When Netflix released all 15 episodes of season four of “Arrested Development” at once this weekend, a lot of people apparently blew off the beautiful weekend and stayed inside to watch them.
Is this the escalation of a new trend in TV viewing? Whether you think so or not, one thing is clear, younger people view media WAY differently than I did.
Holiday weekends have long been the realm of the TV binge watcher. Many cable networks use the three day cycle to loop cult series episodes back-to-back, and the people respond by watching.
I will admit that on past rainy Memorial Day weekends, I have sat my keister on the couch and knocked out seven or eight “Band of Brothers” episodes. (And when will they ever have a marathon showing of the equally compelling, but MUCH darker WWII series “The Pacific”? I could use a “SNAFU” fix.)
But the “Arrested Development” release and the resulting binge viewing by its long suffering fans, who waited seven years for a new episode, is a new development in the TV binge viewing game.
For the second time this year, Netflix has dumped all the new episodes of a series out on the market at once, letting the viewer decide when and where they will view them. For many, that meant devoting a whole day of the weekend to watching them all. Others (like myself) will view them in due time.
A departure has been made from traditional release schedules and appointment viewings. David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun calls it a “monumental change”, while the Daily Beast called it a “failure”.
But if you have young people in your household, you’ve known a change has been coming for some time. There’s a dramatic difference between my oldest daughter’s viewing habits and my youngest daughter’s, though they are but six years apart.
For the younger one, broadcast TV doesn’t exist. She has very narrowed and niche viewing habits, and because she’s always had time management issues, she watches when she wants, where she wants, which means she views the majority of her TV shows on her computer when she comes home from school, and the old “prime time” hours are consumed by school work or athletic activities. She moves the media to fit her, not vice versa.
When I was her age, if I was a fan of a show, I had to grab a TV Guide, find out when it was on and make sure I was there, otherwise, I wouldn’t see it again until summer reruns. It also led to a lot of mindless viewing, just watching “whatever was on” because my free time popped up at odd times.
I am so engrained into this culture, that even when I found I could knock out all the eps of “The Wire” during my afternoon nap time via Comcast On Demand, I would still only watch one at a time, savoring the wait to ruminate on the last show.
Her viewing is more specialized and direct. She doesn’t watch shows that don’t interest her, and she has 100 times the choices. She can find out about shows long after they’ve been cancelled and still watch them (lately she’s been popping out two or three eps of “Scrubs” after school. Why? I don’t know.)
The only time I ever have seen her sit down at an appointed time was when BBC America was running “Dr. Who” on Saturday nights and she wanted to see them before her friends dissected the show online. Even then, if she wanted to go out, she could DVR it.
I think this new way of viewing has had a bearing on the emerging quality of some shows, and the dumbing down of network broadcast TV. No longer is the only option the “lowest common denominator” shows pumped out by the networks, most of whom have released more of their schedules to reality shows like “The Bachelor” and “American Idol”.
Have you ever binge watched a TV show, either on Netflix or on a Holiday weekend?