Is 'Binge-Watching' Whole Seasons of TV Shows Bad?
Breaking Bad returns this Sunday, July 15, bringing millions of devoted fans back to AMC—although not enough to keep the network on Dish, apparently—and spurring others to catch up with the show’s 46 episodes in a time span that may require copious amounts of Walter White’s purest Blue Sky.
To which I say: Slow down. Even if you aren’t taking crystal meth to fuel your rapid consumption of the best series of the last 10 years (yes, I have seen The Wire), you’re still ruining much of what makes the show—and all TV shows—great.
TV binge-watching is a pandemic that has afflicted many of the nation’s college students, with sites like SideReel, Netflix, and Megavideo—not to mention full-season DVD sets—readily at their disposal. They disappear into their dorm rooms for days at a time and emerge with encyclopedic knowledge of Vincent Chase’s movie career or the Pawnee Parks Department’s budget. As Mary McNamara noted a few months back in the Los Angeles Times, Netflix has even catered its original content toward this consumption model by releasing all episodes of its own new seasons at once, encouraging fans to plow through entire seasons in marathon sessions.
While it’s not surprising that America’s unprincipled youth have flocked to the latest trend, some of our most venerable critics have also hopped on the binge-watching bandwagon. Emily Nussbaum, formerly of New York and now of The New Yorker, went on a Breaking Bad bender last summer. “Binge-watching a show like Breaking Bad is probably the purest way to watch a great series,” she wrote. But if you ask me, she has ruined the entire batch.