Julie and I watched 4 episodes on Sunday, 3 on Monday, 2 on Wednesday, and 1 on Thursday to finish the first season of “Game of Thrones“. The last show I watched this quickly was 7 seasons of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” in 1 summer during high school, so we’re enjoying “Game of Thrones” a lot.
For awhile, I was quite stubborn about watching “Game of Thrones”. My friends watched last season together on Sunday nights, and I even attended a few viewing parties and just did other things instead. Out of pride or forgetfulness, I can’t recall why I refused to watch, but with the 3rd season starting last weekend and Julie reading the books, it made sense to catch up as quickly as possible to share the experience with my friends.
Binge-viewing is now a recognized behavior among TV viewers. Thanks to services like Netflix, people can easily watch an entire TV show over the course of a few days instead of needing to get the DVDs or wait for re-runs or new episodes. An interesting consequence noted in the NYT article is that cliffhangers aren’t as relevant for binge-viewers who are launched straight into the next episode. In fact, the so-called “hoarders” even prefer to wait for a TV show to finish its run before watching it all in one go.
Another hidden cost to increased availability of past TV shows is that TV doesn’t have the same global feel to it, where everyone was sharing the experience simultaneously, albeit individually at home. One factor is that we don’t have to watch TV live. A few years ago, it was unfortunate when you couldn’t be home for your favorite show and needed to tape it. And if it took more than a day to watch, you had to deal with spoilers at lunch the next day. Another factor is that current TV may not garner the same audience. Why should I spend my time watching a possibly bad show when I can watch a classic instead?
I have mentioned a few shows I have watched recently, and I’m sorry to say that I often wasn’t keeping up with those well, either. Every few weeks, I would catch up on the last few episodes of “30 Rock” or “Dollhouse” or “Avatar”, while my friends bugged me about the past episodes I hadn’t watched yet. Without Hulu, I might never have kept up, and without Netflix, I might never have watched Arrested Development and missed out on those experiences. But with these services, I don’t feel the need to be in front of my TV at a certain time, and I’m losing out on the shared experience around that.
That shared experience is what I’m hoping to reclaim with “Game of Thrones”. There are politics and battles everywhere, and I would like to be able to speculate wildly on what might happen next. For example, I went out to dinner with family friends last week, and we realized that we had been watching the BBC “Sherlock” show, which ended the 2nd season with a cliffhanger. We had different theories about the mysteries and how they would transition into the new season. Despite having not talked about it before, TV situated us both in the same experience without having shared anything before, and that’s pretty cool.
Anyways, I recommend that you all watch “Game of Thrones”. It’s bloody, and there’s more nudity than the plot requires, but it’s HBO. And maybe we’ll never be able to speculate wildly, since the TV series is following the fantasy books, but it’s enraptured a lot of my friends, and sharing this experience seems like an okay application of peer pressure.