Recently, we've been watching Lost. All of it. From the beginning. For me, this has been interesting since I never watched the whow during it's original run and even tried to watch it a couple of times over the years but got, at most, 3 episodes in before I gave up. My general reaction was along the lines of “meh.”
But over the last year and a half or so, I've suggested a few series to Rasa (Leverage, Face Off, Coupling) which we've watched in their entirety and so it was only fair she suggest a show for us to watch. She'd seen most of Lost herself (but not all) and thought we should put this into our viewing queue. Okay, third time's the charm, right?
So we started watching. But here's the thing: We didn't watch it like it was meant to be watched. We watched it quickly. We binged it. This is an interesting, somewhat recent development in TV viewing. The idea is to watch a bunch of episodes of something in quick succession. I assume the initial concept came along with the advent of TV shows being released on VHS or, as is more likely, DVD (DVD seasons taking up far less space and being much more cost effective). For a lot of the early shows, my guess is there was a nostalgia quality involved. What's that? I can watch EVERY episode of Gilligan's Island or The Brady Bunch all at once? Now that is exciting!
Then things changed. We began to anticipate the seasonal releases. My folks used to say “why watch it on TV when we can wait and get the season at Costco?” (In fact, it was their DVDs with which I initially tried to watch Lost. Where the problem comes in, is you don't get a break to let the stories digest. You don't have that built in pause between episodes (or even seasons) to speculate, to ruminate and mst important, to forget. Watching several hours all at once means you get to watch the characters NOT develop. You get to see them make the same mistakes and remain uncomfortably consistent. This is especially true of SIt-Coms (I binged on Community and by season three just hated everyone and wasn't laughing at all).
And so with Lost, what's happening is I remember the plot lines too well. Forgotten threads and logical inconsistencies didn't happen three or four years ago, back in Season One, but two weeks when I started my binge. The anticpation of big story reveals don't carry nearly the same weight, when you realize we could have gotten to them much sooner if the writer's had actually felt like they knew what was going to happen ahead of time, rather than making it up as they went along.
Watching Lost in quick order, I wonder that it was lauded as it was. To my eyes, most of the seasons could have been reduced by multiple episodes if characters actually talked to each other rather than withholding information. Now, on a weekly basis, this might make more sense in order to build up dramatic tension. But in a viewing frenzy, it's just frustrating and disrespectful to the viewers AND the characters.
This is not to say binge viewing is a bad thing. Recently, Netflix has been creating TV season of 10-12 episodes or so and releasing them all at once, or networks have been contracting shows for that same limited run. This idea is similar to teh system the British have been usuing for a while, where x number of episodes are contracted, written, shot and aired. Then if the show gets picked up, the same process happens again. The result is that the creators are allowed the freedom of foresight to be able to tell a complete, complex and multi-layered story over the course of several hours. We used to call this a “mini-series” and it was a special event. Now it's not as special, but these new, multi-episode NovellaVision programs work as a cohesive whole.
As a viewer and storyteller, I'm looking forward to seeing how this new method is explored. And I can't wait to binge whatever comes next.