Does Media Marathoning Help Us See the “Whole Picture?”

From Rachel Montpelier:

I am in the middle of viewing Season 2 of The Wire in another class and can’t help but wonder if my experience is different from those who watched it every week when it originally aired.  While the first viewers probably expected resolutions for the characters during each season finale, my professor assures me that there is no actual resolution for the show until the series finale.  This brings to me to the question, is marathoning the right way to watch television? Can we better understand the greater meaning in a series when it we watch it over a few weeks instead of a few years? Slate author Jim Pagels answers “no,” but I’ll explain why I disagree.

When I watch a whole series in short amount of time on Netflix I am much more apt to pick up on the small details of each episode. When I marathon a show, I find myself seeing patterns among the episodes and I notice when one episode echoes another.  Marathoning a series, at least in my experience, is much more gratifying and attention-holding than watching individual episodes every week.  For example, I keep forgetting that Ted’s soul mate on How I Met Your Mother has a yellow umbrella. If I marathoned the episodes instead of watching one at a time, that detail probably would be cemented in my brain by now.

Also, it seems that marathoning inspires viewers to watch a whole series, while they might give up on watching another show live after a few seasons.  If viewers had seen all the episodes in a block instead of individually, they might have stuck with the series and had been able to see the overarching theme.  It’s my opinion that marathoning can help us really understand a whole series, instead of only understanding a whole episode.

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9 thoughts on “Does Media Marathoning Help Us See the “Whole Picture?”

  1. I agree, for the most part, with your stance on this. As far as details go, it’s extremely difficult for me to recall “the little things” week to week. Last night, for example, I watched the season premier of Grey’s Anatomy. I didn’t have time to rewatch the previous season finale beforehand and I found myself getting frustrated throughout the show because I needed to put the pieces together again. I know the writers and networks attempt to “catch us up” by showing a small snipit from last week’s airing, but it’s never really enough. I like everything fresh in my mind when I am watching a series. I find this to be one of the major benefits to marathoning as well. I think this is strongly related to the “transportation into the narrative world” that Green, Brock, and Kaufman discuss as well. Watching a television show “live” doesn’t inspire great transportation in my experience due to commercial interruptions and week longs breaks from the show. This may enable us to have a greater amount of critical distance, but such abbreviated viewing doesn’t harbor a sense of “flow” for me–something that is extremely important when it comes to my loyalty to a series.

  2. I agree with your stance on picking up small details when marathoning rather than watching a show weekly. I watch a new episode of The Real Housewives of New York City every Monday night and I would be completely lost if the network did not air the previous weeks episode right before the new episode every week. Although they always have a clip of what happened last week, as Carissa said, that little snipit just isn’t enough sometimes.

    Most of the time, we all have much more important things going on in our lives that to remember the little details of episodes. Personally, marathoning is the best method for me to watch a whole series. By watching a whole series in a short amount of time I completely understand the plot and all of the small recurring patterns. If I were to watch the same series on TV every week I know that I would not catch on to patterns or remember small details from previous episodes. Media marathoning definitely helps me see the “whole picture”.

  3. This is a really interesting point you raise, and it’s funny because I was just talking to a friend this morning on this exact topic. I agree with your argument, that marathoning helps to digest and help to be fully committed in a season. Most of the time I find myself forgetting to tune into a show that airs regularly on TV each week. With marathoning, I am able to watch at my disposal and view as fast and as slow as need be (which usually I can’t help myself and just fly through the episodes to get to the next!). I think we can learn more about a character when we marathon because were not so focused on the clock quickly ticking down to the final minutes of the show. While watching on your computer or Neflix, your able to take your time, though watching the season in a quicker manner, we are able to slow down and really digest each episode, hang on to the important parts of the story and apply it to the next and further episodes as they come. I think that after watching the on TV is a huge difference than marathoning where I feel everyone if they get a chance should go back to their favorite or most confusing season and marathon it. See what you catch that you hadn’t before. It’s like your watching it from a different point of view!

  4. I have been marathoning shows for a while now, but never really gave it a name. I just knew that USA would be having an all day showing of the 5th season of Law and Order SVU and I wanted to; no; had to watch it. I would prefer to marathon a series or movie as opposed to waiting for every Monday night for the next episode. I think it’s the need for instant gratification that draws me to marathoning. Although I’m more apt to remember details when watching shows consecutively, it sometimes seems like I also pick up or notice something new everytime I watch a particular show.
    Like Carissa mentioned, I can watch without commercial interruption and I can also watch at my own pace which I enjoy

  5. I both agree and disagree with some points made. I think that this topic was a great choice to blog about, because it’s something that all people can understand and relate to. I believe that marathoning helps you to stay alert, and to remember details better since you are watching it in a short amount of time, but I don’t totally ignore the idea that waiting between episodes can help you pull more meaning from it. I think this is something that is situational, of course. For example, when I watched an entire series of Nip/Tuck I didn’t wait between episodes, and for good reason. The show for a better lack of terms is “garbage”, but I enjoy it anyways. I find no real life lessons being learned or anything artistic about the show that needs to sink in. When I watched the show Girls on HBO, I still marathoned it, but I wish I had waited between episodes to let my brain process. Although the show isn’t “artistic” either, I feel as if the lessons learned and the questions that the audience is left to answer about a girls life is something that could have been benifitial for me to really think about before moving on.

  6. I think marathoning does allow for a person to see an entire storyline far more fluidly, so then that leads me to think “why do people even tune into shows when they’re live?” I think it’s because it allows audience members to communicate with each other. It’ll round out a viewer’s knowledge and experience of a show by creating some kind of discourse. Live TV is only as fluid as reading a chapter from a book once a week, so there has to be some kind of trade off. There may be reruns leading up to the premiere, and also nowadays we have the twittersphere were we can interact with other viewers and even actors on the show.

  7. You brought up a very interesting and different idea. I agree and would say that from my experience marathoning I do pick up on more details than I do watching week to week. I personally like marathoning better because of this, and because I hate anticipation. I agree with Meghan in that we have a lot going on in our lives and its hard to remember all the little details in between shows. I see marathoning as a way that allows one to retain information, pick up on more information, and have an overall better understanding of the show because of these reasons. The only thing I would say is that watching a show on a week to week basis can be more fun because you build up excitement for the airing time and can plan around it such as a viewing party with your friends. For example I marathoned the first 3 seasons of Vampire Diaries on Netflix, but now the 4th season was going live on television and I enjoy it on week to week basis because it gives me something to look forwards to, but I would rather have the option of marathoning it.

  8. I definitely prefer marathoning, as like everyone has said, it does keep the story fresh in your mind. Some television shows seem essentially like long running movies, and if it was an actual movie, I wouldn’t say halfway through “I think I’ll wait a few days to see the end of this.” Also the fact that everything is readily available, commercial free, seems to create an environment that fosters marathoning, and I think shows are beginning to be produced with this in mind. Despite these benefits, though, I think there definitely is something beneficial about watching a show weekly. While during the week one may forget details, he/she would have a week to think about how he/she feels, what to expect next week, predictions, etc. One also has time to consult friends or to discuss the happenings of the show. I think after all the build up, episodes might be more exciting and twists could seem more dramatic, because one is expecting a certain something for a longer time when he/she has to wait, so a twist could be more profound.

  9. I personally feel thy I gain a better understanding of a text or tv show when I marathon it. I can more apt to pick up on the little things and notice more details as compared to viewing it weekly where I tend to forget some things that happened. When I marathoned Awkward I definitely enjoyed it more when I watched two seasons in a short period of time mostly because it flowed better and I got a lot more out of it.

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