Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Merits of Marathons (no running required)

My husband: Good night. I'm gonna crash.

Me, pausing the DVD player: Is the TV gonna bother you? I just want to finish this episode.

My husband: Nah, I can sleep through anything. See you in the morning.


My husband: When did you get up? Wait, have you been watching Supernatural this whole time?

Me (sheepishly): I, uh, just want to finish this season...

The above is a dramatization. But not by much.

In the last couple of years, I've noticed more and more TV channels running marathons-TNT doing the entire season of Leverage in a day, or USA showing back-to-back-to-back episodes of House. They're simply catching up with what a lot of viewers have already been doing thanks to the advantages of TV on DVD (as well as DVR, where you can hoarde episodes of something and then binge later or downloading episodes from iTunes, etc). I have one friend who doesn't watch a show during the season but waits for the DVD to come out and catches up summer/off-season.

I've already mentioned on this blog how I was too much of a weenie to watch Supernatural when it originally aired, but then I had a flight delay that lasted for hours...hours Trish helpfully filled with a DVD of first season epidoes. This was in February of the third season...and by the time the show returned from its spring hiatus, I owned seasons 1 &2, had bought all the season 3 eps on-line and was all caught up. This was probably my most exaggerated bout of DVD mania, but there have been other flare-ups. When I discovered Veronica Mars late in the first season, I stopped watching because I knew I wanted to see it all in order. I brought the DVDs the day they came out, and once I popped one in, it didn't come back out until I'd watched all four (by which point my husband had usually hidden the case from me so that I didn't get sucked into another three and a half hours of television).

The funny thing is that this kind of marathon viewing can alter the experience. I enjoy some complicated shows, like Lost and Battlestar Galactica, but have trouble remembering all the pertinent details across myriad seaons. (My husband has trouble staying emotionally invested--he says it's tough to care about the problems of fictional characters four and a half years later, but since I have a much looser grasp on reality than he does, this hasn't been a problem). I'm the type of person who, once engrossed in a good book, will forgo sleep to get to the end and I've always felt really bad for writers of TV shows. They put so much effort into their plotlines and characters, which are sometimes interrupted by scheduling changes, sports playoffs, hiatus, etc. It can make the storyline seem disjointed when that's not the case. As a writer, I feel like watching it uninterrupted and on my own timeline (the way I can with a book), I get the truer experience.

Then again, if you watch ten episodes in a week, any problems or inconsistencies in the show become GLARINGLY obvious. You may discover certain pet peeves that you didn't realize you had. And you lose some of the main benefits we've discussed here a lot--fandom synergy.

Kripke and Co. rock out loud when it comes to cliff hangers. Even the cuts to commerical, which are often heralded by what they call at Television without Pity the "metal teeth chomp," are timed for maximum impact. And while DVD marathon viewing allows me to skip right on to the next scene or episode, it doesn't allow me to get online at places like this with intellectual analysis such as, "OMG, did you guys SEE that? How the heck are they going to get out of this??????" And with a show like this one, isn't that nearly half the fun?

What do you guys think--do you get burned out on a show if you over-indulge, preferring to slowly savor over time, or do you like to binge and lose an entire weekend staring into Sammy's eyes and grinning back at Dean's smirk?