Confessions of a Binge Watcher
September 22, 2016
I’ve heard about people who tune in to the Netflix, HBO and Amazon serials and watch all the episodes of a program in one day. They stay up most of the night, tuning in to one episode after another, making one batch of popcorn after another and rushing to the bathroom in the few minutes between the programs. Why, I asked myself, would anybody want to do this?
Then I walked into the family room when my husband was watching the sixth episode of Mad Men in the first season. Don Draper was doing something outrageous and I perched on the arm of a leather chair to watch for a moment. Soon I moved from the arm to the cushioned seat, my eyes never leaving the television. When the episode was over, I asked my husband a lot of questions and he quickly caught me up on the story-line. That evening, he turned it on again and I sat down with him. And then I was lost.
During the month of August, we followed Draper and the rest of his advertising buddies through seven seasons. We watched two – and sometimes three – episodes every night. I bit my nails as Draper drifted from one woman to another, reconfiguring his advertising agency at least three times along the way. My husband started worrying about me when I began to yell at the TV, advising Draper to find a good therapist. I also suggested better parenting strategies to Draper’s wife. When I started to come up with my own ideas for the advertising agency’s clients, my husband began to question whether it was healthy to binge watch. I was too far gone to listen.
We watched his daughter grow up into a lovely young woman and saw the treatment of women in the work place grow from terrible to passable during the 70’s. We cheered on Draper’s friends as they searched for their place in the advertising profession and, for many of them, finally found true love! I was relieved when Draper finally got in touch with his inner soul but very disappointed when the series ended with him in a yoga pose somewhere in the California wilderness. I understand that the Coke advertisement at the end was meant to signify that he went back to advertising (with a much more wholesome outlook, of course) but it just didn’t satisfy me. I hate to be left imagining how the rest of his life turned out; I want to know!
The next evening, we sat on the couch and looked at each other. We felt an emptiness, a void, a sense of desolation. Now what? Draper, his family, his two wives and multiple lovers, his working companions had disappeared from our lives. It was as if they had never existed. However, when you think about it, they really had never existed!
So we decided to do it again. This time we watched Stranger Things, a one-season (hopefully) seven episode program. This only took three nights to watch. Then we moved on to Friday Night Lights, a series about the goings-on in a small town during football season. One episode down, five and three-fourth seasons to go.
However, it’s now September and football season has started. That means at least one night and Sunday afternoons will be reserved for football (only my husband; I find other things to do). Then the regular programs will start and I follow a few of those, such as Jane the Virgin, Madam Secretary, Orange is the New Black and whatever series is on PBS on Sunday nights. Downton Abby is over so we can check that box off.
Maybe we will get so busy as the weather cools and friends return to Florida from their summer homes that we will forget about all these series. And maybe next summer, we will resist turning them on and go back to our books, our games or other activities in the evenings. But I know deep in my heart that if Mad Men returns with another season, I will be right there, parked in front of the television, watching Don Draper and crew as they drift from one episode to another.