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Some shows are meant to be binged, not savored

Phoebe Dynevor and Rege-Jean Page in a scene from Netflix's "Bridgerton," among the many streaming series engineered for binge-watching.
Phoebe Dynevor and Rege-Jean Page in a scene from Netflix's "Bridgerton," among the many streaming series engineered for binge-watching.Liam Daniel/Associated Press

Q. You recently mentioned the difference between shows made for bingeing and cable shows like “Breaking Bad.” What shows can you name that were made with a “binge aesthetic”?


A. I was compiling the best shows made by the streaming services, and I noticed that many of the choices on my list, good as they are, are not built out as the same kind of ambitious, highly crafted episodes you often find on cable series with weekly release schedules. There are exceptions, of course, notably “The Crown,” “Black Mirror,” “Mindhunter,” and “Master of None,” series whose each episode tends to have its own themes and structure.


But so many of the offerings produced by Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and the rest feel like they’re meant to be experienced as really long movies more than a collection of finely shaped pieces. You aren’t encouraged to watch for a half-hour or an hour, then think about what you saw; you are meant to press the “Skip Intro” button and keep on moving. Netflix and the other streamers basically invented the bingeing of new shows, an approach to viewing intended to keep us on the couch and watching. And then the writers followed their lead by writing specifically for these binge viewers and creating a kind of genre of brisk narratives.

The shows that seem to me like they were specifically made to be binged include “Dead to Me,” “The Flight Attendant,” “Stranger Things,” “Ozark,” “Bridgerton,” “Ratched,” and “GLOW,” to name a few. Oh, and “Little Fires Everywhere,” “The Politician,” “Sneaky Pete,” “Bloodline,” “Love,” “Safe,” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” to name a few more. I’m not saying these are bad shows, by any means, particularly “Ozark,” which has improved with each season. I have had an easy good time watching “Dead to Me” and “The Flight Attendant.” But they do seem to have a strong binge aesthetic, so that the episodes blend together into one long viewing experience. The seasons have arcs, generally speaking, to keep us intrigued over the long run. Just don’t ask me if this critical plot twist or that tragic death occurred in episode 4, 5, or 6. I probably won’t know.



Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.