A Game of Binge Watching – Game of Thrones

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 7th January 2014.

The way we consume entertainment has changed, and the studios know it. No longer are we obediently tuning in once a week for a fix of our favourite TV show. Instead, we are turning to “binge watching” and the market is adapting to our needs.

Many moons ago, when I was studying at university, the highlight of the week would be my weekly episode of The X-Files. Every Thursday night, I’d sit transfixed by the spooky adventures of Mulder and Scully, and Friday morning would be dedicated to the dissection of the storyline with my mates, between lectures of course.

Dominant US streaming service, Netflix, fired a shot across the bow of traditional television   content providers last year when they began to produce their own exclusive series. House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black both premiered to critical acclaim. The resurrected Arrested Development and Hemlock Grove were met with mixed reviews. Instead of a traditional weekly release schedule, these new shows were unleashed upon the world in complete season blocks. Viewers could watch episodes at their own pace.

Combined with the ever popular DVD box sets, iTunes downloads and marathons on pay TV, the pressure is off to timetable TV viewing. Binge watching is the new normal, and I experienced it for the first time this past weekend. Say goodbye to sleep and hello to Game of Thrones.

Lauded by critics and fans, I was well aware that Game of Thrones, based on the popular books by George R. R. Martin, would be a must-see on my never ending list of movies and TV shows to eventually watch. However, I kept putting it off as I was reluctant to deal with its large ensemble cast and complex, political storyline.

Spurred on by my significant other, who has already devoured every available episode, I was inspired to purchase the double season box set on blu-ray (I don’t steal media) and begin my binge. Let the games begin.

My Game of Thrones experience had a confusing start when I accidentally watched the second episode first. Initially impressed by the brazenness of the writers to begin the show mid-storyline, my enthusiasm soon turned to frustration. I didn’t have a clue what was going on.

A quick check of an episode guide online set me straight and I begin in earnest. Thankfully, everything made sense this time around and by the third instalment, I was well and truly hooked.

Produced by HBO, home of my beloved Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones is serialised storytelling at its best. Lavishly produced on location mostly in Northern Island, with CGI enhancements, the show is a feast for the eyes, particularly in high definition. The acting is uniformly exceptional, with a cast willing to strip off with great regularity.

With fifteen episodes devoured and five to go before I have to make the critical decision to either wait for the Season 3 box set to become available on February 19 or download the lot now from iTunes, I am well and truly addicted. Besides food and (a little) sleep, nothing will stop me from finishing the show. I’m even fast forwarding the opening credit sequence to get to the story faster.

Game of Thrones Season Four will premiere early this year. It’s already in my diary.

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Published in: on January 7, 2014 at 16:59  Leave a Comment  
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