I’m a comedian, which means I travel for a living. When I get to a city, one of two things happens: the comedy club puts me up in a hotel, or a “comedy condo.” The comedy condo is an apartment owned/rented by the club, and is the less preferred of the two options. Ratty furniture, no Internet, no television… these are the corners comedy clubs cut when providing lodging.
On rare occasion, the comedy condo can be very nice, and I was recently put up in one where the manager informed me: “We have Netflix hooked up on the TV.”
No cable, no satellite, “just” Netflix.
Now, I do not live in the dark ages; I’ve known of Netflix since it’s inception. I’ve watched it grow and turn into a powerhouse of distribution. I’ve seen it lead the way in streaming technology, and now it’s entered the realm of production.
The thing is, even as I’ve watched Netflix develop I’ve never purchased the service. I gave it a trial run back in the DVD-mailing days, but that’s about it. I enjoyed the trial run, but also noticed I didn’t always watch the DVDs that arrived in my mailbox. Thus, I never signed on as a full-fledged customer.
Because of my lack of Netflix, it was with joyous excitement I sat down to fire up and watch something I’d missed out on for over a year: Season 4 of Arrested Development.
I was immediately hooked. Not just on the show, but also the format I’d heard so much about over the past couple years: binge watching. When one episode ended, the next one started automatically. I didn’t have to do anything except acknowledge that yes, Netflix, I was still watching six episodes later.
(For the minority as unaware as I was, auto-play does occasionally wonder if you’ve left the television on while you’ve wandered off to the store.)
When my run of AD ended, I started in on a program I’d been hearing about, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It was as funny, original, and captivating as all the reviews I’d read.
Two days later, my run at the comedy club ended, and I was forced to call it quits with Netflix. During my brief relationship with the service, I completed one entire series—all fifteen episodes of Arrested Development—and nine episodes of Kimmy Schmidt.
That is a lot of television.
Too much television, in fact.
If each episode was roughly twenty-five minutes, that means I watched ten hours of TV over two-and-a-half days. Even worse, I hadn’t even dipped my big toe entirely in the waters that is Netflix; Orange is the New Black, House of Cards… I didn’t have the time to start either of those beloved shows. And that’s why I think I’m going to have to take a pass on the wonderful service: there’s just too much good TV out there these days.
I have to confess, and I state this with embarrassment, I have not seen a single episode of The Walking Dead, The Sopranos, or Mad Men. I watched a couple episodes of the first season of Breaking Bad, and I really, really liked it… but then life got in the way and I fell behind. As it built in popularity, I felt like I was missing out, but what could I do?
I was busy working, writing, and becoming a father.
(That last one is the real killer of quality television, trust me. No firing up the DVR to watch Tony Soprano swear and bump off rivals with young eyes at my side.)
Kids aside, the thing with good TV is: it’s must-pay-attention-to TV, not background noise. These aren’t shows you put on while you Facebook or make dinner, these are shows that you must and want to pay attention to. Today, my wife and I are pressed to find the time to watch Jeopardy, and that’s on DVR with me fast-forwarding through the commercials (sorry advertisers!).
No longer can people complain “There’s nothing good on,” because there’s just too much good out there. To try and take it all in would be to leave no time for anything else.
Good television is like a drug; you get wrapped up in it and it offers an incredible high. I get why people binge watch, and I’d really like to become one of them. The problem is, I know my limits, and I fear my lack of self-control. My son needs his diapers changed; he can’t sit in his crib waiting because Daddy wants to know what Frank Underwood is going to do next.
For now, Netflix will have to be an affair I had. It was a delicious treat I allowed myself when trying to maintain a diet of productivity.
I’m not happy about it, but c’est la vie.