In my suite this year, Law & Order: SVU marathons became a habit. With 272 episodes of the hit crime show available on Netflix, my roommates and I would crowd around the television and press play. Sometimes the intention was to watch just one episode as a study break, but we quickly found that this was impossible. Intentionally or not, we would spend hours with Detectives Benson and Stabler interrogating and arresting criminals.
Sure enough, the first thing I did when I arrived back home for the summer was plop myself on the couch and turn on Law & Order. Although I had plenty of unpacking to do and fall internships to apply for, I decided that watching five consecutive episodes was acceptable. When I texted my roommates, they were doing the exact same thing. Over the course of the semester, our habit had become an addiction.
The phenomenon of “marathoning” isn’t particularly new, although it has certainly taken off with new technology. Websites like Hulu and Netflix allow viewers to watch multiple episodes instantly without having to wait a week for a new one to come out. Back in January, the New York Times ran an article about the show “House of Cards” that was created specifically for Netflix and meant to be watched in one sitting. Rather than releasing one show per week, all 13 episodes of the political thriller were released at once.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest television marathon was a viewing of “The Simpsons” organized by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in 2012. It lasted 86 hours and 37 minutes – nearly three and a half full days. While this is an incredible feat organized for the purpose of setting a record, it is not uncommon for viewers to spend the better portion of their days watching a show. Television channels often air marathons as well, presumably because it will help their ratings.
Why are we so inclined to spend (read: waste) hours upon hours watching a single television show? Perhaps we are so accustomed to immediacy in our lives that we’ve become too impatient to wait for the next episode. Between Twitter updates, new emails and Facebook notifications appearing instantly on our smart phones, and instant text messaging, we rarely have to wait for new information. As soon as it’s out there, we can get it. Since television shows still seek aspects of suspense between episodes and the dreaded season finale cliffhangers, we always want to know what happens next.
While I fully intend to continue my Law & Order binges, it couldn’t hurt to limit viewing to just a few episodes at a time. I’ve decided to make a rule for myself: Run one mile per episode watched. Especially during the summer when it seems like we have more free time than usual, there are so many other ways we could be spending our time. After all, our shows will always be there tomorrow.