Silver Threads: Lost weekends or a new sport?
When it comes to bingeing on old TV shows, I’m a contender, as Marlon Brando famously said years ago in On the Waterfront.
Actually, the movie actor almost tearfully choked out, “I coulda been a contendah,” talking to his brother, who was doing to some shady business deals that were threatening his boxing career.
It’s strange what you remember about what you’ve watched in the past, isn’t it?
Anyhow — I am a contender for the bingeing olympics, if they ever organize any. So far, I’ve watched 126 hour-long episodes of “Murdoch Mysteries” on my Amazon tablet beginning about three weeks ago. That’s about six shows a day, and for those who find it strange, yes, I could have been sewing, gardening, exercising or doing something else more productive — but I was hooked. And I’m not alone.
“In a survey conducted by Netflix in February 2014, 73 percent of users define binge-watching as watching between two and six episodes of the same TV show in one sitting,” reports Wikipedia. “Binge-watching as an observed cultural phenomenon has become popular with the rise of online media services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video with which the viewer can watch television shows and movies on-demand.”
And when the last available episode of “Murdoch” ended with a cliffhanger, I googled the show hoping to learn there was more. Not only did I find out that eighth and ninth seasons had already been filmed; addicts like me were clamoring for them.
Within a week, Acorn TV had put them online, and I was back in a Toronto, Canada, constabulary of the turn of the 20th century where the brilliant and very conservative (and very sexy) William Murdoch uses science to catch criminals. He’s been slowly courting the beautiful forensic pathologist Julia and faithful viewers are holding their breaths.
I took up television bingeing three or four years ago; before that, reading and playing spider solitaire, free cell and Scrabble and checking email were the only things done on my Kindle. Browsing videos there one day, the discovery was made that I could see a bunch of HBO shows that I’d missed. Before sensing that it would become an addiction, I was into Rome. Then came The Tudors. Classy, no?
From there I dropped all pretense that I was kind of studying for a graduate degree in history, and plowed into The Sopranos, which did much to prepare me for the overdose of violence offered by Kiefer Sutherland’s 24 Hours.
It was about then that TV bingeing was born. "Binge Viewing: TV's Lost Weekends” was the head that ran over a piece in The Wall Street Journal in July 2012. “Using streaming and DVRs, TV viewers are increasingly gobbling up entire seasons of shows in marathon sessions.”
From crime and spy shows, I went back to classy with Pride and Prejudice, and kept going that route with Madam Bovary, all this viewed on the small screen that I’d gotten used to. Then I bought one of Amazon’s tablets and enjoyed them in bed in “wider-screen” splendor. Sure, I could get everything on one of the 40- or 60-inch TVs in our house, yet somehow the tablet seems more personal and convenient.
Actor Kevin Spacey made a case for bingeing — and, yes, I did binge on House of Cards — a couple of years ago, implying that it’s just as good as reading a book. (I don’t know — The Sopranos?) And just this past November, the Collins English Dictionary chose the word “binge-watch” as the word of the year.
Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.