The Best Way to Binge: All at Once vs. the Weekly Episode Dose
In 2012, Netflix forever changed the way people watch television when they released the entire season of Lilyhammer in one fell swoop. Suddenly, what used to take months to consume, now only took hours. And while nobody binge-watched Lilyhammer (sorry guys), the following year House of Cards followed suit and the maneuver became a Netflix trademark.
Appointment viewing was no longer necessary. Planning your life around your favorite TV shows no longer mattered. In fact, life plans went out the window altogether as friends and lovers could no longer be reached. The cultural phenomenon of camping in front of your TV for days on end like an addict with an endless supply became so popular, “binge-watch” won Collin’s new word of the year in 2015. For seven long years, Netflix reigned. But now, for the first time since the start of streaming, everything’s changing.
With all the major players muscling in on Netflix’s street corner, the power struggle has begun. Look at the awards season as a benchmark. Streaming services that didn’t even exist a few years ago are now swooping up awards left and right. From Ted Lasso to The Mandalorian, the new kids in town are making waves. Where we go from here is anyone’s guess.
Will new releases return to the mold of network television or will the Netflix model continue to rule for another seven years? Today we take the ultimate litmus test as we go head-to-head with the best way to binge: All at once vs the weekly dose. See who takes home the crown below.
Cover Photo: pixelfit (Getty Images)
'Ozark' vs. 'Better Call Saul'
It's true that both of these shows owe a lot to Breaking Bad, but like any good disciple, they've learned to stand on their own two feet. Ozark remains one of the tensest shows on television, mixing outstanding performances with a flood of small-town characters that feel dangerously real. But Better Call Saul manages to scrape together microscopic meddlings and raise them to the level of Biblical drama. We know it's sacrilege to even think it, but someday one of these shows is going to be considered (by some) to have outdone Breaking Bad.
Winner: Better Call Saul (Weekly Dose)
'The Expanse' vs. 'The Mandalorian'
Science fiction fans rejoice. The Hugo-winning epic The Expanse was resuscitated by Amazon Prime after a fledgling start at ScyFy - which is lucky for us since each season keeps getting better (with the fifth season earning a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes.) The Mandalorian might not match the expansive storytelling and character development of its competitor, but the incredible production value of bringing the Star Wars universe to the small screen has been nothing short of perfection. With both series delivering top-flight entertainment, we have to admit there's plenty of room in the galaxy for both shows to flourish.
'The Boys' vs. 'Watchmen'
David Linedloff's Watchmen caused quite a stir upon its release in 2019. With undercurrents of bigotry and legacy, it felt to many as the long-awaited maturation of men (and women) in tights. And while The Boys doesn't ask to be taken seriously, it manages to grapple with themes (like celebrity and corporate oligarchy) as heavy as anything in modern times. Both shows borrow from masters of the graphic novel, but The Boys promises to be a major body of work and not just a flash in the pan head-turner.
Winner: The Boys (Binge Drop)
'The Umbrella Academy' vs. 'WandaVision'
Fans were surprised by how neatly put together The Umbrella Academy was. With slick, Lemony-Snickett storytelling and a great cast of characters, the show earned a loyal fanbase right out the gate. But Season 2 revealed itself to be little more than a remix on Season 1, which left many viewers impatiently scratching their heads. WandaVision, as it turns out, is the first Marvel property not directly torn from the pages of a comic book - a fact illustrated by the originality of the opening salvo. But as the series drifted deeper into MCU waters, it lost some of the sheen of its newness. And the penultimate episode was so expositional it was almost cringeworthy. Strong performances and high production value from both shows will no doubt keep fans coming back for more, but as of now, both superhero stories haven't leaped from the middle of the road.
