Birth of the Binge: Serial TV and the End of Leisure
Wayne State University Press, 2019 - 297 pages
Birth of the Binge: Serial TV and the End of Leisure describes and details serial television and "binge watching," the exceedingly popular form of contemporary television viewing that has come to dominance over the past decade. Author Dennis Broe looks at this practice of media consumption by suggesting that the history of seriality itself is a continual battleground between a more unified version of truth-telling and a more fractured form of diversion and addiction. Serial television is examined for the ways its elements (multiple characters, defined social location, and season and series arcs) are used alternately to illustrate a totality or to fragment social meaning. Broe follows his theoretical points with detailed illustrations and readings of several TV series in a variety of genres, including the systemization of work in Big Bang Theory and Silicon Valley; the social imbrications of Justified; and the contesting of masculinity in Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Dollhouse.
In this monograph, Broe uses the work of Bernard Stiegler to relate the growth of digital media to a new phase of capitalism called "hyperindustrialism," analyzing the show Lost as suggestive of the potential as well as the poverty and limitations of digital life. The author questions whether, in terms of mode of delivery, commercial studio structure, and narrative patterns, viewers are experiencing an entirely new moment or a (hyper)extension of the earlier network era. The Office, The Larry Sanders Show, and Orange Is the New Black are examined as examples of, respectively, network, cable, and online series with structure that is more consistent than disruptive. Finally, Broe examines three miniseries by J. J. Abrams-Revolution, Believe, and 11.22.63-which employ the techniques and devices of serial television to criticize a rightward, neo-conservative drift in the American empire, noting that none of the series were able to endure in an increasingly conservative climate. The book also functions as a reference work, featuring an appendix of "100 Seminal Serial Series" and a supplementary index that television fans and media students and scholars will utilize in and out of the classroom.