I love watching television episodes one right after the other, so I can better remember (and therefore actually see) the story arcs told in a season/series. It requires focus and stamina. When it's over, I can let it settle. I find myself in a post-mortem, thinking about the characters and their choices, and how I would fix what was wrong with season 7 and whatnot. I believe this is an important step. Otherwise, why do this to yourself? I think about what made me happy, what choices I thought failed, and what succeeded beautifully. I adore binge viewing, but it takes its toll. How are we supposed to deal with the physical and emotional toll? Is there a better way (of dealing, not of pacing oneself)? Is there a secret? Is there a study I can sign up for? Full immersion in an epically long story? Surely, someone, somewhere is studying it!
Why does one binge?
We can get behind on our show-watching. We can have busy lives and quickly find ourselves seasons behind on our favorite shows. We can keep hearing about a show, and not find time to watch it when it airs, or even years after. I was blindsided by Battlestar Galactica and I wasn't myself for a good 6 months after I started watching it for the first time. One day, two friends on Facebook who don't know each other and live on opposite coasts mentioned it. One of the statuses (statii?) was "Why did I wait so long to watch Battlestar Galactica?!?!" and I decided it was time to check it out. I haaated it at first. By the end of season 1, I had to know everything about these characters. There was no stopping. Never before had I wanted so badly for the Matrix-style plugin-&-upload process to be real.
When do we decide if we love it?
I watched BSG over the course of 8 days on a frequently overheating computer. I was forced to take breaks, which either helped or hindered me. I can't decide. It forced me to do the post-mortem in progress, which I try to avoid. I don't decide anything other than emotional, gut reactions until I've seen everything, then pronounce if I loved it or not, or if it was good or not, or if I'll even watch it again. When I watched Breaking Bad, I didn't have the same reaction. It was easier to recover from. Much of it felt like homework, that I needed to finish.
Because it was. It was pop culture homework. What were all those internet people talking about? It was only later, when I finished, that I realized I really did like it. A lot. I'm still not really sure what I think of it as a whole, but there are some great character-development episodes, and two main characters who are equally magnetic. Magnetic to watch, and magnetic to each other; pulled together as much as they are repelled from each other. Those are the best stories to watch, to me. But it took me a while to come to that conclusion. When I finished it, I'd say it lingered further back in my mind than usual. Often, a night of viewing will stay right up there at the forefront until I put on a podcast the next afternoon at work just so that I hear another story.
Surviving a Visual Novel
I'm pretty sure it gets worse, the longer the series run. Game of Thrones' quick 30 episodes was nothing. A drop in the bucket. It took me a while to figure out who I am rooting for, and what it's really about, but I feel that binge-viewing helped in understanding that one. It keeps a lot of story lines going with a LOT of characters. I'd only be confused if I had time to forget who is who and why they're there. I'm terrified of starting The X-Files or Supernatural because there's so much content there. Maybe one of these times I'm unemployed, I'll dive in. I got through 11 seasons of Cheers okay, but that was 1/2hr sitcom, not hour-long drama. It's quite daunting!
Don't Forget to Eat!!
Microwavable or quick-grab meals seem like a good idea. Popcorn is good, if not well-rounded in the nutrient categories. Gatorade is useful. I've made sandwiches and kept them in the fridge. I've made dinners for the sole purpose of having leftovers for 7 meals. Stock up like a hurricane is coming and enjoy your weekend? Is that the plan? Is that how one doesn't get physically run-down when focusing one's mind on 59 hours of constant story? Pacing yourself is best, I'm sure, but just in case one gets carried away, stock up like the guys in Not-Costco in that Netflix ad,
and prepare yourself to not leave your house until it's done, leaving a day off for recovery. This recovery day is crucial. It is when you do the post-mortem; when you assess what you've just spent all that time watching, and critique it. Will you watch it again? How soon? Were they interesting characters? How so? What did you learn about the Human Condition from this show? Did you see the plot twists coming? Were all of the mysteries solved? What do you think really happened?
I often find myself multitasking for the first several episodes, and then rapt for the rest of the series. I'll try folding laundry or doing something on my computer. It never lasts. At some point, I get sucked into the series, and there's no hope for anything else.
Try to Watch a Season Finale and the Following Season Premiere in the Same Sitting.
The stories are almost always connected, and the momentum is going. The more you binge, the more you'll understand the rhythm of a season: where the quick-moving connected parts are; where the lulls are; that sort of thing.
The Most Important Rule: NEVER WATCH A SERIES FINALE BEFORE GOING TO WORK.
I cannot stress this enough.
It will wreck you for the day.
I've done this more than once, and I'm always kicking my ass about it. At work, you can't really let the emotion of the finale, of saying goodbye to these characters who you've grown to love (if everybody did their jobs right), you can't really let that linger. You can't reach that catharsis that comes when grieving. That understanding of how what you just watched is a sample/display/example of the human condition. Figuring out what you've learned from it, what your real reaction to it is. Breaking Bad I didn't figure out until about three days later. Game of Thrones took me a full week to appreciate. It takes time, and you won't be able to absorb it fully if you're at work. Not to mention, your face will be puffy and your nose runny, or worse—your eyes red and your body dehydrated.
The day after I finished rewatching Lost was the worst non-alcoholic hangover I've ever had. I felt amazing, because I cried out all the stress, but man, I needed a Gatorade!
How will you do on your binge watch? Always try and pace yourself. And hydrate.