It ill-behooves someone who writes about television to approach this topic, but it must be done. Television is being blamed for destroying things. Again.
As long-suffering readers of this column will know, there is indisputable evidence that this column takes its work seriously. It reacts with indignation to suggestions that writing about TV makes it a useless layabout, a laggard or deficient in the brains department. Yet, here we are once more, staring with mild astonishment at alleged documentation proving that consuming what is reviewed and discussed here can ruin lives. Ruin them, no less.
The latest thing is “binge-watch addiction.” It was put on the radar of this column by a PR outfit peddling the expertise of a sobriety coach. This coach was offered as an authority on a new plague that had been reported in a British newspaper. That paper, not a tabloid, had asserted with comical confidence that, “Three people had been treated for ‘binge-watching addiction’ to television box sets in the first reported cases of their kind in Britain.” It went on to report, “The patients sought help at a Harley Street clinic after admitting that Netflix and other on-demand television services had taken over their lives.”
Three people. Count them: three people. And they all went to a Harley Street clinic. Did they go together, dividing the cab fare? That was one of my questions. Eyes ablaze with amazement, I read further. A registered psychotherapist said that the series, Breaking Bad, had sent one 35-year-old London man “spiralling into Netflix addiction.” After Breaking Bad, he got hooked on Making a Murderer. And this psychotherapist now claimed, “The man’s work began to suffer and he was soon in fear for his job. He was single and his TV obsession meant any relationship was out of the question.”
Well, that’s just terrible. But implausible. In reality, it’s unlikely that Breaking Bad, a masterpiece, was the core issue. More likely the chap’s job and single status influenced his “spiralling” into isolation and an orgy of Netflix-viewing. Or maybe he was bored stiff by the Brexit debate and couldn’t stand it any longer. He found solace in the antics of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. Who wouldn’t? Then he discovered that Boris Johnson had been elected Prime Minister and would be in office for years to come. Perhaps he’s a supporter of Queens Park Rangers and, like most QPR supporters, lives in an existential hell of apprehension. The more plausible explanations are legion. Binge-watch addiction, my Pilates-formed posterior.
Drollery aside, this column is disappointed to sees the dreaded return of reports that television viewing is a signifier of evil influences. Lo these many years, watching TV has been cited as the reason for the degrading of public discourse and the epidemic of short attention spans in children who are by nature, easily distracted. “Blame TV” is the motto of every two-bit, short-attention-span pundit the world over.
This column says “hooey” to the alleged pestilence that is “binge-watch addiction.” The point, made clear in the way my attention was drawn to the matter, is to elevate people who call themselves a sobriety coach, or such, as big-time experts and talking heads pontificating about a scourge that doesn’t really exist. I mean, three people. Count ‘em: three people.
Besides, the habit of binge-watching did not start with Netflix and other streaming services. The possibility of watching multiple episodes of a TV series in a blowout was established years and years ago when an entire series was made available to own or rent on discs. Seriously now, think back and you’ll realize that binge-watching was established when Blockbuster Video was still a going concern. Note that the absurd report in that British paper actually used the antique term, “box set.”
This column was put in mind of the absurdity of theories about the dangers of television recently when it met up with a friend from Newfoundland. The friend was talking about family matters there and reported that her Nan, who is 96 years old, was disappointed that her evenings out at bingo were curtailed to three nights a week from five, because of the inclement winter weather. What was Nan doing on these stay-home nights? Watching and enjoying old movies on the Turner Classic Movies channel.
What Nan has, is discipline. Bit of this, bit of that. We all have discipline and it ill-behooves anyone to blame television for destroying anything or any person.