Why we can't watch a 10hr movie but binge through a 10hr TV series?

June 16, 2020 • ☕️ 3 min read

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We’ve all binged through an entire TV show in one sitting.
May it be the new season of Stranger things or Sacred Games.
I remember binging through three entire seasons of Game of Thrones in three days.
Good ‘ol days.
~10hr of TV in one sitting. Our asses and backs are definitely not thanking us for sitting for so long.

And the longest movie I’ve watched will be The Irishman & The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Both of them at a good 3.5 hours.
(Fun fact: The longest running movie ever is Logistics at 857 hours)

And if anyone has watched The Irishman or The Return of the King, they’ll know that it was a little tough to watch the movie in one go. You get bored, check the remaining time again & again and rejoice in relief when it’s finally over.
And it’s hardly a third of the length of the TV show we happily binge through.
But Why?
How can it possibly be easier and preferrable to watch three times more content much more easily even if it’s not that interesting?
And are there any productivity takeaways from this?

Instant gratification

This is an iron rule of human productivity, we like instant gratification or instant feedback. Sure we can work without it, but we’re generally more hooked when we get instant results for our efforts, when we can actually see and measure the completion of the task at hand.
When you’re binging a show, you can see how many episodes you’ve completed, you can measure your progress easily. Each episode is like a sub-task and completing each one feels like a job being completed. We tick one item off in our mental to-do list.
Whereas in a movie, while you can measure your progress, it’s still one task, one big entity. You don’t get a sense of satisfaction after watching half of the movie. Because the job is not done, it’s still in progress. And an in-progress task can never be as satisfactory.

There are some not-so-great-tv-shows which are just a 4-5hr movie strected into 8-9hr movie and divided into episodes (read sub-tasks) and made into a TV show. And we happily binge through because our mind gets stimulated after completing each episode.

Interestingness

Alright but we binge becase we feel like we have to don’t we?
At the end of an episode we’re left with emotions and suspense that it becomes almost impossible for us to not watch the next episode.
The episodes are designed in a way that they end at the peak, they end with a high.
Every movie has a build up, a suspense and an ending. Whereas a TV show doesn’t have to divide itselft into first three episodes as build up, next four as suspense and the remaining ones covering the ending.
Each episode has it’s own build up, its own suspense and it’s own ending. Just like tiny movies. So they tell their stories in such a way that they keep you hooked on the main plot even after they’ve just completed a sub-story end to end.

Momentum

Once you’re going, you keep going.

If you do something once, it becomes easier to do it again.

If you’re on a seventh episode and you’re thinking should I watch another or not? The two dialogues in your head are “I’ve already watched 6, what’s one more” or “I’ve already watched 6, I should stop”. And more often than not, we’re likely going to go with the former.

And also, if you sit back and study some TV show, you’ll realize that many of the episodes just contain noise, just desperate attempts to keep you hooked. To keep the built momentum going.
For example, the lowest rated episode of the TV show Breaking Bad is Fly, an entire episode on removing a fly from their meth lab.
Noise.
But it’s all about momentum, to keep your high going.


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