My name is Greg, and I binge-watched House of Cards.
The Netflix original series, starring Kevin Spacey as Democrat back-stabber Frank Underwood, grabbed headlines for the online broadcaster when all 13 episodes were made available to watch on Feb. 1. TV critics (myself included), Netflix subscribers and television fans applauded the move, and many planned to binge-watch the instalments. After all, Netflix was changing the broadcast landscape, nixing the one-cookie-at-a-time structure of conventional television in favour of handing us a bucket of the warm chocolate chip stuff all at once. Why consume one episode when you can devour them all at once, in one sitting?
I completed House of Cards near the end of February, and I’ve noticed a strange trend: I’m in the minority. There are a surprising number of viewers who are still halfway through Season 1, meaning I can’t discuss the minutiae of storylines or overarching themes with them yet. I was at a press event last week and only one other person had watched all 13 episodes. We clutched at each other with relief because it meant we could talk about it freely.
Strangely, rather than feeling like I was ahead of the curve in my television watching, I felt oddly out of place, something I don’t experience when watching conventional television’s weekly episodes. I arrive at TV Guide Canada‘s offices on Monday mornings pumped about discussing Sunday’s Walking Dead. On Tuesday it’s time to chat about The Following. On Wednesday mornings, we discuss Tuesday’s New Girl. But those episodes are handed out in carefully-measured amounts, ensuring we return for more.
New episodes each week present a kind of urgency missing from House of Cards. While some might feel the need to watch the latest episodes of New Girl in anticipation of the next week’s new instalment, perhaps knowing all of House of Cards is sitting there nullifies the race to tune in.
Watching House of Cards almost all at once left me feeling bloated, like I’d eaten all those cookies in one sitting. (I know of what I speak: I have eaten a platter of cookies in one sitting and it ain’t pretty.) I’m not saying Netflix made a mistake. On the contrary, I applaud them for challenging traditional broadcasting practices. One of Netflix’s next all-at-once debuts is Arrested Development, set to stream sometime this spring. As an already established sitcom, perhaps it’s a better fit for binge-watching than House of Cards. I know I’ll be tuning in.
Catch House of Cards Season 1 in its entirety on Netflix Canada.