The art of the “power watch”

downloadFebruary 28, 2014 – Who knew, after almost 70 years in the making, that it was possible to change the way Americans watch TV?

With companies like Netflix and Hulu offering downloads of seasons of TV shows at one time, and On Demand available instantly, more people are binging on their favorites, viewing entire seasons in days, and joining in a new phenomenon called binge-watching. I refer to the practice as “power-watching” because it sounds far better.

I became accustomed to this practice about a year and a half ago, when I wanted to catch up on the first season of “Homeland” before the second season began. I followed up with “Game of Thrones”, which involved catching up on two seasons, and absorbing 24 hour-long episodes in a little over a week to be ready for the big season three premier. It helped that I had a bad cold when power-watching “Game of Thrones”, which planted me on my sofa over a long weekend.

That sounds like a lot of TV, and it is, yet I am not alone. A new study by Harris Interactive (on behalf of Netflix, no less) says that 61 percent of us binge-watch TV regularly (which equates to two or three episodes in a single sitting). The poll also suggested that nearly three-quarters of us believe binging is a positive experience, and it makes the show better.

At first, I agreed with the majority 61 percent, and believed it did make it better. Then it became strange. After watching so many episodes in a row, I began dreaming about the characters and waking in the morning feeling stressed. The reason? “Homeland” and “Game of Thrones” tend to be intense programs, hence the unpleasant dreams. I also discovered it is better to watch at a slower pace because I became so attached that I felt cut off from “my character friends” when it was over, and I had to wait another year to watch again.

I have used this approach while reading, too. I stay up late to finish a great novel quicker than normal because I cannot put it down. Surely, I would better enjoy it at a slower pace, when I’m not forcing myself to stay awake at 2 a.m. Like TV, and the desire to know what will happen next, I become a junkie waiting for her fix.

Things began to get better, and I thought I had my addiction under control until Netflix recently released season two of “House of Cards”. I resorted to my old ways, watching 13 hour-long episodes in five or six days, and the bad dreams began again. It does not help that “House of Cards” is about politics, and evil politics at that. I woke feeling stressed again, and with a desire to stay as far away as possible from Washington D.C.

This time I mean it. I won’t binge on seasons of television shows, but will watch them as originally intended, even if it seems impossible to wait to see what happens next.

Anticipation is a good thing, and it provides for a healthier sleep, too.

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