with Jesse and Walt proved to be an anomaly for millions who latched on to the growing buzz and raced through the previous five-and-half-seasons during the 12-month pre-climax hiatus – the binge before the episodic storm. Many caught up just so they could be part of the ending as it happened, so they could join in on the conversation rather than cover their ears to avoid spoilers. Breaking Bad, as it turned out, bridged the two eras perfectly, offering a stunning paradox of each distribution model’s merits.” -Chris Smith
As with the last author, Smith is quick to point out the benefits of each medium of delivery. In order to watch a critically acclaimed television show’s final season, millions binge-watched the preceding four.
At this point I would offer that Netflix and television have their place. The former as a method of catch-up or to watch a show at one’s own pace after completion, the latter as a delivery mechanism for the emotional and psychological attachment that a television show is capable of producing. This seems to be what Smith suggests, until he discusses addiction with Doctors Jaramillo and Thompson.
Netflix produced shows do not have planned commercial breaks, but maintain that intense cliff-hanger at the end of each episode. This is done intentionally, as viewers can decide to be connoisseurs and end the viewing there, or addicts and barrel through the next four episodes. The formats are intentionally different, but Netflix leaves the decision up to the viewer as to how much of the show is desired to be consumed, a point covered by the previous author.
Both men seem to understand that Netflix is innovating in an unapologetic fashion, without regard for the established norms of television. Each makes an argument as to why Netflix should join the ranks of the current establishment, but neither makes an argument as to why innovation is a bad thing. Placing more control in the hands of the viewer does not have to degrade the value of a television series. The most important point both articles raise is we need to be wary of how we consume shows. Beware, and watch in peace.
P.S. Still trying to find a scholarly article on the Netflix effect, but the deadline in nearing and I’m not sure if I’ll make it. Submitting now just to be on the safe side.