Binge-Watch Guilt: When Must See TV Becomes Too Much

Written by | Columnists and Letters, Lifestyle

Wade Rouse

Wade Rouse

After realizing that binge-watching television is leaving them exhausted, Wade and Gary attempt to unplug after 6pm — to mixed results.

“Just one more?”Gary asked expectantly From The other end of the couch. I nodded, he hit play, and another episode of Shameless started.

It was after midnight on a Tuesday. We’d been binge watching the show’s seventh season since 8pm. To our credit, we were also multitasking: Gary was replying to emails on his cell, and I was working on my laptop.

Recent weeks had seen us make our way through shows — from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — with an intensity you’d expect if the events of The Walking Dead (also binge-able) were real and we had a limited time to enjoy Netflix before zombies ate our faces.

The next morning, we overslept and woke up exhausted. “Do you realize it’s been six days since we’ve had sex?” Gary asked sleepily, as he struggled to make coffee. “I might as well become a nun.”

“You would look terrible in a habit,” I replied.

“No bangs,” he agreed.

“Are we killing ourselves binge watching TV?” I asked.

“We’re overindulging,” he answered, “in TV, social media, work. It’s unhealthy.”

“Maybe it’s time for a change? What if,” I wondered — as Carrie Bradshaw might have back when we binge watched Sex & the City, “our new indulgence could be taking pleasure in life’s simpler, quieter moments?”

I had a plan: “No TV, no phones, and no work after six.” Gary’s face twitched. “Just think,” I suggested, “with all that extra time, you might get lucky.”

The first night, as six o’clock rolled around, we decided to eat dinner early. We grilled, ate, cleaned the kitchen and headed to our screened-in porch that we had just added on to our cozy cottage — to enjoy its lovely views of the surrounding woods, stone fireplace and – most of all – quiet. “We built this place to spend time together and detox, and we never get to enjoy it like this,” I observed. Gary snuggled up next to me, put his head on my shoulder and exhaled contentedly. I whispered to him, “Ready to get lucky?”

In reply, he snored. He was out cold. I pulled a blanket over us, and soon I was unconscious, too. We woke up some time after midnight, our necks stiff.

The next night, we were actually done with dinner by 6:30pm. Gary asked if it officially qualified as the early bird special. We vowed that we’d stay up long enough to at least get some reading done. Again we fell asleep.

On our third night, we decided games would help us stay awake past seven. We played cards for an hour, but after I won three times in a row, Gary refused to play any more, retreated to the couch and was asleep minutes later.

Night four, a Saturday, I ordered a pizza, got a fire crackling and created a makeshift picnic on the floor of the porch. After we’d eaten and cleared the dishes, I patted the quilt and Gary scooted over next to me. I kissed him, and, let’s just say: he didn’t fall asleep.

“I think our plan worked!” I said to Gary a little while later. “We’re more rested. We’re spending time with each other. We got lucky.” Gary smiled, and for a brief moment we shared the silence. Then I heard a clock chime from inside: six o’clock again.

“I can’t sleep anymore and I don’t want to play cards,” said Gary, exasperated. “Don’t hate me, but can we finish watching Shameless?”

I wanted to say no. I really did. But I realized that — if I were being honest with myself — I really wanted to finish watching it, too. So, I nodded, turned on the TV, broke out our smart phones and settled in to finish Shameless.

And then we started Ozark.

But this time — when it started getting late and I heard Gary ask, “Just one more?” I shook my head: no. I had finally realized that indulgence wasn’t unlimited consumption of media or completely denying ourselves it but rather finding a healthy balance somewhere in the middle.

And I’m sure that we’ll spend more quiet evenings on our beautiful, screened-in porch again — one day.

Wade’s latest novel, The Hope Chest, is now available under the pen name Viola Shipman. Learn more at waderouse.com.

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Last modified: October 17, 2017

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