See you sometime next year.
Yeah, I'm checking out -- not because of the approaching holidays or accrued vacation days or seasonal affective disorder. No -- what it is, see, is the boxed set of "The Wire" lent to me this weekend by some dear friends/enablers. Somehow I've managed to avoid this moment for 11 years, but now I have all five seasons in one easy-to-grip package.
If you don't hear from me by January, kindly alert the police.
I will view the classic HBO series as God intended, without leafy greens or showering. My little girl has been duly warned: If you want Santa to visit next week, leave Daddy the hell alone. I just have to lay in the sourdough pretzels and a few cases of Diet Coke. Then, let the binging begin.
Which makes me as unusual as a chunk of quartz.
If The Wall Street Journal has it right, binge viewing has now been demonstrated to be the natural order of things, like osmosis and photosynthesis and pitchers forced to bat. The supporting data come courtesy of Netflix, which not only released the first season of "House of Cards" all at once, but distributes many other series in easy-to-stream seasonal bundles. They meter usage, so they know how the shows get consumed. From the Journal:
"Netflix only examined users who finished a season within the space of a month. For one serialized drama, 25% of the viewers finished the entire 13-episode season in two days, while it took 48% of them one week to do so. The pace was pretty much the same for a very different kind of show — a sitcom with a 22-episode season: 16% of viewers finished the season in the equivalent of a weekend, while 47% completed it within one week."
Twenty-two half-hours in a week, for the slowpokes. The real streamheads watched 11 per day.
Furthermore, the Netflix data suggest that bingers binge on one show forsaking all others. They are like junkies who don't bother to answer the phone or eat. They are helpless against, say, the second season of "The League." More. More. More. Ever see "Trainspotting?" It's like that, minus the rubber tubing.
I'm not just supposing here. This is more along the lines of a confessional. Despite years of nagging from my adult offspring, until last summer, I had never seen "Breaking Bad." Then, when my wife and youngest daughter left town for a week, I downloaded Season 1. By the time I left my sofa, 46 hours of episodes later, my eyes were spirals and a cloud of body smog hung over the family room.
I would have sold my virtue for one more episode, just one more, but the supply -- like Albuquerque without Heisenberg cooking -- had run dry. No regrets, though. None. This had been the greatest cultural experience of my life (which ain’t nothing, as I've experienced almost all of Shakespeare, Mozart, Tolstoy, Gershwin, Matisse, Stravinsky, Scorsese and "Arrested Development"). But more than that, it changed my relationship with the television. It was exactly as my eldest insisted: TV is now better than movies, because the serialized drama now can plumb depths and wander breadths of character and narrative no 100-minute film can approach. Films are novellas. Serialized TV offers the fully realized saga, worthy in fact of Tolstoy… or Dickens or Wagner.
Which is all by way of saying if you need me anytime soon, you're out of luck. The BluRay is fired up and I've got 60 hours of time to kill in Baltimore.