The Benefits of Binge Watching

By Isabella Borkovic, Staff Writer

Before I sat down to write this, I watched four 40-minute episodes of “Stranger Things” back to back. I kept on clicking that tantalizing red “Next Episode” button over and over until almost three hours had passed and it was suddenly 8 o’clock.

I’m sure many of you have also experienced the hypnotic glow of your laptop that commands you to keep on watching for hours. This phenomenon of binge-watching has emerged from the popularity of streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu. According to Forbes, 36 percent of Netflix watchers binge-watch shows regularly. More importantly, shows have changed to accommodate the new way viewers digest TV series. As the number of binge-
watchers grows, writers focus more and more on storylines that span multiple episodes.

When it was only possible to watch television with cable, TV channels relied more heavily on sitcoms and procedural crime shows to attract viewers. Without an overarching timeline or plot, channels could play back reruns of shows without confusing viewers. Because of this, writers had to fit a single story into each individual episode. TV shows like “Full House,” “The Big Bang Theory” and every Disney show ever all lacked an elaborate ongoing plot, relying instead on individual episodes to hook in their audience.

With viewers able to access entire seasons at a time, sitcoms without storylines are giving way to shows that emphasize continuous plot. Out of the 60 or so original series Netflix has, only about eight of them are sitcoms; in comparison, Fox has 116 sitcoms out of 260 TV shows.

Streaming services make it easier for shows to have a cohesive storyline without losing any clarity for the viewer. For example, many new Netflix originals have very strong storylines that are carried throughout each episode— take “Stranger Things,” “Narcos,” “The Crown,” and “Making a Murderer.” “Narcos” in particular has a very complex plot with a whopping 29 main characters, and most viewers probably wouldn’t be able to follow the storyline without watching multiple episodes together. With their audience able to watch episodes in succession, TV shows don’t have to sacrifice plot for rerun-friendliness,improving the overall quality of TV.

Of course, like all streaming services, higher quality shows come at a price — time lost to the screen. With better and more connected plot lines, TV shows are becoming more binge-able. As each episode raises more questions than it answers, viewers watch more and more episodes in succession to try to fulfill their desire to finish a show. And, as teenagers with little self-control and almost no patience, cliffhangers and plot-twists often take precedence over homework and sleep.

For me, Netflix indulges my procrastination to the point where I’m stuck starting homework at 10 p.m. I’ve heard people compare the six or more hours they spent watching TV last weekend to the three hours they
spent sleeping.

With streaming services and binge-watching on the rise, teenagers’ TV addictions and sleep deprivation are also growing dramatically. As teenagers, we’re used to making sacrifices — giving up sleep for homework, missing social activities for sports. Time spent binge-watching just one more thing we have to sacrifice, and the higher-quality plot-driven TV shows we get in return just might be worth it.