Picture credit: mohamed_hassan from Pixabay
By Isabelle Merralls
When was the last time you binge-watched a TV show? It feels like just yesterday I woke up at 8 am to watch the third season of Sex Education. 8 long hours later, I felt drained. Was I watching this so quickly because I was engrossed by the Netflix comedy? Or was it the increased FOMO from the memes and Tiktoks sprawled across my social media feed?
The binge-watching phenomenon has allowed us to access our favourite shows all in one go. From Orange is the New Black to Bridgerton, Netflix has spearheaded this binge-watching tradition. The time-flexible nature of streaming has allowed us to follow narrative arcs with more focus on over-arching season stories rather than a weekly episodic narrative structure. Despite the appeal of binge-watching, research shows that back-to-back viewing excites the brain, interfering with sleep. Like everything else in the digital world, this form of watching is causing a mental and physical toll on our bodies.
Recently, the binge-watching craze has started to dwindle, with more streaming platforms offering weekly releases of TV shows and returning to the traditional weekly-watching format. Disney+ has taken advantage of the weekly-release format, gripping viewers with shows such as Wandavision, Only Murders in the Building, and Pam & Tommy. The advantages to this format mean viewers are committed to the weekly wait. This makes them more likely to discuss episodes with friends and family since one episode per week is easier to keep up to date with as opposed to allotting 8+ hours to binge-watch a season. To keep viewers enticed, streaming platforms often offer a ‘demi-binge’, whereby the first few episodes are debuted, so viewers are hooked before waiting another agonising week for more.
Even Netflix has started to adopt a ‘demi-binge’ format. The second season of Love is Blind was released in instalments, which ensures that viewers tuned in to find out the fate of the couples.
Recently, I have enjoyed this format as opposed to binge-watching as it appeals to my busy lifestyle. The weekly-releases of Succession and then Euphoria have left me excited for the next week to roll around. However, there is still a sense of FOMO with weekly releases – as twitter spoilers are rife with the latest Euphoria memes and theories.
Traditional television viewing habits base themselves around the weekly release. Soap operas have multiple episodes a week to keep viewers up to date with storylines such as Eastenders’ ‘who killed Lucy Beale’ and Hollyoaks’ ‘the gloved hand killer’ which kept the nation gripped and demanding answers. Binge-watching is not something that will likely fade anytime soon, however, returning to this traditional format allows viewers to have a choice in how they consume their favourite shows. One could prefer to save weekly instalments to culminate in a binge-watch. Others may enjoy the social aspect of getting together weekly to enjoy new episodes with friends.
It is no longer a debate whether weekly-watching or binge-watching outweighs the other as streaming platforms allow for flexible and enjoyable watching.