And then there's "House of Cards." In many ways I can't stop watching "House of Cards." But binge-watching "House of Cards" the weekend it comes out does not feel like a relaxing reward. It has nothing to do with reclaiming time and everything to do with time being dictated to you.
Sure, in theory, you can watch whenever you want. But if you're on Twitter, you're surrounded by people tweeting spoilers and bragging about finishing. Magazines and blogs publish pieces that will only make sense if you've "caught up." What was once the most enjoyable way to consume seasons of TV becomes a social obligation.
No one has explored this as well as "Portlandia" (also streaming on Netflix, if you want to binge). Think of the sketch in which a man and woman start watching "Battlestar Galactica" before going to a party, only to get sucked in so deep they abandon all sanity, calling in sick to work, forgetting to pay for electricity, chanting "next one, next one."* This sort of behavior is crazy - but it's a fun, personal sort of crazy. Now think of that other "Portlandia" sketch, in which friends sit down for coffee, but instead of discussing what they've read, they try to one-up each other by asking if the other has read as much as they have, until they're literally eating the pages of a magazine. The Netflix push to "watch it now" makes TV feel like a race, one that I have no interest in running.