Dear Netflix: How not to binge-watch

Columnist Elana Williams admits she has a problem.

Hey, Netflix… bad news.

In a (admittedly pretty small) study conducted by the University of Texas at Austin, whose findings were announced this past week, researchers found that binge-watching leads to higher instances of depression and loneliness, and lower impulse control.

While the study is preliminary at best, it compares binge-watching with the two other most commonly “binged” addictions: drinking and eating, both of which can have catastrophic consequences on the mind and body.

This is pretty crappy for a few reasons, but it also makes a whole lot of sense. Take me: the last time I blew off a friend to watch Netflix, the excuse I made was, “Hey, I really can’t tonight; I have a lot of stuff to do around the house.”

Let’s think about the signs of addiction here. For one, I was lying. I also didn’t really leave my bed that day and definitely didn’t think about showering. Of COURSE this kind of behavior can foster depression and loneliness in a person.

Did I regret not meeting up with my friend the next day? Yup. Did I feel like I had done anything worthwhile with my time? No, not at all.

Yet, here we are. You know I love you, Netflix. I’m still around, aren’t I? I still watch “three or more episodes at a time” fairly often and I still talk about you as if you were someone I could sleep with (oh, provider of everything worthwhile in life).

Wow, maybe I need some detox. In all honesty, though, it’s easier to control a potential addiction than repress it.

The key to Netflix is similar to the solution to handling a problem eating too much: moderate yourself. This comes easy for me when school is in session; I have enough time to sleep, work, go to school, eat (occasionally) and that’s about it, so I have to budget time for my weekly Netflix shindig.

For many students though, it’s a lot easier to get sucked into a sitcom than it is to do homework. This is where my column comes in. It’s simple: each week limit yourself to watching the TV show I discuss here.

If you hate them, you won’t have to worry about binge-watching. If you love them, you only have a week to get invested before you have to move on to something else. I know, it’s a struggle for me too.

This week, go watch “Better Off Ted,” a high school favorite of mine.

I’m not so sure I can completely back this one anymore, though, Netflix. This time around, I wasn’t as convinced.

All throughout high school, I had this personal vendetta against “Arrested Development.” I absolutely hate it. I think the humor is frustrating, the characters are flat and the fanbase, obnoxious.

I did, however, really dig Ellen DeGeneres in high school, and consequently, I dug Portia De Rossi too. Enter “Better Off Ted.”

“Better Off Ted” is a quirky, very American satire poking fun at big corporations. It features Ted, a middle management guy and his slew of office coworkers.

His boss is Portia, the comedic backbone of the series. She’s the middleman between Ted and “them,” the nameless higher-ups who call all the shots. Ted also has a daughter, who calls all of his shots.

The aim of the series is easy to see: It draws parallels between the moral compass of Ted as a father and Ted as a conglomerate employee, forced to treated his “underlings” in often inhumane and even dangerous ways (i.e. freezing one of them).

It should be great. The writing is subtle, the acting is usually on par and the satire is genius. So where does it fall short?

“Better Off Ted” got an amazing critical reception. Its ratings all over the internet range right around four stars, yet it was cancelled after two seasons.

The show obviously doesn’t work, and you can tell not only when you’re scrolling through the depressingly short episode list but also when you’re watching it.

The writing is good, but I’m not laughing. The acting is good, but the satire leaves me more on edge than at ease.

Ultimately, maybe “Better Off Ted” works best for the moody high schooler who boycotts “Arrested Development” and needs an alternative.

Maybe you’ll like it as much as I used to. (I’ve seen every episode.) Or maybe this is one to help you kick your habit.

Hate to love you, Netflix,


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