Margaret Mitchell wrote a 418,053 word book called Gone with the Wind, the movie ran for 3 hours and 46 minutes. Gone with the Wind was an instant success by the viewing public but some critics took note that the story was too slow, should have been trimmed, edited and that the story itself didn’t warrant such a lengthy engagement. But, as the test of time has shown, what do critics know? In 1836 Charles Dickens novels were released by chapter once every month. Dickens’ knew his audience. Michael Dobbs wrote the original novel House of Cards in 1989 and it was made into a successful 3 part mini-series for the BBC.
No doubt House of Cards is a culturally relevant event. The narrative is incredibly timely and it’s one of the highest viewed programs in China, of all places. China. China, a country stereotypically bent on pleasurably baring witness to how screwed up America and Washington D.C. is behind closed doors. House of Cards is about our dysfunctional government and dysfunctional politicians. Nothing sells like dysfunction!
So what’s the common denominator in the success of Gone with the Wind, House of Cards, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Sopranos, Mad Men and now True Detective. It’s the strength of story. Many “experts” at large communications agencies preach the value of storytelling to their clients. What those “experts” like the media critics don’t preach enough is that it’s the story, the script and screen play not just the telling or even the teller. Of course in film the perfect cast of actors and actresses like Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright enables you to carry your story in bold directions with confidence. Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey are a real force behind True Detectives on HBO, but where would they be without the story?
Beau Willimon (writer and producer) says that the real difference in his approach to House of Cards is that he approaches the story as a novel, with no restrictions, expectations and formula of TV or films. No commercials, no pressure to wrap it up, no time limits, no topics are off limits. If the episode needs to go 8 minutes longer so be it. When a story is crafted with an episodic mind over set, where time and timing is not an issue, in other words with a novel-based mentality as opposed to a short story menatality, that is when the viewing experience is truly transformed.
The Binge advantage! Binge watching, even Mini-Binges forces the viewer to to not focus on outcomes, or what’s next, we don’t anticipate a happy ending. When we watch in one sitting we don’t have time to ask why, why not, or who or what, we are not allowed the time to reflect . . . and that is an issue. With little or no time in between to reflect and question with a critical point of view, stuff just happens, sort of like life.
The Physics of the Binge
- It’s always not necessary to eat the entire cake at one sitting! (Who has 11 uninterrupted hours anyway)
- When in Binge mode all “electronic gadgets” are not only off but also not allowed in the room!
- All questions, inquires and “what did Clare just say” are left for discussion over morning coffee. (Stare straight ahead)
- The Bigger the Screen the Bigger the Binge! (Sorry size does matter)
- A Binge Built on “Backstabbers” and a dash of sex are like a car wreck on the side of the road, we kind can not, not look!
- Binge watching is like stepping into a time machine (you stand still and so does time, damn it’s 2:30 in the morning what was I thinking)
- Uninterrupted viewing creates a stream of consciousness that gives you this Godly sense of total control, do I want it all right now, pause, stop go make a ham sandwich? I dare myself sometimes times . . . can I make it thru one more episode?
- Binging allows you to orchestrate your own personal Half Time festivities . . . when and where do I choose to stop, drop and roll. Spring Rolls anyone?
- When we Binge watch it leaves you no room, time or space to guess what’s next? It just happens! LOST at least allowed viewers to guess for 6 days!
- Binge is a Buzz Word and Netflix loves Buzz as Buzz increases stock price. Only 2% of People actually Binge watched House of Cards season two for over 11 hours in one weekend.
- Is House of Cards really that “good?” No it is not, the Binge and rapid digestion helps to “cover up” some weak writing and implausible reality, by time you recognize the weakness of episode 6 your on to episode 7!
- Binge watching and crafting stories to be viewed in this manner changes everything, but it is still too early in the game to tell if this adds creative depth, sophistication and fascination or just a fad to “chug average TV”
- I am now Binge watching HILL STREET BLUES