You can call me old. You can call me outdated. You can say I’m living in the past. The one thing you cannot disagree with me on is that your connection to TV characters has completely and totally changed since the arrival of binge watching. Personally, I think it’s terrible.
Seinfeld was on for most of the 1990s and aired 180 episodes. Originally on Wednesdays, the show then moved to Thursdays where it became both a critical and ratings phenomenon. The characters on Seinfeld felt like close personal friends by the end of the show’s run. You knew their quirks, their idiosyncrasies, and what made them tick. You looked forward to each new episodes and you spent Friday discussing last night’s edition.
To this day, I still can remember very specific episodes and where I was or what I was doing when I watched them. I have the exact opposite feeling about binge watching. I took in all the Stranger Things episodes in about a week last summer and I currently remember nothing and couldn’t tell you any character name except “11.”
I have this exact same feeling about House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. I watched them all in a week when everyone was talking about those shows and now I couldn’t tell you a single thing except “takes place in prison” and “Kevin Spacey is nuts.” On the opposite end, I can tell you every single thing about Happy Days. I even know the name of the brother that disappeared from the show in season 2.
Kudos to HBO, which still holds true to the release of one episode at a time and makes you want Sunday to come. I’m sure this will eventually change but I like waiting all week to see what Game of Thrones cast member will be killed next. Veep and Silicon Valley, both genius comedies, currently give me the same rush as Cheers or Friends or even early 00s shows like Arrested Development did. You watch it, you discuss it next day and then you wait just the way Philo Farnsworth wanted you too.
I get it and, yes, I realize I sound 100 years old. Binge watching does have its upside. It has put television viewing on our schedule. It has allowed for unique shows with shorter stories to flourish. It has given us more options and has made airplane travel go by so much quicker. It has even become a new way for couples to fight.
But the one thing it hasn’t done is create lasting memories and cultural touchstones. If Alex Keaton was on a show I watched in a month, would I care that Ellen broke up with him and still remember it!
I don’t think so.