Monday, 25 August 2014

How Netflix Ruined Me

I have always been an avid TV watcher. Since I was young, I would tune in every week for my favorite shows, right on time. Of course, I didn’t live in the golden age of DVRs and instant streaming, so I had to be dedicated. I was network television’s ideal consumer.

Then, last week, I read an article on IndieWire about Aaron Paul's new show which will be released fully through Netflix. He claimed they decided Netflix was the best forum because binge-watching is the future of television. He states, "That's just how people are doing it. That's the future." And this got me thinking. Had my attachment to Netflix, in combination with the millions of others who experienced the same reaction, come to overrun the natural order of cable television? It was then I understood that, somehow, I had slowly become addicted to Netflix.

When it started, it was mild. I had no idea what I was getting into. It really got bad when I began watching TV shows. I feel the need to offer some context to this situation to make it truly understandable. I first got Netflix in college, a time in my life where I didn’t pay for anything but basic cable and had a little too much free time (something that never exists again post-college). At the time, I was working at a bar-type establishment from which I didn’t get home until around 4am. Of course, there was nothing on TV at that time so Netflix quickly became my go-to. Soon enough, I found myself watching nothing but Netflix. A few years passed, I graduated, got a real job and finally had some money to pay for real cable and a DVR (Whoohoo! Adulthood!). I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to get back to in-time television, back to my roots!

I soon began to notice some changes. Commercials, which I had been avoiding for years, became a serious annoyance. So much so that, for a while, I couldn’t watch ANY live television. I had to record it and wait for the playback. 

Then there was the fast forwarding. It wasn’t enough that I could skip the commercials because I was still having to put in an effort. And then I would go too far and have to rewind and UGHHHHHH JUST PLAY MY SHOW! …Whoa, that was a little intense. 

In the meantime, Netflix had trapped me in its jaws with AMAZING shows like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. Shows I could watch an entirely new season of at my own pace. (My pace was as much as I could watch in between work and sleep; roughly 5 hours.)

The final sign I was ruined came when new seasons of my most loved shows started, like American Horror Story or Walking Dead, both of which have their previous seasons on Netflix primed for binge-watching. The new seasons were great but the fact that I had to wait an entire week between episodes took away from my excitement. It was suddenly less appealing, less fulfilling and, somehow, an inconvenience…

Who had I become? What had happened to me? All these years of dedication to my favorite shows, loyalty to the networks and passionate excitement for the television industry were gone. Ripped from my soul like Khal Drogo ripped that guy’s tongue out in Game of Thrones. This is when I grew genuinely angry with the networks for making me wait. WE KNOW ALL THE SHOWS ARE DONE, GIVE IT!!!!

I had become obsessed with the constant access to new material, so much so that I had left my precious networks in the dark. Sure, I agree to some extent that binge-watching is the future of television. But, as Aaron Paul says,
"...there is something special about watching a show from week to week. You have that week sort of buffer in between each episode to let each episode marinate and it's nice..." 
In the world we live in today, everyone wants everything the exact moment they want it. There is little patience left in our society. I'll admit, patience has never been a strong suit for me, but I understand that it takes time to create such wonderful work. I can't demand that my shows be available to me the second I want them because then, they wouldn't be nearly as good.

I've come to the conclusion that binge-watching, though fun, is extremely unhealthy. Waiting is better for us. It gives us something to look forward to at the end of a week, an hour to escape our lives. If we had every show readily available, I think it would have a detrimental impact on our society and the way we control our urges. Listen to me networks, and all filmmakers at that, take your time! It is your masterpiece and we are the mere consumers. 

Fun fact, "binge-watching" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary this year. What do you think about the future of TV? Are you addicted to Netflix or loyal to broadcast? Do you think the networks will soon all have their own instant streaming services like HBO? Post your comments below!

Bonus: Here are some recommendations from me for Netflix or TV, whatever your preference:

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