[In the basement of a dingy community center, a florescent light buzzes over a dozen or so people seated in a circle of metal folding chairs. Some nibble anxiously at store-bought sandwich cookies, while others sit in nervous silence. There is a screeching of chair legs against linoleum, as one bleary-eyed woman stands with a trembling Styrofoam coffee cup to speak.]
Hello, [clears throat] my name is Lisa ... and I, ... I am a Binge Watcher.
It's been one week since my last television fix, and I'm here to share my story.
Believe it or not, there was a time when I didn't even know what Binge Watching was. In fact, while our Navy family was stationed in Germany, we felt lucky that Armed Forces Network aired day-old episodes of “Survivor” and “American Idol.” The rest of the time, we entertained ourselves with middle-of-the-night live football broadcasts, quirky BBC cooking shows, and strange AFN public service announcements.
But when we moved back to the States, my husband and I discovered the joys of Digital Video Recording. Initially, our television use was purely recreational. We were mere "social watchers," catching a recorded program here and there, and streaming a movie over the weekend. Little did we know, we were perched on the slippery slope of instant gratification.
Eventually, we needed more and more episodes to be entertained. Our digitally savvy kids introduced my husband and I to the allure of streaming services such as On Demand, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. How intoxicating it was to take a double hit of "The Bachelor" and chase it with "Deadliest Catch" all in one evening!
Soon, we were hooked, and there was no going back.
Before we knew it, we were spending perfectly sunny weekends holed up in the family room of our base house watching episode after episode of random television shows. We told everyone that we were "just catching up on 'Modern Family'" or that we were "simply wondering what all the hubbub was about 'Downton Abbey.'"
Ironically, it was the show "Breaking Bad" that nudged us into the deep dark abyss. We'd been jonesing to see the AMC series for a while, and when we found out that the first 54 episodes were On Demand for a limited time leading up to the final season, we knew we had just scored.
During that epic three-week "Breaking Bad" bender, we finally hit rock bottom. Our family room looked like the scene of a rave party, strewn with soda cans, popcorn, Chinese take-out boxes, and melting quarts of half-eaten ice cream. Our pupils were permanently dilated as we stared, transfixed, into the psychedelic LCD screen, our cold, clammy fingers gripping the smudged remotes.
We were so strung out after that binge, we quit cold turkey for a while, satisfying our cravings with short doses of "House Hunters" and "Seinfeld" reruns in hopes that we'd avoid the painful withdrawal symptoms of rapid detox.
But our self-discipline soon crumbled when we found shows like “House of Cards,” “Better Call Saul,” “Stranger Things,” “Ozark,” “You,” and “Rectify.” After every bender, we’d dry out all over again and pledge to stay clean.
However, lately, ads keep popping up for spring premiers of “Our Planet,” “Wife Swap,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The eighth and final season of “Game of Thrones" premieres on April 14th, and we still haven't finished watching “Poldark" and “Homecoming” ... What's a TV junkie to do? Binge watch, of course!
I must confess that spring premiere season has triggered my recent relapse. Although I'm not sure there's a 12 step recovery program for binge watching, I'm absolutely certain I'll gain 12 pounds if I don't get up off the couch and stop watching so much TV.
So, mark my words: I'm quitting binge watching for good. This time, I’m 100% serious. No more lounging in sweatpants on Sunday afternoons pressing "play" hour after hour. Spring has sprung, and I'll be spending all my time in the great outdoors. I swear, I'm going to do it, and I mean it.
And I'll start just as soon as the “Game of Thrones" final season is over.