There is something very satisfying about power-watching a television series. For the uninitiated, power-watching is watching multiple episodes of the same show, back-to-back in a single sitting. When we started watching The Sopranos, there were four or five seasons available on disc from Netflix. Most of them had three episodes, but once in a while there would be four. That fourth episode was like the last piece of pizza in the box; you’re already stuffed, but one piece isn’t going to be enough for lunch the next day so you might as well go ahead and eat it. When the four-episode disk was over, we were so full we almost didn’t mind waiting a few days for the next one to arrive. Almost.
We’ve power-watched a number of series over the years including The Wire, Weeds, Big Love, In Treatment, Slings and Arrows, and Tell Me You Love Me. Some, like Prison Break, start strong, but begin to lose their appeal after a couple of seasons. I find it difficult, however, to stop watching a show I’ve power-watched for a season or more, particularly since Netflix introduced streaming.
Back in the day, we’d finish a disc, pop it in the mail, and wait for the next one to arrive. That enforced cooling-off period gave us time to reassess our addiction and, if necessary, take corrective action by moving the next disc in the series further down the queue in Netflix. If we did this more than a few times, we knew we were cooling on the series and on our way to breaking the habit. With streaming, each time you look at your “instant queue,” you see a list of all the episodes for the entire series. It is way too easy to say, “Let’s try one more. Just one more. I promise this will be the last one.” And yet, it never is. When the US Postal Service no longer intervened to slow our pace, I realized we, okay, I, had a problem.
In truth, this isn’t really a new problem, merely a variation on one I’ve always had—with books. I can count on one hand the number of books that I’ve abandoned before finishing them. I don’t know why I can’t toss them aside half-read. It’s not as if I’m afraid that as soon as I close the book for good, the one-dimensional characters will expand like an inverse pop-up book, or the plodding plot will suddenly break into a gallop. Honestly? It’s that I worry that it’s not the author’s fault, but mine; I’m not clever enough to appreciate their work.
I don’t have the same insecurity when it comes to judging television series. For instance, Netflix has a new original series called Hemlock Grove that I added to our instant queue. It’s horrible. According to Tim Surette of tv.com, “I’ve had acid flashbacks that made more sense than Hemlock Grove.” So why, then, have I watched half a dozen episodes? Because the whole season is listed on my instant queue and I keep thinking it might get better.
A simple intervention might set me straight. If someone were to delete Hemlock Grove from the queue, I’d probably fuss and fume for a bit, but then I’d move on—to a different series. Any suggestions?