The word “binge” in years past has had a negative connotation, often involving an abundance of food.
But when it comes to television, “binge watching” has become trendy, making the act of sitting on a couch for hours on end, eyes glazed over, a virtue.
This type of activity became en vogue years ago with full-season DVDs of “The Sopranos” or “24.” The DVR, the Internet and Netflix have made bingeing even easier. Cable networks air all-day marathons of their shows to pull newbies in as well.
While older shows such as “Lost” are still binge-watched to this day, networks have made current shows readily available on demand with hopes the shows could gain word-of-mouth and generate more viewers each new season. This worked like a charm for a serialized show with a finite ending such as AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” which opened slow but drew a series-high 10.3 million by its finale last year (compared to its fourth season finale, which drew a mere 1.9 million viewers). HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” in its fourth season, has seen its ratings skyrocket thanks partly to binge watching.
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There are plenty of shows frequently cited as binge-watching prospects such as PBS’ “Downton Abbey,” HBO’s “True Detective” or Netflix’s “House of Cards.” Here are five less obvious options that are still relatively new:
BBC America’s “Orphan Black”
What it’s about: Sarah, a small-time con woman, sees a clone of herself commit suicide by jumping in front of a subway. She discovers multiple clones of herself and the fact there are factions battling over her very existence as a clone.
Why it’s worth bingeing: Tatiana Maslany is a marvel playing different clones of herself, often interacting with each other.
Where you can binge easily: Season one is on Amazon Prime Instant Video. Season two begins on BBC America Saturday, April 19.
FX’s “The Americans”
What it’s about: A seemingly normal couple in the early 1980s are actually Russian spies. And an FBI agent is their neighbor!
Why it’s worth bingeing: The wigs! OK, maybe not the wigs, but the acting is sublime, with scenes wrought with tension and spy-related shenanigans that recall the good ol’ Cold War days.
Where you can binge easily: Season one is on Amazon Prime Instant Video. FX is airing season two now with all episodes from this season on the FX website as long as you can authenticate you have a proper cable or satellite subscription.
Sundance Channel’s “The Returned”
What it’s about: Dead folks reappear in a small French town, where they try to resume their lives. But odd, supernatural happenings occur around them.
Why it’s worth bingeing: It’s better than a very similar show on ABC, “Resurrection,” if you can tolerate the subtitles.
Where you can binge easily: Season one is on Netflix. Season two will be produced later this year for 2015 release.
What it’s about: Life in the eighth century for Norse Vikings, who plunder and pillage as you’d expect and have aspirations to take over the lands of the bloody Brits. Rising warrior Ragnar Lothbrok is a curious, thoughtful version of a Viking though he can be just as brutal as the next Viking when need be.
Why it’s worth bingeing: This series is an intriguing blend of real history and legend. And lead actor Travis Fimmel is not just eye candy (and a former Calvin Klein model) but charismatic eye candy.
Where you can binge easily: Season one is on Amazon Prime Instant Video. History is airing season two now, with episodes from this season available for Xfinity customers.
What it’s about: An ex-con takes the identity of a sheriff from a tiny Pennsylvania town, where he continues his criminal ways while trying to keep off the radar of ruthless mobsters he double-crossed years before. It’s executive produced by Alan Ball, better known for HBO’s “True Blood.”
Why it’s worth bingeing: Its outlandishly cool — and very violent — action scenes.
Where you can binge easily: Cinemax subscribers can access seasons one and two on demand via the Max Go website. Season one is also available on DVD or for purchase on Amazon or iTunes.