Over the summer one of my colleagues recommended a new Hulu show to me called The Bear. I was intrigued by the premise and instantly went in search of where I could stream it. A quick search revealed it was set to arrive on Disney Plus on the U.K. (we don’t have Hulu), but frustratingly no release date had been set yet.
After several months of waiting, in early October the entirety of The Bear season 1 dropped on Disney Plus via its Star channel. I hadn’t forgotten the positive reception it received when it made its US debut back in June, and eagerly launched into the first episode last weekend. I was instantly hooked, and less than 48 hours later, I had consumed the whole season.
That might not sound like an especially big deal. After all, the first season of The Bear is split into just eight-parts and the episodes average less than 30 minutes in length. Frankly, most people probably binge-watch longer shows in less time. But the speed at which I polished off The Bear is significant because I hate binge-watching. Or at least, I thought I did.
Why I dislike Binge-watching
I’ve written before about my feelings on binge-watching, but in short, I think it’s not really the way TV shows were designed to be consumed. Having a gap in between episodes allows you to sit with the events of each installment and digest them before moving onto the next. In my experience, the subtleties of a lengthy character arc or slowly developing storyline often get lost when you’re tearing through episode after episode without pause. The events all blur together into a single forgettable mass.
I also really enjoy the discussion and online theorizing that comes with TV shows released on a weekly basis. House of the Dragon on HBO Max is a great example of a recent show that I have enjoyed far more because I’ve been part of intense conversations in between episodes. I have loved reading internet theories and wild predictions almost as much as I’ve enjoyed watching the show itself. And I can confidently say that if House of the Dragon had been dropped all at once Netflix-style I’d probably be less fond of the fantasy drama.
Along came The Bear
This brings us to The Bear, and the fact that my appreciation of the series was actually enhanced by watching the entire season over a single weekend. That’s because I found The Bear to be ideally suited for binge-watching in a way a show like House of The Dragon simply isn’t.
The Bear, which centers on a fine-dining chef moving back home to Chicago to run his late brother’s failing restaurant, is a remarkable show. It's easily the best series I’ve watched since starting Succession in April. And while I was somewhat tempted to savor The Bear rather than speed through the whole series, it felt oddly suited to binge-watching.
Perhaps it was the short episode lengths, or maybe it was that each episode felt like a mini-stage play, with the gap in between episodes more of a short intermission rather than a full-on break in the action. Whatever the exact reason once I’d started I couldn’t stop until I reached the final satisfying moments of the season finale.
Just like how watching House of the Dragon season 1 has been improved by a weekly gap in between each new chapter, my enjoyment of The Bear was complimented by devouring the whole series in barely two days. Perhaps my (near) universal dismissal of binge-watching was an oversteer, and my method of consumption should be decided on a show-by-show basis.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to consuming TV shows, some can be improved by having a longer wait before starting the next episodes, but some can also benefit from being consumed at a rapid pace. And that’s what The Bear taught me, I may not like binge-watching the majority of the time still, but for some TV shows it’s absolutely the best way to watch.
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