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My happy home is now a 'House of Cards'

How binge viewing is destroying my life

By Corey Levitan Feb 8, 2013 9:49AM
salon.com

I cheated on my wife. I can't go on living this lie. She and I had been watching two episodes of "House of Cards" every night this week. But, beginning on Wednesday, I began watching without her. She was at work, and I was at home pretending that writing about TV is work. And I couldn't help myself. "House of Cards" is that friggin' good.

 

I got away with re-watching Episodes 5 and 6 on Wednesday night and Episodes 7 and 8 on Thursday night, feigning shock at every new low sunk to by Kevin Spacey's character. But I am now secretly up to the season finale and I can hardly look my wife in the face.

Bing:
Kevin Spacey | "House of Cards"

 

"House of Cards" -- based on a British TV series of the same name -- is the best new drama on television. Spacey stars as Frank Underwood, a ruthless congressman from South Carolina who -- colluding with his wife, Claire (Robin Wright) -- uses dirty politics to claw his way back to power after the President-elect reneges on his promise to make him secretary of state. Either before or after each splendidly nasty maneuver, Underwood turns to the camera to explain his moral justification for it.

 

Actually, that's a lie. "House of Cards" isn't even on television (although it nearly was, since HBO, Showtime and AMC were reportedly in a bidding war for it). It's on the Internet. And as such, Netflix can do whatever they want with it -- which apparently includes ruining my life.

 

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I have learned to handle the responsibility of one new episode per week of a favorite program popping onto my DVR. But 13 episodes of "House of Cards" appearing simultaneously on Netflix is like someone ordering 13 boxes of delicious pizza to your house and trying, every waking moment, to pretend they're not sitting there.

 

Dirty dishes are now faucet-high in our kitchen sink, my car is now officially unregistered and the DVR has no space to record anything new. Thirteen hours is the time it's supposed to take to drive cross country, not flush your TV queue.

 

And my wife isn't the only loved one this series has made me lie to. My two-year-old daughter thinks the DVD player is broken and that's why she can't watch "The Best of Elmo" anymore. I know, I know. I'm not proud of myself. But lying is what addicts do. And that's what I've become. "House of Cards" -- whose first two seasons Netflix pumped $100 million into producing -- is simply the best Washington drama I have ever seen. At night, I close my eyes and dream about how Frank and Claire will surprise me next. In comparison, "The West Wing" is "The Best of Elmo."

 

And similar havoc is being wreaked in households across America. According to TheWrap.com, somewhere between 1.5-2.7 million people watched at least one episode the day after its release last Friday. (Netflix is not revealing the numbers, because they are not yet as high as most broadcast and cable numbers and it doesn't want the media comparing apples with oranges.) But the "at least one" part is a joke, like "at least one" potato chip.

Co-executive producer Beau Willimon tweeted last weekend: "Anyone who gets fired for missing work due to 'House of Cards'… I will personally pay for their Netflix subscription."

 

Anyway, I'm sure "at least one" hallucinating-from-exhaustion "House of Cards'" binge viewer controls airline traffic or operates a nuclear power plant somewhere. And that's at least one too many for me.

 

Even if binge viewing doesn't result in any immediate mass deaths, it is killing our great American culture. No longer can we sidle up to the watercooler and inquire if anyone caught last night's episode. There is no last night's episode. And you can't talk about the one you just saw because there's close to zero chance that it's the same one that Pete in accounting just saw.

 

OK, fine. So there's no watercooler in my house. But still. Something must be done to stop Netflix from changing the nature of TV distribution at the expense of the way of life we have come to know and love. At least before it releases Season 4 of "Arrested Development" in the same grossly negligent manner.


Is binge viewing destroying your life, too?

 

Season 1 of "House of Cards" is currently streaming on Netflix.

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