'Bridgerton' vs. 'Dickinson'
Period pieces have been a television staple forever, but now sexy young things are getting in on the action. Bridgerton takes us on a tour of Regency-era hookup culture, and where it lacks for brains it makes up for in brawn. Dickinson is a bubbly look at the salad days of the legendary poet, but what the Apple TV+ original gets right in youthful exuberance and sensuality, it gets wrong in meaning. That said, each show fulfills its purpose of engaging our throbbing literary desires and is the perfect companion when quarantine horniness scratches the back of our neck like a hungry tick.
Winner: Horny people.
'Schitt's Creek' vs. 'Ted Lasso'
Feel good television doesn't get much better than this. Schitt's Creek discovered its superpower when it found its heart somewhere around Season 3. And while it technically aired weekly in Canada, the rise of its popularity can be attributed directly to the Netflix binge-bump. Apple Tv+'s Ted Lasso treads similar territory, injecting an earnest optimism into a world jaded by, well, itself. Though Jason Sudeikis snagged a Golden Globe for his endearing performance as the titular character, we're not sure how long the show will be able to ride the high. We hope Season 2 proves us wrong, but until then, Schitt's Creek all the way.
Winner: Schitt's Creek (Binge Drop)
'Pen15' vs. 'Search Party'
Character-driven comedies are dominating the sitcom scene right now, and two great examples are Pen15 and Search Party. The former (a Hulu Original) takes us back to the year 2000 -a hilariously awkward look at prepubescent life, chock full of uncomfortable surprises that will leave you in stitches. The latter (released in installments on HBO Max) is the perfect story for today's current relationship with truthiness - a comedy that darkens by degrees with each season, as a guilty woman successfully convinces herself (and by extension, everyone else) of her total innocence in the murder of a private investigator. Each show spirals out of control in its own wonderful way and feels like a friend coming over for a weird hang half an hour at a time.
'BoJack Horseman' vs. 'Central Park'
Netflix jumped into the world of adult cartoons way back in 2014, with the oft-misunderstood BoJack Horseman. The show never became a hit (unlike the early work of its central character), but the series has remained solid year after year. Recognizing the audience potential of adult-centric cartoons, Apple TV+ debuted their own original series in 2020. While Josh Gad's musical comedy Central Park hits some high notes, it doesn't hold a candle to the existential longing of a famous horse-faced narcissist and his (mostly) superficial demons.
Winner: BoJack Horseman (Binge Drop)
'House of Cards' vs. 'Succession'
It would be wrong to say the fall of House of Cards is a sign of things to come for Netflix. One of the originators of the streaming binge phenomenon, no one can dispute the show's moments of pure genius. But HBO unleashed its own heavyweight show about elite powerbrokers recently that's as good as anything TV's seen in the last ten years. Though still in its infancy, the kettle-black comedy from the creator of Peep Show has such a deep bench of characters, it leads us to believe the show has the legs to outrun its rival.
Winner: Succession (Weekly Dose)
'Night Stalker' vs. 'I'll Be Gone in the Dark'
Both of these true-crime documentary series deal with infamous California serial killers who broke into people's homes. Both will make it oh-so-hard to fall asleep afterward. While I'll Be Gone in the Dark traces the escalating crimes of the Golden State Killer, it's really a story about author Michelle McNamara's obsession with catching him and the price she paid for it. Night Stalker on the other hand tells the story of the two Los Angeles detectives who sacrificed everything to pin down an elusive killer who went on an unprecedented killing spree in the spring and summer of 1985. Each doc is worth watching (and will require therapy after), however, the way Night Stalker sets the scene of L.A. life in the '80s combined with the David Fincheresque reenactment sequences gives the series a slight edge over the competition.
Winner: Night Stalker: The Hunt For a Serial Killer (Binge Drop)
Must-see movies: ‘Nomadland’ Hits Home With Story of Life On the Road
Streaming networks have put an emphasis back on original content in the past few years and the change is paying off. As streamers battle for control of market share, we the audience are the real winners as the quality of originals has continued to rise. But in this heated battle, there can only be one victor, and Netflix remains the heavyweight champion of streaming. For now.
Overall Winner: Binge Drop
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