I’m a person of varied extremes. In a world of gray, I see black and white. I always seem to be too much “this” or not enough “that.” And when I like a thing, it usually becomes an obsession, be it books, pink Starbursts, air hockey, or Precious Moments figurines.
As it happens, after years of not being a very big television viewer, I somehow succumbed to the phenomenon known as “TV binging.” Like all addictions, it started innocently enough. Sure, I was a Netflix subscriber from its beginning, but I mainly used it for movies and documentaries.
However, three years ago this month, on Mother’s Day, my son bought for me season 4 of Breaking Bad, which I’d gotten behind on. Twenty-four hours later, I’d not only watched the whole season, I’d had a revelation. THIS WAS AMAZING AND I’M NEVER WATCHING TV WEEK-TO-WEEK AGAIN. Yo. Instant gratification, bitch.
Before I knew it, in any spare time I had (sleep time included), I was watching any dark TV drama I could scrounge online, Netflix or otherwise. I watched three seasons of Mad Men in a weekend once.
I’d lie and say I was sick, but God help me, I was healthy and happy. Sleep went by the wayside many times, as some shows are easier to stop than others. I even muddled somehow through season 2 of The Wire. Eventually, all I had to show for all my time was a lot of fucking TV trivia, which I am completely shallow enough to brag about.
At this point, Netflix upped its game. It totally doubled down. It put Dexter online, as well as all the AMC shows, and it started churning out its own amazing shows like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black.
All I had to show for all my time was a lot of TV trivia, which I am completely shallow enough to brag about.
What was a person like me to do? I had to learn to binge smarter, not harder. It’s taken me three years now to accumulate this knowledge, but if you think you or someone you love may be a TV binger, the following is a list that may help you cope. These are the main lessons I’ve learned being a TV binger:
- Do not watch LOST. Any of it. Just rent a plane and crash it; that takes less time. Pack a polar bear.
- Don’t watch more than eight episodes a day. I gave myself that time limit because I accidentally take on other people’s accents if I’m around them a lot. Side note: This habit is pretty intolerable during Downton Abbey binges.
- Characters you love will have bad, bad things happen to them, and you will definitely take it personally. You will feel feelings. (“I watched Jane die.” Mic drops.)
- Sometimes you might need a cigarette or two after seeing Jax Teller’s bare ass. This goes for men, women, and children.
- Most people like to watch shows as a couple or group, but aw hell naw. I’m not waiting on nobody. Plus, I don’t judge me for watching too much, and I don’t have to answer anyone’s questions.
- There are television actors and writers who are so good that you’ll weep for joy or just for catharsis. Once, I even applauded as I cried.
- The Sopranos is one of the funniest shows ever made, and Quasimodo predicted it as such.
- Do not, under any circumstances, come at the king and miss.
- Almost every TV show has a weak season.
- TV hangovers: Just like any other binge, there is the inevitable coming down. For a few days after I finish a series, not just a season, my head just ain’t right. I have sudden thoughts about the show and leftover emotions to process. I always feel like something tangible has ended — out of real life, not fiction. Not to worry, it always passes.