The Pleasures and Perils of Showbinging

The strategy and neologism of showbinging has become the preferred method of assimilating all that great TV out there.

In the days before DVD, Netflix and endless online episodes – back when we had a little sanity left – TV binge watching was mostly confined to weekend basic cable marathons. Only the most dedicated fans braved those 24- and 48-hour endurance trials.

I tried it once, years ago, with David Lynch's serial freakout Twin Peaks. Like an idiot I went in without a game plan or any training regimen at all. Amateur move. By Episode 15, "Drive with a Dead Girl", I'd lost feeling below the waist and hadn't blinked in eight hours.

Thanks to DVRs, DVD series collections and Netflix's roster of on-demand back episodes (Arrested Development, Breaking Bad), we have a lot more control over when and what we watch. "Time shifting" is what the media pros call it. For many busy adults, the strategy and neologism of showbinging has become the preferred method of assimilating all the great TV out there.

In fact, I haven't regularly watched a TV series during original broadcast since ABC's Lost wrapped up in 2010. That show left a bad taste when, after four seasons of twisty intrigue, the writers ran out of ideas and started resolving everything with gunfights. Remember when there was exactly one gun on that island, and it was a commodity, and Sawyer used it to shoot that polar bear? Three years later and I'm still mad about that show.

But I digress. I'm here to recommend two exciting showbinging opportunities.

NBC's impossibly reliable comedy 30 Rock wrapped up with its series finalé in January. It was a rather underwhelming end to the series, but it stayed true to creator Tina Fey's singular comic vision. The Season 7 DVD collection won't arrive until May, but meanwhile you can see all previous episodes from seasons one through six by way of Netflix online video streaming.

If you have a Netflix subscription plan, you can access these Instant titles online across multiple platforms. I'm only slightly ashamed to admit that I've watched 30 Rock back episodes by way of laptop, PlayStation 3, iPad and iPhone. I'm obsessed by the comedy writing on that show – 30 Rock has become more curriculum than entertainment for me.

If you never got around to watching this show during its broadcast run, I actually sort of envy you – you've got seven seasons of weapons-grade situation comedy ahead of you. 30 Rock centers on harried TV writer Liz Lemon (Fey) as she tries to manage the cast and crew of “TGS”, an SNL-like late-night comedy show.

Co-starring Alec Baldwin as Lemon's NBC executive boss, Jack Donaghy, and Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski as the show's prima donna stars, 30 Rock is unparalleled in terms of sheer comedy density. Watching the episodes the first time around, via Netflix or DVR, I would often have to literally pause and rewind certain scenes – while processing the first gag, three more would scoot past.

For another showbinging option, consider the planet's most potentially dangerous time-sink: HBO's blockbuster sex-swords-and-sorcery epic, Game of Thrones.

Pound-for-pound, Game of Thrones is probably the best and most ambitious show on television right now. Based on the ginormous high fantasy novels of George R. R. Martin, the show is epic in every sense of the word and just hopelessly addictive. Not only did I devour the first season DVD set in a single weekend last year, I impulsively bought the first novel in the series as an e-book, and have been slogging through the series, on and off, for 11 months now. (Total pages in the series so far: 4,197).

Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season was released in February, and I managed to spread out my binge watching with that over a total of five days. I haven't dug into the extras yet.

Too much good TV, that's the problem. It's impossible to keep up with all the quality series on TV these days. Well, not impossible, but certainly tricky, and you have to give up things, like family and daylight.

The trick to managing all this showbinging? You have to stop watching TV. Outside of baseball games, I rarely see television programs when they're actually, you know, broadcast. I haven't watched a TV commercial in months. This plays havoc with network revenue models, I suspect, but hey – not my problem.





The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.