Chances are that your latest entertainment obsession hasn’t been a movie or a novel, but a TV series, and it’s probably thanks to a recent trend called “binge-watching”.
It used to be that if you wanted to catch up on a show, you had to wait for re-runs or an all-day cable marathon. But now services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go let you stream hundreds of shows like “Breaking Bad”, “Game of Thrones”, and “Orange is the New Black” at whatever speed you want.
“The way television shows are structured, they end with a dangling story point or a cliffhanger to encourage you to come back next week," says C.J. Julian, Professor of Digital Filmmaking at Ringling College of Art + Design. "People are always going to gravitate toward media gratification, so if you have an opportunity to not have to wait a week, you know, you can’t stop.”
Binge-watching is also improving the quality of these shows, as audiences now watch every single episode, usually close together, thus being able to easily keep up with the stories.
Bradley Battersby, Digital Filmmaking Department Head at Ringling College of Art + Design says, “For artists, for filmmakers, it’s great to be able to have the long form—super-long form, like a novel or a series of novels—and it’s really blown open the doors for creativity. And the best feature filmmakers, the best actors, are gravitating to television and series as a result.”
Case in point: Matthew McConaughey recently made a splash this year on the HBO series “True Detective,” where his performance gained huge praise and has gained a lot of awards talk. After receiving an award at Critics Choice Television Awards, he said, “Television is raising the bar on the character-driven drama series. It just is.”
Services like Netflix have also been creating their own series, such as “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black,” but instead of airing on a TV station, they put every episode online all at once. Viewers can choose to watch a whole season in one sitting if they want, often leading to unsatisfying results.
The downside of bingewatching, especially with a Netflix series is that you have to wait a whole year before the next season is available, whereas with an average TV series you only usually have to wait out the summer rerun season.
Like it or not, I think we can all agree that this is a trend that is making huge changes in the entertainment industry. But remember, with so many people watching various TV series, don’t forget the most important rule: No Spoilers!