To binge or to watch weekly. What's the best way to watch TV?

In 2018 you could argue that we’re spoilt for choice with movies and TV shows. This has become more prominent with the introduction of VOD (video on demand) services and the ease of entertainment. For those of you who can remember television in times gone by, if you wanted to watch, keep up to date and be part of a fandom, you had no choice but to slog out a 23+ episode season on a weekly basis. This also had to be done at the moment of release as there was no TiVo, you couldn’t pause to go to the toilet or series link your favourite shows and watch them at a more convenient time. The best you could hope for was that your parents had a VHS recorder and spare videos that you could tape the episode and watch it later. This even meant that ad breaks were a blessing as it allowed time to get a cup of tea or run to the loo.

Nowadays, when many TV shows are released, all episodes come out at the same time, allowing the viewer to “binge” the entire season in a matter of days, often using the entirety of a weekend to complete. As nice as it is to sit indoors, avoiding sunlight and the general population for a few days, like watching a 3 hour movie, it’s easy to look past important elements, grow bored and develop fatigue from the relentless visual and audio information.

The advantages and disadvantages of each format becomes quite convoluted as there’s so many different ways to ingest media, simply to name a few:

  • Watch your loved shows on a weekly basis as it’s released
  • Wait for the physical media copy of the entire season and “binge”
  • Set a weekly released show to series link and watch in batches
  • Purchase a VOD service and binge old series or newly released ones at your leisure.

The conversation then moves onto the individual. For the casual viewer, weekly viewing is perfect, certainly for a parent or someone with busy schedules it’s easy to allocate 45 minutes (1 hour including ads) once a week to sit down and watch a show. For many this could also be seen as a time to spend with your family or loved ones. I personally have many memories of sitting with the family to watch shows like The Simpsons and Star Trek the Next Generation. It was ritualistic but enjoyable as it provided an opportunity to discuss the episode immediately or kick back and ruminate on the events.

Weekly viewing also offers forced anticipation, much like Christmas for a child and the eagerness to rush downstairs to see what Santa brought is something that builds excitement and why many children love the holidays so much. The same applies to TV; allowing time to have an episode, especially if it’s a thinker, to sink in can elongate the pleasure of a series. At the same time if you were to look, for example, at Agents of SHIELD's first two seasons, it has the opposite effect, with episodes failing to spark, for many feeling more like a chore than a pleasure to watch.

The next point of note regards spoilers, which for many is a pet peeve. There’s nothing more irritating than investing yourself in characters and story only for a friend, family member, work colleague or the internet to spoil it because you were too busy to watch the episode. This has become a greater talking point with shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones having huge plot twists that are likely to get out as soon as the episode finishes. This is something that’s far more sensitive when episodes are released all at once.

Let’s say you and a co-worker enjoy the same weekly show and subsequently you enjoy a long discussion over your morning coffee. However if a show releases ten episodes on a Friday, unless you’re in contact with said friend, you’ve no idea where they’re at in terms of episode number. If you’re a particularly busy person with kids, binge watching is difficult and leaves the door open for spoilers from all forms of media, not to mention just talking to people you know. Put simply it’s high risk.

Many TV shows getting exclusive releases on VOD services have an average episode run of just 6-10 episodes. This not only makes it more manageable, but you also don’t feel as though your time is being wasted on a 20+ episode slog that may well suck. Even by bingeing standards, the entirety of 24 consists of 204 episodes, roughly 153 hours of content, which would take even the most eager person several months to complete (I can say from experience that not all seasons are good). This can be too long, whereas something like Stranger Things or Peaky Blinders has only a small amount, so even if they’re terrible you’re done in a matter of days. This leaves the viewer feeling far more satisfied regardless of the outcome, as the time they’ve invested is minimal by comparison. It’s one of the reasons the horror genre of movies is so popular as, although MANY are dreadful, on average they only last 90min leaving the viewer feeling as though their time isn’t completely wasted.

And what about the most important topic, time'? Frankly if it could be bottled up and sold it would be the most expensive commodity ever. In a world where people want to watch more and more and have extensive discussions online or with their friends, the need to keep up to date and watch as many shows as possible becomes, for some, a high priority. Many just don’t have the time, or even the patience to sit and watch a TV show for an entire weekend, making the weekly viewing platform more desirable. Not only does this give you something to look forward to each week but it doesn’t intrude in your life, ok. Overall the time investment is greater, but it’s in small doses making it seem like less time is “wasted”. Therefore, weekly watching is a boom to time-sensitive viewer, bingeing is much better for those with plenty of it, though a balance between the two seems the perfect solution.

I think it hugely depends on the type of person you are and your individual personality. If you have a busy schedule perhaps weekly viewing is your speed. If you have lots of time to spare and are eager to avoid spoilers then bingeing is the way to go. Spoilers, although important, do not define a show’s pleasure to watch, anybody who’s seen Game of Thrones will no doubt be shocked and awed EVERY time they see the red wedding episode.

Having used both methods, I can say with certainty that regardless of the way you decide to watch your media, you’ll find that each has a unique way of portraying itself. This perhaps is what we love so much about TV, it’s interchangeability and (for some shows) its rewatchability.

However you watch your TV, all formats have their merits to enjoy!


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