The word binge carries many negative connotations; binge eating, binge drinking, but what about binge watching? Is it really so bad? Netflix have recently released the second series of one of their self produced shows, Orange Is the New Black in its entirety; viewers have complete freedom to watch at their leisure, or to hole up, shut out the world and spend thirty-six hours in the company of Piper Chapman and her fellow inmates.
Kevin Spacey’s 2013 address at the Edinburgh Television Festival saw the star of another Netflix original, House of Cards, making a strong case for the instant access that modern viewers crave – why shouldn’t they have exactly what they want, when they want it? Should TV channels follow Spacey’s advice and relinquish control and place it firmly in the hands of their audiences? The success of Game of Thrones’ traditional steady release would perhaps suggest otherwise but the idea does open up the doors for discussion as to the appeal of booking your very own space at the ‘all you can watch’ buffet.
Pre-internet, the options facing the common viewer were limited; we simply tuned in at an allotted time, on the station or stations of our choice and caught up with the goings on of our favourite characters, ready to face the water cooler the next day ready to partake in some healthy debate about what we’d enjoyed, what or who we hated or what baffled us. Of course, this still happens in its various manifestations, but why wait a week when decades of TV classics are available now, archived for our pleasure and tempting us to forsake all others for nights, weeks and months on end. Instead of huddling together in-front of the box waiting for those credits to roll, we can use up our holidays, our evenings and now even our lunch breaks (the launch of the Netflix app for iPhone and Android means portability for streaming) to browse whatever genre takes our fancy. Partner or spouse still at work or painting the town red without you? Not a problem if you have a speedy broadband connection and a few hours to spare, a scenario used to comedic effect in a recent advertisement for Netflix which sees the boyfriend of one such telly addict realise to his dismay that his girlfriend has ruined ‘their thing’ by watching ahead. The chirpy voice-over then advises his users to “watch responsibly”, squeezing every last drop of ironic humour out of their pitch as of course, they know that what they are offering is equal to that sumptuous solitary Krispy Kreme glistening just feet away from someone who is about to finish the whole box before anyone else had the chance to be offered one.
But really, should we need to be told what the nice or right thing to do is? What about self-control and the inherent knowledge we are all capable of possessing that away from the screens of our laptops, tablets and phones are jobs, relationships, housework, etc that needs our attention. Pioneering advances in technology are designed to improve on what has gone before. The power as to how and when we consume will always in one way or another lie with us.