Why I Binge Watch Netflix | Laura Belgrave

Why I Binge Watch Netflix | Laura Belgrave

There are good reasons to drown in TV

I’m a novelist who pens full-length police procedurals. You’d think virtually everything I do that absorbs my time is writing. You’d be wrong. Here’s why:

To write effectively, authors have to be in some kind of an incomprehensible zone, where they’re living, breathing and even dreaming their characters and story to the point where almost nothing can intrude. You can’t even pee without the story interfering. At least that’s what happens to me, and what I eventually put down on a computer takes over my world. Sometimes it becomes more real than my actual life.

But occasionally real life hugely and unexpectedly encroaches, and the ability to slip into that zone is impossible. Illness for you or a loved one? Death of someone close? Overwhelming, time-consuming infiltrators that will take over your mind. That and similar, nearly paralyzing “actual life” situations push aside any sort of capability to slip into that mysterious and unfathomable author zone, let alone linger there. That may be especially true for authors because they typically work solo, often with rare interruptions — not even a solitary phone call.

And yet, I’ve discovered added benefits from binge-watching TV while in search of a way to shut down a temporarily dysfunctional brain. I especially fire up Netflix and Amazon Prime series, which I mostly watch on my iPad. (List of shows to follow.) First, there truly are times you need a real and seemingly brain-dead distraction to take your mind off problems. Just as importantly, at least for authors? Because those shows do not ever interrupt with commercials and because one episode seamlessly bleeds into the next, you learn a lot about effective pacing. Much of it applies to novels, with their multitude of chapters and scenes.

Frankly, the experience is nothing like hitting the DVR to record a series. I mean, that’s okay, but you still have to manually fast forward past commercials, so those nuances of story and pacing? Not so easy to actually spot.

Now mind you, I’m not advocating spending an entire day binge watching, although I know some people who have. They’re usually retired, exceedingly lonely, or might be a couple who specifically set aside time for a leisurely weekend to enjoy something they’ve heard about. They have their popcorn to the side, their beverages specifically picked out, and their intent is to just enjoy. Cool. You’ll find plenty of articles about turning off your brain if you Google for them, but most pertain to falling asleep, which frankly isn’t always the issue.

Well, over the years, I’ve done my share of binge watching. Sometimes for relaxation, though more often because something overwhelming came up in my life. With some parenthetical asides, here’s what I’ve watched, in no particular order:

  • Breaking Bad (Wasn’t this the first binge-watching experience for nearly everyone?)
  • House of Cards (Kevin Spacey; before the presidential race and chillingly close to what politics have become)
  • Orange is the New Black (Women’s prison story, based on a real-life experience)
  • Saving Grace (Holly Hunter in a stellar and fascinating cop show)
  • Shameless (Great for laughs; stitched together with reality for some dysfunctional families)
  • The Americans (Russians trained to blend in with Americans during the Cold War)
  • Switched at Birth (Two families raising each other’s daughter; discovering that comes much later)
  • The Killing (Powerful, very well-done police procedural; not for everyone)
  • The Fall (excellent police procedural series)
  • Wentworth (Sort of a BBC version of Orange is the New Black, only probably better)
  • Doc Martin (BBC comedy; high-end surgeon can no longer stand the sight of blood)
  • Dexter (Serial killer with a purpose other than what you might expect.)

You’ll notice that a lot of those shows were originally series on regular TV. Apparently I missed them, and caught up much later with that binge-watching experience. A number of the shows include language many people would find offensive, though it’s consistent with the characters’ personalities.

Enter the world of binge-watching TV at your own risk, but understand that sometimes, just sometimes, it might be the way to get you through some rough times. And push aside guilt, which is even a bigger glutton for negative distraction than almost anything else.

Beyond that? Binge on good novels — if you can focus enough to concentrate. (Blatant self promotion: Start with my Claudia Hershey Mystery Series.)