My name is Bill Kuchman, and I am a binge TV watcher.
I've binge-watched It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. This past fall, I binge-watched The Walking Dead. And recently, when I discovered that I had one massive, glaring pop-culture blind spot, a blind spot so big it was threatening my credibility as a pretend pop-culture expert, I binge-watched Breaking Bad.
Now, I have no idea how I missed it in the first place. Breaking Bad premiered in January 2008, while I was still in college. Maybe I was just really, really focused on schoolwork? Nah, that definitely wasn’t it. I’ve had basic cable for years now, so I can’t even use the “I don’t have AMC” excuse. I can play the premium cable card when it comes to The Newsroom or Game of Thrones, but I just don't have a viable excuse when it comes to Breaking Bad.
On June 15, I realized the omission couldn’t stand any longer. That date was exactly one month before Breaking Bad would return for Season 5. My mission: Catch up with Breaking Bad, all 46 episodes, in one month. I fired up Netflix and started watching.
I finished the first season in one night.
After that, it took me just 11 more days to view the rest of the series.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who engages in binge-watching, and based on a recent Slate post by Jim Pagels, we’re a nation on the verge of a binge-watching epidemic. Forget fast food and sugary soft drinks—we’re busy engorging ourselves on DVD box sets and Netflix streams.
Adamantly against the idea of inhaling the entire existence of a TV show at once, Pagels offers many reasons why we should slow down and catch up on TV shows at a leisurely pace. I can’t necessarily say I disagree with any of his reasons—blurring of episodes, ruining of cliffhangers, maintaining a show’s timeline—but there’s one ultimate benefit of binge-watching, and it trumps any reason to slow down and smell the lilies of the valley.
The greatest TV shows create communities of fans, and by catching up, you have the chance to participate in that community.
Back in the days of Lost, my friends and I would gather every week and watch the show together. We’d order food and pick up some beer. After each episode, we’d dissect what happened and make predictions for what would come next. Going into the show’s final season, one friend of mine had never watched Lost. Once he decided he was missing out, he had two options: Devour the first five seasons as quickly as humanly possible and join in our Lost Nights or catch up a few episodes at a time, here and there, probably wrapping up the series months or years after it was over.
My friend chose to fly through those first five seasons, and by the time Lost’s sixth season premiered, he was right there with us, trying to figure out what the heck those other flashbacks were.
Once I started watching Breaking Bad, I knew I wanted that feeling. Could I have slow-played my viewing experience? Of course—but then come July 15, I’d still be behind the game. While my friends were getting together to see just what Vince Gilligan has in store for Walter White and Jesse Pinkman in Season 5, I'd be stuck on Season 2, covering my ears, fearful of spoilers. That’s not the viewing experience I want. When I go into work on Monday, I want to be able to talk to coworkers about the previous night’s episode.
I want to be a part of the community of fans who love Breaking Bad, just like my friend wanted to join our community of Lost addicts.
Is binge-watching how our favorite TV series’ creators meant for us to watch their shows? Perhaps not. But once you’ve seen the light and make it your mission to right your pop-culture-blind-spot wrongs, binge-watching is the only way to fix things. Amazing television brings us together. It creates a bond for people who may not have anything else in common. So log on to Netflix, cue up Breaking Bad, and take care of what has to be taken care of. You may not cross the finish line in time for this Sunday's Season 5 premiere, but if do somehow prop your eyelids open and make it, you're my hero. If you've run out of time? Well, we'd love to have you join us in time for Episode 2.
Breaking Bad returns for Season 5 this Sunday on AMC.