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TMCNet:  The Modesto Bee Pat Clark column

[February 08, 2013]

The Modesto Bee Pat Clark column

Feb 07, 2013 (The Modesto Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A new series being offered via Netflix is shining a light on the idea of what's called "binge TV viewing." It's the idea of watching an entire season of a series -- heck, several seasons in some cases -- all at once, rather than taking it in via the normal week-by-week episodes allotted with traditional "appointment TV." While a confessed TV-aholic, I'd never actually thought of myself as going on any sort of viewing bender before. But the term fits quite nicely.

The new Netflix series is a political drama, "House of Cards," starring Kevin Spacey as a ruthless, scheming House majority whip. According to a Los Angeles Times story, it's a departure from TV tradition because the entire first season -- 13 episodes in nearly 13 hours of Capitol Hill drama -- is available all at once, with the click of a button.

Belly up to the TV, folks, and settle in for a long, lost weekend.

The show debuted last week, but Netflix has been closed-mouthed on its viewership numbers, according to wire reports. Nor is it clear whether those who did tune in went on a "Cards" bender or are saving some of it to nurse their drama a sip at a time, day by day or week by week.

Either way, binge viewing is being touted as the new way to watch television, though the idea has been around for awhile. I know several people who've caught up on past seasons of series they'd previously missed by doing this, spending a finite stretch of time watching on the Internet or DVDs. I did it recently, albeit in clipped form, with the PBS series "Downton Abbey," capitalizing on at least part of a second-season marathon on PBS on the DVR leading up to the season three premiere.

Binge viewing is just the latest in a long line of instant-gratification options the Internet and all its offshoot technology continues to afford. We're an impatient society and growing more impatient every day, with every new advance.

No judgment -- especially since I'm part of the give-me-more-TV-and-do-it-now society, myself.

"We're finding that people who binge-view once binge-view again," media consultant Jack MacKenzie said in that Los Angeles Times story. "It's the 'You can't eat just one' kind of thing." And you thought potato chips were addictive.

"The Internet is attuning people to get what they want when they want it," Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told the Times. " 'House of Cards' is literally the first show for the on-demand generation." But is there really a single on-demand generation It's more of an on-demand infection that pretty much anyone of any age who touches technology runs the risk of catching.

Which is to say, you don't have to be young to be demanding.

Still, not everyone will binge-watch. Which means you can't really talk (or, in this age of technology, post or blog) about how you spent your weekend -- red-eyed on the couch for 13 hours straight, for instance -- if the people you're talking (posting or blogging) to watched only the show's first or second episode and are saving the rest for later. No spoils to the spoiler, after all.

Netflix has committed to producing at least a second season of "House of Cards" and has more shows in production, including a new season of the now-defunct but hilarious comedy "Arrested Development," due in May. Competitors Hulu and Amazon have their own plans for on-demand shows, as well.

Still, appointment TV isn't going away anytime soon. But it's not the only bar stool in the joint anymore, either.


Pass the aspirin.

___ (c)2013 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.) Visit The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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