Brundson claims that bingeing means “bad television watching” in contrast to simply watching bad television. Though it’s certainly possible to dispute the normative judgment Brundson is making (that bingeing is not the correct way of watching television), the fact that it can be made at all says a lot about the current status of television as a medium and the way it is broadly perceived. Where once debates centered squarely on the question of whether or not television was worth watching at all or was worthy of some sort of artistic merit, the question now is how to watch television. The shift in where these arguments occur speaks volumes about how broad television can be (from broadcast networks to the Internet) and the enormous variety of ways it can be experienced. That’s pretty damn cool.
The increasing debate in non-academic TV criticism over binge watching illuminates some really interesting things about our collective relationship to television. In his defense of binge watching, Time media critic James Poniewozik writes, “The surest sign that a medium is changing is that people start to romanticize the very features of it that used to be condemned.” He criticizes fixation on the episode and time break as necessary narrative building blocks for television, since those features were only present because of early commercial concerns and argues that there are benefits to binge watching – total immersion in a world increases the ability of the viewer to see subtle thematic connections and get a better sense for a season of television’s overarching plan.
I’m torn on this question. If the episode starts to lose importance as a discreet unit (something we’re starting to see with Netflix show dumps ala Arrested Development), when does television cease being television and become another medium entirely?