Thirty-years ago if you told someone that you ‘binge-watched’ MacGyver over the weekend they would have looked at you funny — mostly because binge-watching wasn’t really common parlance, but also because you couldn’t binge-watch in the 80s the way that you can now. Today, you can fire up your computer (or set-top box) and stream episode after episode. Heck, you could even watch episode after episode on DVD or blu-ray, if you’re into that kind of thing. It’s become so easy to binge-watch shows and in part, is contributing to people actually binge-watching more shows.
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t binge-watched a show. In fact, that was part of the reason that I first signed up for Netflix in February of 2013 — to watch House of Cards. And did I watch one episode and then wait a week? No. I finished the first season in a weekend. I also finished season 2 in a weekend, but who’s keeping track. Well, since we’re confessing, I also caught up on four and a half seasons Breaking Bad relatively quickly (4 or 5 weeks?) before the last half of the final season was to begin.
I should make it clear that I’m not encouraging binge-watching, but simply providing evidence that I’ve got plenty of experience with it, which brings me to my point:
How to stop binge-watching.
I don’t remember how I stumbled on this little trick, but it has certainly helped me when I needed to pull myself away from a set of gripping episodes. This method works particularly well for a show that uses a lot of cliffhangers or plot twists near the end of an episode (Scandal is a good example, however the finale to season three, which was essentially three season finales in one, might confound this). Instead of watching the whole episode before calling it quits for the night/afternoon, you’ve got to stop the episode well before they introduce a new plot twist. One way to do this is to “hang up” very near to the reveal of the climax. It’s in the falling action where they get you!
I realize that the show isn’t meant to be watched in this way, but I’ve found myself, on many occasions, where I wanted to stop watching, but kept getting sucked in at the end of an episode. After enough times of this happening, I realized that I needed to end the episode before the end of the episode. Hence, stopping the episode somewhere after the climax (usually somewhere two-thirds into the episode).
One of the potential criticisms to this method is that you’ve got to “fast-forward” to the point where you’ve left off. That’s true only if you’re not using something like Netflix. When you end an episode with Netflix part-way through, it picks up where you’ve left off (in fact, it rewinds it a few seconds sometimes). Since this is pretty much the only way I’ve binge-watched shows, I can attest to it working splendidly.