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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Netflix: Consuming TV like Literature

Netflix is one of the greatest things to ever happen on the face of the earth.
Hyperbole? Sure. But I do feel my enthusiasm is warranted. It struck me the other day as I finished yet another series that Netflix has made it possible for people to consume television shows like literature. When you're reading a good book, you are under no obligation to put the book down after every chapter and wait a week to read the next chapter. I'm sure there are people out there who read books like that, but goodness knows that's never been me! When I get engrossed in a good story, I have to read until I finish. If there's any waiting to be done, it will be done only if I am waiting on the publication of the next book in a series. Similar, I think, is waiting on the next series of a TV show to come to Netflix.

TV shows these days - at least the ones I watch - are great at having detailed story arcs. There is often one long story to be told, broken down into several episodes, each one of which leads artfully to the next, just like chapters in a book. A skilled screenwriter will write each episode so the viewer can't wait to find out what happens next, and in my opinion, that is also how a skilled novelist writes each chapter in a book. I've read lots of articles online about how binge-watching TV shows on Netflix is ruining TV consumption and making us unwilling to wait for delayed gratification. I think there is some validity to this argument, but then I look at my own experiences and kind of laugh about it. Why should binge-watching a show on Netflix be considered any different from binge-reading a book from your favorite author the night it comes out? In both cases, you're receiving immediate satisfaction for your entertainment desires, and probably making the wait for the next TV series or book that much longer, actually allowing you still to experience delayed gratification.

Ultimately, I'm probably over thinking this, but that's okay. I tend to wax philosophical late at night and when I realize little epiphanies. Epiphanies like how Netflix is allowing me to consume TV shows like my favorite books - in binges and sprints and agonizingly-long waits - and that is a small thing for me to be thankful for. :)

*As an aside, my husband and I do not have cable, and I wouldn't have time to binge watch anything on Netflix right now if I wasn't a nursing mother. But having that time - where I can't do much more than sit on my bum - has allowed me to discover and enjoy many shows that are truly great stories. A few of my favorites are:
-Marvel's Agents of Shield
-Parks and Recreation
-Doctor Who