Do some TV shows work better un-binged?

So today, a contentious issue came up in Media Services: one of our staff members gave up watching HBO’s Deadwood. One reason it didn’t click, they thought, was that episodes might not play as well when watched one after another. Unlike some shows with slowburn stories that make sense to watch in extended sessions, maybe Deadwood flowed better with a week between episodes.

We tried to figure out if there was some consensus or scholarly thoughts on this subject, and of course, opinion is split. On the one hand, Grantland once made the strong argument that binge-watching “allows you to completely ‘immerse’ yourself in the world of your new favorite show.” “By binge-watching,” they say, “you are spending quality time with the characters, forming a deep emotional connection with them.”

On the other hand, NPR‘s Fresh Air points to The Jinx as an example of how rationing out a show through serialization gives the story more time to breathe. “Embracing new technology doesn’t mean abandoning old storytelling forms that work,” David Bianculli says.

Screenrant has similarly mixed thoughts. Some binge-watched shows benefit from a compressed narrative, but that sacrifices the opportunity to let those shows percolate between episodes.

Obviously, watching a show on DVD with a week between episodes is an artificial constraint, but changing the time dimensions in how you watch something does seem to have an effect on how it’s received. And kudos to you if you have the power to hold back that long.

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