TV Show Marathon Ideas

The release of favorite TV series on DVD, Blu-ray discs and streaming video-on-demand services make complete shows available to viewers who want to soak up hours of programming at a time. No longer do only the most popular, longest-running shows migrate to a second life beyond reruns. You can immerse yourself in a cult favorite that lasted 10 episodes or watch entire seasons of long-running classics.

On a Binge

Global information company The NPD Group identifies two kinds of binge viewers of TV shows: catch-up and marathon. Both types watch multiple episodes of a series in a sitting. Catch-up viewers ready themselves for a new season of a current series or dive in to remedial viewing of previous seasons of a show they came to love partway through a multiyear run. Marathon viewers watch entire seasons in a sitting, typically of shows that have gone off the air. Streaming video-on-demand services offer a benefit to both types of bingers, with viewership showing a 34-percent increase in the first quarter of 2013 over the same period in 2012, according to The NPD Group. The premiere of some new series in streaming form, with an entire season available simultaneously on release, marks the start of a new type of marathon viewer.

Building a Marathon

TV and film expert Barbara Barnett, founder of Let's Talk TV, a website and radio show devoted to prime-time TV, and author of an unofficial guide to a long-running broadcast series, fits both of The NPD Group's binge-viewer definitions to a tee when she screens new or favorite shows. "If you're interested in a series, start with the pilot and perhaps the first few episodes after that. If you're hooked, do it all the way through," she says.

For her, streaming video on demand makes the entire process straightforward." You can download the entire series into the queue and just flip from one [episode] to the next with little effort or pause." Regardless of how many times you've seen them, some shows become such favorites that you can screen them many times, she says. "Shows I love, I'll just watch over and over, usually in sequence, but then occasionally, I'll do a marathon with my own 'best of' episodes."

Where to Watch

If you're like Barnett, your typical viewing habitat starts in your living room or family room, in front of a big high-definition TV. "Mostly, I watch on my HDTV with home theater system. You cannot beat the sound and picture," she says. Her laptop computer and tablet device come in second and third, with a tablet ideal for watching in bed without disturbing others. Streaming video on demand simplifies the process of switching from one device to another in the course of a marathon. It also makes it easier to share marathons with friends. Barnett identifies the "virtual" marathon as one you share remotely with long-distance friends, catching up with each other's observations by email, texts, through blog comments or by smartphone. Because of conflicting schedules and time zones, "TV marathons with friends are hard unless you do it virtually. A bag of popcorn and a big bottle of diet anything is a great companion."

How to Choose, How to Watch

If you're a true binge-marathon viewer, you can organize a long-form viewing session around shows or stars. How you choose, says TV expert Barnett, has a lot to do with the specific series and actors you favor. "Should you watch more than one series with your favorite star or more than one episode of your favorite series? I would say it depends." She adds, "If your favorite star guests on a lot of series, yes, definitely do [a] star-centered marathon."

Binging through completed series can prompt you to look for different aspects of a show, an episode or a performance, especially if you want more from your viewing experience than a passive way to pass the time. "I absolutely watch differently on subsequent viewings. The first time—for the dramas—I usually watch for the writing and the character I really like," Barnett says. "The second time through I'll notice other things, side stories, themes, ideas, etc. Third time and beyond, I watch for the big picture and for the little things my favorite character or actor does to inhabit the role."

Photo Credits: Alexa Smahl/Demand Media

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