Binge-what? Binge-watching

Randy Riley - Contributing Columnist

Up until late last year, I had no idea what “binge-watching” meant. I had heard the phrase a few times, but it didn’t really mean anything to me. I knew about “weight-watching” and “bird-watching.” I had even indulged in “people-watching” at the mall while Debbie was busy shopping, but binge-watching was something new.

Then I overheard someone say they had watched six episodes of “House of Cards” in one evening. The other person told him that they had binge-watched an entire season of “Walking Dead” over the weekend. Suddenly, the meaning of “binge-watching” started to make a little sense.

Binge-watching is tuning into an entertainment provider like Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO or any of a host of other cable or subscription TV services. There you can watch episode after episode after episode of almost any TV program you choose. My first reaction was, “Well, that’s just nuts.”

Then I remembered a bitterly cold, snowy Saturday morning about five years ago when Debbie very excitedly told me that the cable channel, TV Land, was just starting what they were calling “24 Hours of Andy Griffith.” We were hooked.

It was early on Saturday. We hadn’t even gotten dressed yet. We still had our winter comfy clothes on. I’m sure that everyone’s wardrobe has some winter comfy clothes — fuzzy slippers, heavy bathrobes, fleece-lined pajamas, long-sleeved flannel shirt. Comfy clothes.

There’s a reason it’s called “comfy clothes.” It is clothing you could wear all day long. You can nap in it. Sleep in it. You could wear it all day long and do nothing but watch reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show.”

That’s exactly what we did.

We didn’t start that Saturday with the goal of doing nothing but hanging out and watching TV all day, but by noon, we were really getting into the groove. When the pizza delivery was made that evening, we were still enjoying our friends from Mayberry and we were still wearing our comfy clothes.

I saw episodes of Andy, Barney, Aunt Bea and Opie that I hadn’t seen in decades. We laughed when Gomer started yelling, “Citizen’s arrest! Citizen’s arrest!” We got tears in our eyes when Andy convinced Opie that he needed to turn the baby birds loose. They ended the episode when Opie said the cage seemed awfully empty, but Andy answered, “Yes. But, aren’t the trees nice and full.”

Years later, with the development of new ways to tune in practically every episode of every series and every movie ever made, people were enjoying the old, familiar, comfortable programs they grew up with and they were also now exploring new programs that had only been available on certain pay-per-view channels.

This past winter, despite having literally hundreds of channels to choose from and finding nothing we wanted to watch, I decided to pay a few extra bucks a month for a Netflix subscription. Now, I was able to tune in several hundred more programs, many of which aren’t worth watching.

I have to admit, the idea of watching “Walking Dead” had never appealed to me. I don’t like gore and violence for entertainment. Zombies are many levels above just-plain-gross, but, on the entertainment news shows, I kept hearing that the series was winning almost every award for writing and quality that was available.

“OK,” I said to myself. I’ll just watch the first episode so I could tell people that I had tried it. So, one night after Debbie went to bed (she thinks zombies are unbelievably gross) I tuned in season one, episode one of “The Walking Dead.”

It was gross. It was violent. I saw things on my home TV that I never imagined I’d see on my home TV. It was gross. But, the writing was excellent. The acting superb. The episode ended with a cliff-hanger that tweaked my curiosity enough that I tuned in season-one, episode-two. Yep. I was hooked.

It still amazes me that I started binge-watching accidentally with “The Andy Griffith Show” and now I have completed the final episode of “The Walking Dead.” I still hate zombies. I am really not proud of being a fan of “The Walking Dead,” but I guess I am.

Binge-watching is still somewhat new to the American lexicon, I’m sure some people who hate TV will never give it a try. That’s fine. It kind of snuck up on me. Binge-watching has changed the way many people watch TV. Now, sad but true, I’m an occasional binge-watcher.

I still love Andy Griffith and I still hate zombies. Some things never change.

Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.

Randy Riley

Contributing Columnist