The united queues of Sarah

Hi, my name is Sarah and I’m an addict. 

Last week I watched the entire series of The United States of Tara in 5 days. That’s 37 half hour episodes. I watched 13 episodes in one day. A Wednesday. 

I’m currently two days sober from Netflix. 

Most people don’t understand. They think TV is just fun. A frivolous thing you can turn off whenever you like. And what do I know? Maybe that’s true for some people. Maybe most people have a point where they say “that’s enough” and they can just switch off the remote. 

Does your TV make noise? I still have one of those big boxy CRT televisions that makes this hum. It’s not something I hear so much as I feel. And it’s not even something I feel so much as I miss. When I turn off the TV there’s this crackling, like someone just opened a pressure valve and I can breathe again. I know I’m making it sound unhealthy, like the TV is suffocating me but just think of it like I do, as electronic swaddling. That hum is a seductive sotto voce murmur. 

Press play. One more episode. Just one. Just one more. You want to know what comes next. While everything’s fresh, so fresh in your mind. Can’t you feel it crackling? That energy between us? It’s only twenty minutes. It’s only the rest of the night. It’s only the rest of the week. 

And then it’s over. Tara drives off into the sunset, head sticking out of her car window, leaving me back on Netflix’s menu screen, head sticking out of my duvet. 

> Play episode one

Did I blackout? Where’d the last 5 days of my life go? Lost into the ether. And for what? The United States of Tara isn’t a bad show. Arguably it’s perfect for me. To deal with the stresses of life, Tara loses herself in herself. The rest of us lose ourselves in TV. In her. In her selves. Being just one person is too much for most people but look at all the people she can be. 

Watch any show in a marathon binge and you inevitably hate it. Like eating too much ice cream, after a while you stop tasting it because your mouth is too cold. You’re numb and nauseous. 

Quirks become crutches. Characters become ciphers. Relateability becomes rote. 

That’s not the show’s fault. TV was designed to be shown one episode per week with commercials in-between. But, while I may be an extreme, who honestly watches TV like that anymore?

If you’re not doing a marathon streaming session, you watching episodes back to back on DVD. And if you’re not watching TV on DVD, then you’re watching it on Hulu or the show’s website where there few to no commercial breaks. And if you’re not watching online, you’re watching it on a DVR that allows you to fast forward through commercials. Even with live TV I often jump back to hear things I’ve missed then fast forward through a few commercials. We want more show. More show, less of everything else.

I quit cold turkey from Netflix streaming two days ago. Of course, I’ll be back. You shouldn’t plan on relapsing but I know it’ll happen soon enough. After all, I have to do another column next month. 

I wonder if there’ll be a software update while I’m gone. Maybe Netflix will get a play-all button. 

Sarah Pavis is an engineer, writer, and Netflix obsessive. She writes “In the Queue” for The Idler.

One Response to “The united queues of Sarah”
  1. Kevin Mattison says:

    I’m pretty sure I watched the entire first 3 seasons of “Breaking Bad” in the exact same amount of time. I couldn’t, nay, wouldn’t stop! And while I do have one of them there new fangled TV’s, (sans hum) I can recall Jessie’s voice whispering to me in the brief silence between episodes… “One more episode…. It’s only the rest of the night…. Go ahead, press play…. Bitch”

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