Culture

Which Netflix Shows Are Being Binged the Fastest?

A rare release of stats from the streaming service reveals an obsession with nostalgia and a lack of interest in critical acclaim.

Photo Credit: Kaspars Grinvalds / Shutterstock.com

Netflix is notoriously secretive about ratings. We may never discover how many people watch any of its shows. For all anybody knows, The Get Down’s entire audience consisted of a single confused child watching distractedly in a shed. We have no way of proving otherwise, so for now we must accept that this is true.

However, Netflix will still occasionally throw us the odd bone, and that’s what it did this week. We still have no idea of total viewership, but it has told us which of its shows are watched the fastest by US viewers.

The term “Binge-racers” applies to people who smash through an entire series within 24 hours of it appearing on the service. Apparently 8.4 million subscribers like to binge-race their shows, most of whom live in Canada. Netflix is at pains to point out that the speed at which a series is consumed bears little correlation with its overall viewing figures, but it has listed the top 20 most binge-raced shows in the US nonetheless.

Here they are:

1. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

2. Fuller House

3. The Ranch

4. Marvel’s The Defenders

5. The Seven Deadly Sins

6. Trailer Park Boys

7. Santa Clarita Diet

8. F is for Family

9. Orange is the New Black

10. Stranger Things

11. Friends from College

12. Grace and Frankie

13. Wet Hot American Summer

14. Atypical

15. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

16. House of Cards

17. Master of None

18. Luther

19. GLOW

20. Arrested Development

Now, although this doesn’t offer anything in the way of concrete numerical statistics, we can still draw a lot from the list. Here are four theories about Netflix viewership.

1. Shorter shows are more easily bingeable

Almost three-quarters of the shows on the binge-race list are half-hours, which makes sense because they have shorter running times. Gilmore Girls is the obvious exception – its shortest episode was an hour and a half long – but there were only four episodes, so it was only about a six-hour commitment. In that time, you’d bore yourself senseless on House of Cards 10 times over and still only be halfway through a season. Similarly, Luther’s inclusion is probably down to its paucity of episodes. The most recent one was only two episodes long, which barely even counts.

2. You can binge comedies

Again, 14 entries in the list are comedies – or nebulous light dramas – which comes as a surprise. I assumed that it would be dominated by twisty dramas that suspended themselves across a series of cliffhangers but – unless The Ranch is far more gripping than I ever gave it credit – that doesn’t seem to be the case at all.

3. Critical acclaim counts for nothing

Without audience figures, there’s a tendency to gauge a show’s popularity by its level of critical adoration. Apparently that was silly of us. Many of Netflix’s critical darlings – Bojack Horseman, The Crown, Easy, Lady Dynamite, Dear White People, any non-Defenders Marvel shows – are nowhere to be seen. But Friends From College, which was all but booed off the internet for being awful and witless, is. Clearly nobody listens to critical consensus, and I’d have more professional influence if I gave up journalism and spent the rest of my life farting in a cupboard.

4. Netflix subscribers enjoy punishing themselves

The alternative theory, though, is that Netflix subscribers don’t like to cut their losses, instead choosing to plough through terrible shows as quickly as possible just to get things over with. That’s what I did with Kimmy Schmidt’s flaccid last season, for example, so maybe that explains a lot of the list. Perhaps there are 8.4 million eternal optimists in the world, each convincing themselves anew on a half-hourly basis that The Ranch will miraculously become borderline watchable. I salute these people. I think they’re stupid and I fear for their sanity, but I salute them nonetheless.

5. Netflix subscribers don’t like change

Gilmore Girls is a revival of an old show. Fuller House is a revival of an old show. Arrested Development is a revival of an old show. Wet Hot American Summer is a revival of an old film. The Defenders is the culmination of three older shows. Stranger Things and GLOW want to be from the 1980s so badly it hurts. It seems like Netflix shows get more bingeable if they remind you of things you already know about. This might explain the inclusion of The Ranch, which reminds me about the time I had a nightmare about headless children while under general anesthestic during root canal surgery.

Stuart Heritage writes about film, TV and music for the Guardian.

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
[x]
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Activism
Drugs
Economy
Education
Election 2018
Environment
Food
Media
World