Binge watching has become, in many ways, the new default mode to watch television – Netflix has essentially built the majority of its business model and content empire around this idea. Everyone binged Daredevil, everyone binged Stranger Things, and I have little to no doubt that they’ll continue to do so with Luke Cage and so on and so forth.
It extends beyond Netflix, obviously; there’s the DVD box set, the television marathon, all of it. Recently I’ve been watching Veep, and got through a season and a half in a day – and it got me thinking. Which show is the best to binge watch? Is it Veep? Perhaps it’s Jessica Jones? Or maybe it’s something like Friends?
Obviously those are rhetorical – you know which show I think is perfect for binge watching. It’s Community, Dan Harmon’s critical darling, centred around a community college study group.
I’m on record as being a pretty big fan of Community, having written about it before; it’s also, somewhat appropriately, the first show that I ever properly binge watched on Netflix. I had a long holiday after having completed exams, and so I did what anyone would at the height of summer: shut myself away in my room, watching some great television, and barely moving for days on end. (This is perfectly normal, yes?) It didn’t take long for me to make my way through the first five seasons, and get a start on the sixth – it also didn’t take long for me to realise this would be a resounding favourite of mine.
There’s a couple of things, to my mind, that makes Community so well suited for binge watching. On the most fundamental level, there’s the length; each episode is roughly 25 minutes, as is typical for most sitcoms. Personally speaking, I struggle to binge watch the hour long shows; as excellent as something like Daredevil is, I can’t really manage more than a couple of episodes in a row. At less than half an hour an episode, though, Community is perfect to watch for long stretches.
More than that, though – there’s one chief reason why Community is the best show to binge watch. It’s because it’s so rarely the same show twice.
Community has always been a show that was unparalleled in terms of breadth and ambition – a genuine work of postmodern genius, with episodes flitting between musicals, lovingly crafted stop motion stories, and intelligently crafted movie homages. If you talk to any fan of Community and ask them their favourite episode – perhaps the chicken wings Mafia story, or the episode comprised solely of flashbacks, or maybe one of the infamous paintball specials – the only guarantee is that it’s going to be something unique.
And that’s what makes the show so perfect for the binge watching experience – it’ll never be boring. As much as I’ve been enjoying Veep, I’ve had to take a few breaks every so often; it’s felt, at times, a little repetitive when watching six, seven, or eight episodes in a row. Undoubtedly it’s still very good, but repetitive nonetheless.
There’s no risk of that with Community, though. One moment a sci-fi spoof, the next the cleverest bottle episode you’ve ever seen. One moment it’s Pulp Fiction, the next it’s Glee, or The Hunger Games. It’s one of the most compulsively entertaining programmes around, and one of the most varied and diverse too.
And that is why Community is the perfect show to binge watch.
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