But wait! What about appointment viewing? What about that water-cooler moment? What about co-workers swapping Monday morning notes on Don Draper or Carrie Matthison? Or Hannah Horvath? Or Matthew Crawley? Or Daenerys Targaryen? Or — wow, Sunday is a really busy night. Good thing you have a DVR.
Beau Willimon, creator of the Netflix series “House of Cards,” finds all the panic about “the end of the water-cooler” to be amusing and ridiculous.
“A lot of people have brought that up with me,” he said, due to the fact that the entire first season of his series was posted on Netflix on Feb. 1, for viewers to guzzle or graze at will. “I don’t know why, because we’re already well beyond that. There is no water-cooler moment.
“What you have is really a trend in viewer empowerment,” Willimon said. “People getting to watch what they want to watch when they want to watch it, and on what device they want to watch it on.”
The question isn’t even why people view television this way in 2013, but why it took us so long to get here — and why anyone could possibly think we will go back to the way things were.
Television is behind the curve when it comes to ceding control to the consumer. We used to watch MTV for hours hoping a music video would come on; now we just look it up on YouTube. We used to play our favorite radio station all day to hear a new song; now we just stream it on Spotify. Soon enough, the idea of waiting a week for the next TV episode could seem as anachronistic as waiting for news to arrive by telegram.
“Every new technology that comes in creates a moral panic,” said Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center. “There is this baseline that the way we used to do it is ‘the right way,’ and the way we do it now is ‘the wrong way.’ ” This belief, she said, frames the discussion as a false debate that “is already anchored in the pejorative.”
Willimon doesn’t think the loss of appointment viewing “lessens the community at all.” Shows like “House of Cards,” he said, “have proven [that] these communities find each other.”
Bethany Rae Cramer, who works in PR in Ohio, started binge watching in 2010, with her then-long distance boyfriend. When the two were separated by geography, they’d create a sense of community by synchronizing their viewing habits. Now they still get together on the weekends and watch three or four episodes at a time, sitting side by side. “It’s a way for us to reconnect at the end of the week, because we’re so busy.” She and her boyfriend would rather wait until an entire series is complete before they even begin viewing.