Great Shows are Worth More Than Just a Binge


The HBO series "The Sopranos" had its 20-year anniversary recently. (Facebook)

By Jimmy Sullivan

About two months ago, I started watching the HBO hit series, “The Sopranos.” After being inundated with social media posts around the show’s 20th anniversary, I finally caved and decided to give it a shot. It is a really good show and one that I would recommend.

The show follows Tony Soprano (the late James Gandolfini) on his “familial” mob adventures. Of course, there is much more to the show than the formulaic “conflict, mobster gets mad and guy gets killed” order of things. What makes the show tick is the emphasis on personal relationships and character development.

In fact, the first scene of the show depicts Tony in the office of Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco), his psychiatrist. The relationship between the two gets progressively weirder as season one progresses, but the show deftly handles Tony’s issues with anxiety. This revolves around the dysfunctional relationship between him and his rapidly-fading mother (Nancy Marchand), who is suffering from dementia and seems to hate everyone on the planet, including her own family.

Hearing me say all this, you may think that I am already done with the show. You may be very surprised to hear, then, that as of writing this, I have only started season two.

Many of my friends, and perhaps a lot of people generally, like to “binge-watch” shows, which is watching several episodes in succession. The benefits of this are obvious: you watch a lot of said show at once, you do not forget important storylines and you can block off a large chunk of time to watch as many episodes as possible. It sounds like it would be a lot of fun, and I say it “sounds like” fun because I have never actually done that.

My cultural illiteracy is one of the main reasons why I do not binge. I am always the guy that gets caught behind significant cultural trends. I was late to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and I created a Snapchat last weekend (save your jokes for later). But the point is this: I am not the traditional Generation Z-er that spends a lot of time binge-watching Netflix. That is not to brag, but it is just the way I have always been.

Back to the original theme: another show I recently finished is NBC’s “The West Wing.” Part of why my experience watching that show was so enjoyable, I believe, was that I started it as a senior in high school and finished it as a sophomore in college.

In particular, the first three seasons of the show were incredible, and I wanted to savor them as much as possible. When I realized the final four seasons were not going to match the level the previous three had cumulatively achieved, I kicked it into high gear and finished them in a quick (at least for me) six months.

Now, you can make fun of me for working slowly. That is very fair. However, I genuinely believe we have lost something with the ability to watch anything at anytime with streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix. Hear me out on this one, and indulge me in my old, geezer ways for just a little while longer.

I am just old enough to remember watching shows on television, leaving the room during a commercial break and hearing the scream of “it’s back” from the other room. This is not to say that this method is better than just opening your computer and getting what you want, but there is something nostalgic about those days when I think about it now. A tweet from October by a user named @FlossAus essentially said the same thing, and that tweet has now reached a million likes.

I am not sure if there is a lesson to be learned here. Honestly, part of the point of this article is me pining for the good old days. And I am not saying that Netflix, Hulu or any other streaming service is bad. However, I do believe that you lose something when you fly through a great show. You may also subconsciously feel pressure from others to finish a show quickly if two or more of you are watching it at the same time.

So the next time you want to pick up a new show, remember that your enjoyment of it is not a race to the finish line. Slow down, take your time and see how much you enjoy it. As for me, I will continue to work at my pace. By the time I graduate, I may finish “The Sopranos” after all.