All across this region, as we have suffered through winter, people have been compensating by hunkering down inside and nesting. But these days, instead of stalwart indulgences like alcohol or dessert, they’re mainlining old TV series on Netflix — the new craze of “binge watching.”
For the uneducated, binge watching is where viewers sit for hours, days even, in front of the set and watch episode after episode of a single show until they either go crazy, develop bedsores or both. In workplaces, people who used to talk about plans for picnics or home projects are seeking advice on which shows will get them through the entire weekend. They used to just call it being “lazy,” but in the new vocabulary, watching a show is now called work — “Hey! I’m working my way through seasons one through 10 of ‘Friends!’” The only creatures on Earth who move less than binge watchers are baby cows on their way to becoming veal.
Last month, researchers at the University of Texas announced the results of a new study proving that people who binge watch are more likely to be lonely and depressed because they’re neglecting their relationships. But a lot of people, most people in fact, are binge watching with their significant other. That’s a good thing, but just like anything else you do with your significant other, you’d better do it right or not at all.
A confession: My wife and I have fallen into the trap of binge watching. I am actually binge watching a show while I write this column. That is why I’ve come up with a few rules that should act as guidelines to make sure your relationship does not fall apart like a “House of Cards.”
1. Pick wisely. This ain’t like going to the movies. Your entertainment choice is going to affect your life, and relationship, for days, if not weeks. Remember, there were five seasons of ”The Wire,” but “Murder She Wrote” went on for 12 long, long years. No relationship could survive an epic drudge like that. If yours can outlast 264 hours with Mrs. Fletcher, you’re a rare couple.
2. Don’t get ahead. There’s nothing worse than watching a show with a partner who already knows what’s going to happen. Even when they don’t say a word, the slightest expression can make you nervous. You’re sitting on the couch with a human spoiler alert. (As a side note, I just asked my wife if there were any rules she might suggest. She said, and I quote, “If you do watch ahead, keep your mouth shut. Rule No. 1 should be “Don’t kiss and tell!” Her rule No. 1 left me doubting my own rule No. 2.)
3. Don’t bail. You’re making a commitment here. You cannot get partway into a show and then suddenly opt out on your partner. My wife watched the first season of “The Wire,” then when it was time to watch season two, episode one, she walked out of the room 15 minutes into it. Who does that? I mean who does that!
4. Know when it’s time to split up. Yes, binge watching is done best with a partner, but two people can’t agree on everything. Right now, my wife likes “The Fall,” a UK show about a serial killer. I personally hate shows about weird guys who show up at your house in the middle of the night and kill you with a knife. I don’t know why, but that just makes me nervous, especially at bedtime.
I like to watch “Doc Martin,” another UK show, but this one’s about a doctor who moves to a small seaside village where … well … nothing happens. I find it very soothing. There are plenty of shots of boats in the harbor and a number of great sunsets. My wife would only watch if the village also had a violent sociopath hiding in the fishing nets.
5. If you do go solo, don’t talk about It. My wife knows that if she were to go on about her serial killer show, I’d only pretend to listen. And when I do talk about the goings on in Portwenn, the precious little village that is slowly learning to accept its new doctor, she actually gets up and walks out of the room.
Come to think of it, while these are all great guidelines for codependent binge watching couples, these rules are also a perfect way to keep an actual relationship on track. You need to pick your partner wisely and don’t get too far ahead. You don’t bail halfway through, but if you’re smart, you’ll know when it’s time to split up. Most importantly, though, is if you decide to go out on your own for a little freelancing, never, ever, ever talk about it.
Or, as my wife cheerfully informs me, “Don’t kiss and tell!”