One episode at a time

Dave Bartlett
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Another attempt to curb binge viewing

Those who follow my column regularly might remember a failed experiment I conducted a couple of years back when I decided to rewatch the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” spinoff “Angel.”

Kyle MacLaughlin (right) and Michael J. Anderson from the “Twin Peaks.” Columnist Dave Bartlett has been spending his Monday’s in the strange and wonderful town of “Twin Peaks.” But only for one hour. — Submitted photo

What I had hoped to do was watch an episode — that’s one episode, no binge watching — of the show each week, on the same day until I had at least finished Season 1, but with the goal to finish all five seasons.

Here’s why I wanted to do this: When network TV writers start tapping out episodes they work to somewhat of a template. Episode endings that are cliffhangers are intentional to get you psyched about what comes next, as are commercial breaks, which tend to appear more-or-less in the same places in an episode no matter the show.

Good writers use these breaks to create tension and suspense and to pace the action. Cable shows, though often commercial free, still stick to this formula in many cases, as this is how the genre has developed over time.

But the advent of DVDs, on demand, PVR, Netflix and other technologies has greatly changed the way most people watch their favourite shows. Binge watching is often now the norm. I hear people say, “I’m going to wait for the season (or series) to end and then watch the whole thing in one go.”

So as the calendar turned to 2014, I started a new experiment and, so far at least, it has been working much better. I picked six shows that I’ve wanted to finish watching, or rewatching, one for each day of the week except Thursday. On Thursday I usually watch new episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” and “Elementary.”

By having a show to watch each day of the week, I’ve discovered, makes a schedule easier to follow, instead of trying to remember that Monday was my “Angel” night.

So here’s what I’m watching, when and why.

Monday: “Twin Peaks.” This classic David Lynch drama is rumoured to be returning to TV after 25 years, though skeptics believe this is nothing more than Internet spreading false truths. For TV geeks, “Twin Peaks” was way ahead of its time, and has continued to gain fans through DVD sales and Netflix subscribers. The fact it may return to the small screen in the next year or so was all the incentive I needed to watch its season-and-a-half run that ended with one of the most frustrating cliffhangers never to be resolved. Maybe someday soon.

Tuesday: “Fringe.” Probably my favourite sci-fi show of all time. I got through Season 1 last fall, so in January I started Season 2. As the character Ben Wyatt on “Parks and Recreation” stated when he rewatched the show to look for plot holes in its complex story arc: “Air tight.”

Wednesday: “The Good Wife.” A show I only recently started to watch, but one I don’t want to wait to continue. I’ve had at least one email from a reader thanking me for recommending the show. I’m about eight episodes in and am still impressed.

Friday: “Friday Night Lights.” After plowing through the remainder of Season 1 over Christmas, I’m stoked to be making time for this fantastic show about the zealousness of a small Texas town for its high school football team. Religion is nothing where football in concerned.

Saturday: “Lost.” Yes, a second J.J. Abrams show, but one I never watched beyond Season 1. I started at the beginning again and am determined to find out about this mysterious island. Half my friends tell me I have to finish this show. The other half tells me to eject the DVDs and ritually burn them as quickly as possible.

Sunday: “Breaking Bad.” It’s over, and before the loose lips of friends leak too many spoilers, I have to finish it. I’m a handful of episodes into Season 2. It’s messed up and amazing at the same time. If you haven’t heard of this show … where have you been? I was thrilled to see the show, and lead actor Bryan Cranston, finally win Golden Globes this year. Well deserved.

My plan is to finish the current season of these shows. Then I may park them and replace it with a season of another show, or continue on until the series has been fully absorbed.

So far I’m really enjoying this experiment, which allows me to catch up on some of the great shows I’ve started, while still only devoting an hour to the Tube a day.  Of course I still have to watch new stuff so I can continue to recommend good shows and warn you of the dreck you should avoid, but that’s my job, and a good one at that.

To binge or not to binge? Do you prefer bulk watching or a slow paced episode-at-a-time style? Send correspondence to Dave Bartlett at

Organizations: Netflix, Night Lights

Geographic location: Twin Peaks, Texas, Golden Globes

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