Do you guys remember cable? The weekly episodes of “Gossip Girl” and “Pretty Little Liars?” Do you remember the insane discussions, crazy theories and detailed analyses that come after a cliffhanger? The sheer anticipation of waiting for an episode to finally air?
Yeah, I almost forgot, too.
Going two months into the quarantine has left a lot of people with a limited number of activities they can do for leisure. Aside from baking and re-creating TikTok dances, a lot of people have found themselves spending hours catching up on the backlog of TV shows they’ve promised to watch or to discover new shows that would help them pass the time.
The beginning of quarantine saw “Tiger King” (editor’s note: #JusticeForCaroleBaskin) and the 4th season of “Money Heist” premiere on Netflix, leaving many viewers glued to their couches for hours on end. Interest in Korean dramas also increased because of new titles like “Itaewon Class” and “Crash Landing on You.”
The first few shows I watched in quarantine were fun: The hours I would spend in front of my laptop, totally immersed in the world of the show, gave me a much-needed reprieve from facing the horrors of life. It also helped me quell my boredom and gave me something to look forward to during my downtime from remote work.
But then…it got boring.
My neck, my back, my butt and my mind started to hurt, the events of each episode started to blur together, I started falling asleep in between episodes, and for the TV shows I got to finish, I didn’t even post about them online or talk to anyone about it. Looking back, I wish I had paced myself, not just so I would have something to watch now, but also so that I can enjoy the shows for as long as I can.
So in an attempt to warn you, here are some reasons that will make you reconsider quarantine’s most exhausting activity.
Cliffhangers mean almost nothing now
What I love about consuming movies and TV shows is the sense of mystery and wonder it gives. I absolutely love it when shows leave me hanging on the edge of my seat, wanting to know more about what happens next, but never giving me the satisfaction. Until a week later, of course.
Having surprises that are actually surprising can be difficult if a mystery or a plot twist can be resolved with a simple click of the next episode button. Unless the plot twist puts the characters in the middle of very high stakes or totally turns the show around, there’s no thrill in watching the next episode because it will be explained in a minute anyway.
Cliffhangers can be double-edged swords. Too much of it can be criticized as lazy writing but the lack of it can make a show incredibly boring. When done and paced correctly, cliffhangers and plot twists can elevate storytelling, up the ante and the stakes that characters have to contend with while simultaneously keeping audiences hooked. When shows are dropped in a day, the most shocking and exciting cliffhangers usually aren’t until the season finale. And if you have to sit through eight or more episodes before the adrenaline starts running, it kinda kills the hype, don’t you think?
Shows become easily forgettable
Aside from a quick search to see what critics say about it and a few retweets if the show’s material is rich or funny enough to be made into memes, I honestly forget it pretty quickly. The last show I binged was Apple TV’s “Dickinson” and the only thing I remember about it is that Emily Dickinson was apparently gay and Wiz Khalifa can play a whimsical personification of Death.
Because binge-watching is an activity that allows me to finish a show in a day (if I’m not busy) or two (if I have to catch up on deadlines), it doesn’t take too long for me to find another show to watch next or to have my mind occupied by an entirely different thing.
According to the AV Club, taking breaks between episodes can help the story stick and become reinforced in your memory. If a new episode is released every week, it’s more likely that people will talk about it for a longer time as compared to the short-lived presence of a show that’s already entirely available to be finished in a snap. Although this might work for established shows, new shows might not be able to get as much engagement when users can finish it in a day. Waiting for a year for the next season to drop isn’t exactly the gay longing™ I was hoping for.
It’s a mind-numbing way of consuming content
Some shows that have stayed vividly in my mind this quarantine is “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and “The King: Eternal Monarch.” These shows release episodes on a weekly basis, giving me time to converse with my sisters and other fans as a way to process the events of an episode and to build anticipation for what’s next. Other shows that Netflix isn’t directly producing, like “Riverdale,” “Hospital Playlist,” and “Rick and Morty” still release episodes weekly, but for most of the content on Netflix, that’s really not the norm.
Watching episodes back-to-back-to-back leaves me no room to think and I feel as if I’m just mindlessly watching images flash by. The shows I like to watch also tend to lean on the mystery and thriller side so it really requires attentiveness that I may no longer be able to muster around the fourth consecutive episode. According to NBC News, binge-watching too often can result in a viewer being starved to death emotionally as well as becoming more disconnected from human interaction
I doubt that anyone will drop the binge-watching parties soon. But having too much of one thing can be pretty exhausting. Maybe it’s also because we’ve all been stuck in quarantine for a little too long already, as the government has yet to roll out its mass testing plans—but I’m seriously considering pacing myself with TV shows until further notice…until of course season five of “Money Heist” drops.
Art by Dana Calvo
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