Movies and TV
Five Reasons 'Binge-Watching' Is Bad For Us

David Sayers | 5 Aug 2015 17:00
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2. It Only Suits A Limited Range Of Genres

It's no coincidence that the renaissance of serious, adult drama on TV is coinciding with the increasing domination of streaming and the box-set format. They go together very well. It's a genre that relies heavily on narrative suspense that makes you crave the next episode, that thrives on word of mouth in the age of social media, and with episode and season lengths that are nice and meaty on their own, but with dedication and a day off can usually be blown through in a handful of sittings. It's a match made in heaven, and so naturally, more and more of them are getting made in order to jump on the very lucrative bandwagon. Now, I'm by no means against this, especially when you consider that a short time ago the industry was dominated, by a truly huge margin, by reality TV and talent shows, which at best annoy me and at worst sicken me to my black, pulsating core.

Planet Earth

It's done a lot of good for us, but not everyone is reaping the benefits; and if our future lies entirely down the road of a la carte and on-demand entertainment, then that doesn't bode well for the bigger picture. Take the sitcom, for example, or the documentary, or the cartoon, or even the one-off special. All worthy experiences in their own right when done well, but none traditionally employing the same kind of tactics that are making box-set dramas such a huge hit right now. I watch an episode of Planet Earth; it's breath-taking, informative, and David Attenborough is a God among men... but when I've finished it I don't think, "Aw man, I've gotta watch just one more!"

I'm not saying that we face a kind of mass-extinction event just around the corner. As I said before, you do still see a wide variety of genres being streamed on Netflix after all. However, some are undoubtedly more popular than others, thanks to the strengths of the format; and I worry that, if scheduling and dedicated genre spaces are going to become a thing of the past, all but the best known staples of this genre are going to struggle to get past the first rung on the ladder. Netflix and other, similar services, naturally want to push what their metrics judge to be popular in their marketing, and their customers will, again naturally, be drawn in by what has been advertised. If this trend is allowed to run unchecked, then some programs, no matter how fresh or well-made, could be lost in the vast ocean of content, never getting their heads above water, simply because they belong to a genre that is never going to get everybody talking about it, no matter how good an example of said genre it is.

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