The much anticipated sophomore season of the hit Netflix original Stranger Things debuted on Friday, October 27th at midnight. By dinnertime on Saturday, October 28th, millions of people had finished it. I was included in that group of people that finished season 2 within 24 hours of its release. At one point, this would have seemed an absurd and remarkable task. Now, however, if you haven’t finished the season by the time the weekend’s up, you’re the strange one.
And it’s really important that you finish it so that you can be a part of the break room discussion about the season at work on Monday. You don’t want to be left of out the conversation — or worse, hear a spoiler. My fear of spoilers is one major driving force of my binging habits. Especially with extremely popular shows like Stranger Things and Orange is the New Black, I have to stay off of social media completely. The faster you finish it, the sooner you can jump on and share all of your opinions.
This is the basis of our binge-watching culture. We hate to be left out and we love to be heard. We want to be a part of what everyone else is talking about. Not only that, but we feel accomplished when we finish a season in one sitting (and also maybe a little disoriented when we return to real life). When I start a new show, I have a conscious goal of finishing it as quickly as possible. Maybe because I genuinely love it, or maybe so that I can check it off my list and move on to the next most talked about show. The fun is when you find a show so good that it demands you keep watching — you couldn’t stop even if you wanted to. If you’re watching a show with 10+ seasons (Grey’s Anatomy/Supernatural), binge-watching feels like the only way you can reasonably get through it. You are quite literally watching over ten years worth of television in three months.
So what does this kind of watching mean for TV production? Well at the very least it means that months (sometimes years) worth of really demanding work is exhausted in 24 hours, and this means that fans will have to wait a whole year for more, after they’d just got done waiting a year. But it seems that people prefer this, so long as there are a whole bunch of high-demand shows that come out periodically during the year. This is good news for the shows themselves as well — it means there’s virtually no competition. For a whole month, maybe two, the audience is entirely theirs.
I personally love this style of TV viewing, but it turns TV shows into really long movies. This effects the writing style and they way they structure the show. It’s only a matter of time before the production teams figure out how to make binge-watching culture even more profitable.