Binge watching has forever altered the television landscape

By Adam J. Babinat
On September 13, 2013

Another school year has arrived here at the University of New Hampshire, which means a whole lot of homework, classes and the stress that comes with a full academic workload. If you are anything like me, however, you somehow manage to find time to disperse a bit of television into your business week in order to maintain some semblance of sanity.
That, television, is exactly what will be discussed within the confides of this column. What type of television, you may be asking yourself, will I be discussing throughout the course of this academic year?
Of course I will be discussing some of my favorite procrastination pastimes - shows like "How I Met Your Mother", "South Park", "New Girl" and "Community", which will certainly provide me with endless amounts of content - but I will also be willing to try different programs that are available through online avenues such as Netflix or Hulu Plus. If there is a program that you, my reader, would like to hear more about than please let me know - you can find me at @AdamBabinat on Twitter.
For today, though, I want to focus on the television binge-watching experience that has become such a prominent form of consuming content. This particular form was highlighted more so than usual with the arrival of the Netflix-exclusive fourth season of "Arrested Development."
Binge-watching itself is a great addition to the television landscape. It allows viewers a chance to watch any type of programming they want, whenever they are able to. It is a good deviation from the traditional manner that networks have used in the past, where a single time slot that meant if you missed the show you weren't going to have a chance to catch it again.
Plus, with a vast amount of television programs becoming readily available on Netflix, a lot of television shows can develop new fans as additional generations of viewers take the time to look back at shows they might have missed growing up.
But, like all good things in life, there is a dark side to binge-watching - other than just wasting a bunch of time watching television. From a creative standpoint, some shows are just not meant to be watched for hours on end.
One great example of this is Netflix's original series "Orange is the New Black", which came out this summer. An amazing piece of television, this series is too dense to watch for more than one or two episodes at a time.
Each episode stands alone, and I feel that rapidly consuming this show takes away from the story being told. In fact, I have yet to finish the first season of "Orange is the New Black", primarily because I would much rather savor each episode individually - which ultimately has led to me appreciating this series more than I have others.
On the other end of the spectrum is a show that bears in mind the binge-watching experience, such as the highly-hyped fourth season of "Arrested Development", another Netflix series that dropped into our queues this summer. For those of you familiar with the creation of this particular season of the show, you will know that creator Mitchell Hurwitz designed it to work for those who wanted to watch it for hours.
What resulted was arguably one of the biggest letdowns of the year, from a television perspective, as the show deviated from the style that made it popular in the first place.
While you can't blame this on binge-watching entirely, you can blame the fact that it was on the mind of Hurwitz and company for aiding in this creative decision. The fourth season of "Arrested Development" now serves as an example of the binge watching experience gone wrong - as networks remain conscious that some fans will indeed consume their content in this way.
And with Netflix, Hulu Plus and other online streaming here to stay, the debate on binge-watching and its effects on television will continue to rage on. The question that remains unanswered, though, is to what extent this format will shape the content we will consume.
Will we see more "Orange is the New Black"-type shows, or perhaps more "Arrested Development"¬style programs? Only time will tell.


By Adam J.

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