What's the Best TV Show for Binge Viewing?

By Gerald Lynch on at

Whether you're streaming, watching a DVD box set or playing back a batch of set-top box recordings, the days of waiting on a cliffhanger ending for your favourite TV shows is drawing to a close. We binge watch it all these days, losing hours in single sitting to our favourite shows. But which shows work best for bingeing?

Last night I attended a preview screening of Amazon's latest streaming-only TV show Transparent, starring Arrested Development's Jeffery Tambor as a transgender father of three wrestling with how to introduce his new life to his kids. All ten episodes of the first series will be able view, start to finish, from this Friday (September 26th) exclusively on Amazon's Prime Instant Video streaming service.

It's a show that creator Jill Soloway believes couldn't exist without Amazon's freeing piloting and commissioning process. Soloway told me how she's had to adapt her writing style in the knowledge that an audience will be binge viewing -- the pacing is entirely different (Solloway compared it to writing "a five-hour movie script with nine intermissions") allowing for lingering, improvised takes, and shifting of traditional TV act structures. Whereas regular 30-minute TV programming would demand the first act turn lands in the first five to ten minutes, any such revelation doesn't come until the last moments of the first episode of Transparent -- and then runs directly into the next episode without missing a beat in terms of narrative, something that would appear awkward in a show delivered in weekly instalments.

And some shows pull that off more successfully than others. I watched the first series of True Detective in a single sitting, so perfect was its pacing, ebbing and flowing across a whole day of my attention. But I could only stomach Sky's Penny Dreadful in two-episode sittings, it's gothic comic book tone better suited to shorter, gory bursts. But it's all a matter of taste too -- horror nuts may have slurped up Penny Dreadful in one extended session, perhaps.

So what do you think? I've got a pretty empty weekend ahead of me -- what do you recommend as the best show for binge viewing?