In the wake of the premiere of "Orange Is The New Black," Huffpost TV sat down to try to recover from the 13 hours spent in Litchfield and wonder about the effects binge watching has, beyond losing track of plot points.
Lauren: I watched all of "OITNB" by the end of the day on Friday ... I was exhausted and jittery, like I'd just chugged a gallon of orange soda or something awful like that. I was so compelled to get through the finale, but almost right away felt like I robbed myself of enjoying it. That's slightly less extreme than the 17-year-old who watched the entire thing in six and a half hours, but I still felt overwhelmed. How did you consume all those hour-long episodes, Leigh?
Leigh: I'm almost proud to say I spread it out over a few days -- I watched Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. As much as I loved the season, I wasn't necessarily so hooked that I couldn't tear my eyes away. I think the real reason I sped through those episodes so fast was simply to make sure I could be in on the water cooler conversation. In the old days that meant dedicating half an hour of my night to a show, now it means giving up an entire weekend. What a world we live in!
Lauren: That's the thing! It wasn't so much about being hooked, as making sure I was part of the conversation. I've binge watched plenty of things before, but even with access to an entire series to date, I never watched more than two or three episodes in a night. I almost wish Netflix had spread this season out ...
Leigh: I agree. Why not roll out three episodes a week or something? Although bingeing is fun in its own way, after finishing the entire season in four days I was kind of like "wait, what just happened?" Of course I remembered key plot points and my favorite storylines well, but at times it felt like a chore and my mind drifted. Do you feel like you watched the episodes less closely because you watched them so fast?
Lauren: Yes, many of the plot turns felt rushed, because I was gobbling them up so quickly. I was reading this article about the pleasure of waiting between episodes, but I think, beyond that sense of satisfaction, they lost some of their power in being consumed so quickly. Without the pressure of water cooler conversations, what would your ideal viewing schedule be for "OITNB" (or any series, really, assuming episode-availability was not an issue)? How many episodes do you think you would watch at a time, if you didn't have to worry about catching up with the conversation?
Leigh: Actually, I read an article a while back about how one of the main ways TV contributes to our happiness -- and it does! -- is that it gives us something to anticipate. Take "Game Of Thrones," for example. It's on Sunday nights, which isn't exactly people's favorite night of the week, but they end up looking forward to it because they're excited about what's going to happen next. In my ideal world, Netflix would release one episode of "OITNB" a week. Did I just take it too far?
Lauren: No, I think there's something to be said for that imposed willpower! Netflix is so acutely aware that people want to watch things on their own time, and with DVRs and streaming services there's less adherence to a linear structure than ever. But our penchant for binge watching is destroying the simple pleasure of anticipating and watching a single episode of TV. That's obviously not all Netflix's fault, but "OITNB" is such an intense example of our need for instant gratification and the pressure to catch up to the community aspect of a show.
Leigh: You're right, it's such a vicious cycle. It's like if we all agreed to watch an episode a night, we'd be dealing with something different. But it almost becomes a competition, like "who can watch 'OITNB' the fastest?" and then if you're not at that part yet, you're shunned from the conversation. While I do realize that very few shows are released all at once, I just don't think binge culture is all that good for us, and it's kind of insulting to the show to watch it that quickly. I realize I'm being a little dramatic about this, but I think binge watching is a very American thing. Like "I want all of this, and I want it now."
Lauren: Totally. Anyway, when Season 3 comes out, I'm not watching more than four episodes a night.
Lauren: Okay, three.