To Binge or Not to Binge: Real Time vs. Marathon TV Viewing

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Since college, I've relished in indulging in TV binge sessions. Whether it was my DVD collections of Sex and the City or streaming show via Netflix, extended stretches of enjoying television programming in one sitting has been my preferred method for catching up with all the "it" shows over the years. Then Breaking Bad came along. I tried. I really did. But watching multiple Breaking Bad episodes was so depressing - I just couldn't binge like I had intended...

Breaking Bad's dark themes and constant tension made it tough to take for long blocks of time. After two seasons, I put it on hold for more "soft" viewing.

So when the show wrapped up its final season a few weeks ago, I felt totally left out. I wanted to know what happened to Walt and Jesse and company, but that meant I would have to quickly binge to catch up. I knew the intense viewings would be too hard and so I still don't know what happened.

This all leads me to two important entertainment questions: how do you know if a show is appropriate for binge watching or not? And are there shows that are just BETTER to watch in real time for one reason or another?

Here are 5 reasons that make a show binge-worthy:

  1. The suspense of the show's story arc won't build up with more time.
  2. The style of the show is very cinematic and breaks between episodes takes away from the flow of the narrative.
  3. There are very few episodes per season, generally, 15 or less.
  4. The show is about to end its run and it's finally time to catch up.
  5. It's an entertaining watch where hours can feel more like mere minutes (every conclusion punctuated by your own, "wait, it's already done?!").

For me, I'm regretting not watching Breaking Bad in real time. I think the one shot of intensity broken down week by week may have been better for my brain and my heart. Lesson learned.

(Image: Breaking Bad / AMC)