When do you get hooked on a TV Show?

On my Facebook feed today there was an article from Netflix. They have apparently analysed the viewing habits of their subscribers, to determine how many episodes it takes before someone is hooked. They defined being ‘hooked’ as the episode where 70% of those who watched it, went on to watch the rest of the season.

The numbers varied from episode two for a couple of shows, to up to the fifth episode for Marvel’s Daredevil. Obviously Netflix are trying to promote their model of business, where they give people access to the entire season at once. The binge watching model vs the new episode per week model. It’s no surprise that they would find the pilot couldn’t hook people, and that people needed more as that supports their business model. However, it did make me think about my viewing habits and at what point I get ‘hooked’.

You see I disagree with Netflix, I think people are far too different in their viewing habits and opinions, that something like this really can’t be quantified. There are shows that I couldn’t care less about, where I’ve watched entire seasons. I wouldn’t say I was hooked on them, I could never watch it again and not think twice. I watched them because I had a compelling reason to keep going back.

Viewing habits and reasons
Conversely there are quite a few shows where I’ve just watched the pilot episode. That episode didn’t ‘hook’ me and I had no reason to push through and keep watching. Perhaps if I had done so then I would have got ‘hooked’ but I wasn’t about to make myself watch without reason. I have enough TV to watch, I don’t need to force myself to watch something in the hope I’ll like it better later, if I don’t like it now. Unless, as I said, there’s a reason to force it.

The reason for forcing it is usually other people. I don’t always watch what people recommend, if I really don’t like it. However, I will usually put an effort in, if a show is a favorite of a friend, I’ll give it more of a chance. I watch a fair bit of TV with someone else, so if they really like something then I’ll watch it, even if it’s not something I would choose for myself.

Usually if I’m going to actually like a show, I know that I’m going to like it from the very first episode that I watch. Whether that episode is the pilot is actually immaterial. I got hooked on CSI:NY from the penultimate episode to season two. Also, getting hooked enough to complete the season, is no guarantee that I will stay hooked. I got hooked from a random season one episode of Without a Trace, but stopped watching halfway through season four, as the show lost the spark I’d loved. I could give many other examples.

Sometimes I’ll watch a bunch of episodes because I’m forcing it and then I just can’t be bothered anymore. I watched six episodes of Sense8 before I just couldn’t take it anymore, you’d think that would be enough investment to finish the season but it wasn’t. Sometimes I will finish a season but it will take me months and months. It took me over a year to watch all of Firefly, mostly because I did kinda like it and I knew that’s all I was getting. I was very late to the party and it had already been cancelled for years.

The last few episodes of Daredevil are waiting but I’ve no real desire to watch them, I will because it’s Marvel but I’ll choose to watch almost anything else first. I really don’t think that counts as being hooked. Therefore even if someone does watch all episodes of a season, that doesn’t make them a fan.

Favorites, why and when?
Thinking about my two favorite TV shows, Stargate and Once Upon a Time. I got hooked on Stargate SG-1 from the fourth episode of season one. I had previously seen the two-part premiere and the follow on third episode and had decided I didn’t like the show. A year later I tried it again and looking back I don’t know what it was about that fourth episode, it was hardly a shining example of the show. Whatever it was made me watch the next episode though, and then the next, then the next and it became compulsive viewing.

I really wish I knew what it was that hooked me, it might have been the team camaraderie. It might also have been reading the episode description for what happened in upcoming episodes. Every episode read as something very different, I guess I could have been curious about how that worked. I really don’t know, especially as I’d previously written the show off, it would be nice to know what changed my mind for sure.

I watched the spin-off Stargate Atlantis because I loved SG-1 and I was pretty much hooked from the beginning. I certainly don’t recall ever considering stopping watching, though I have to admit the constant ‘wraith’ threat did get a bit wearing partway through season one. I wanted more random episodes, where the team went off world, got into trouble, got out of trouble, and went back home. I didn’t want everything to always tie to the wraith directly. However, I guess I got over it as my opinion soon changed, I don’t even think that now if I rewatch season one.

Stargate Universe had a more troubled introduction. I started watching the show because I loved SG-1 and Atlantis. From the very first episode I didn’t like Universe, it was a different style both in terms of camera techniques and the script. I managed to watch the first four episodes before I gave up on it, I didn’t have a compelling enough reason to force myself to watch more. A year later I got a compelling enough reason and I would say the show ‘hooked’ me around the 10th episode, when Young tried to murder Rush. This is one of the rare shows where I needed more, as one episode was not enough. However, 10 episodes is probably a bit too much for most people.

Moving onto Once Upon a Time, that show had me hooked almost from the very first scene of the pilot. Prince Charming was on his horse racing down a narrow strip of land, which cut across a lake. There were mountains to the left, a forest ahead on the right. I think it was the sheer breathtaking vista, the production values that got me first. Then it was the dialogue, the characters, it was immediate compulsive viewing. I put on the first episode intending just to watch the pilot, just to see what it was like and then move onto trying out the next show on the list. Well, suffice to say, no other shows got watched that evening.

I think saying that someone is ‘hooked’ or a fan if they watch a full season isn’t accurate. I also think that people can be hooked from the pilot, or from any single episode. However, I don’t disagree that it can take more episodes for people to get into a show and truly make up their mind.

I suppose, it took me a year and four episodes before I got ‘hooked’ on my favorite TV show ever – Stargate. It took me another year, and ten episodes, before I liked Stargate Universe for itself, and not just for Robert Carlyle’s performance as Dr Rush. Therefore there really is something to be said for binge watching. Mind you, that’s how I mostly watch everything, hooked or not. I hate having to wait for new episodes.

To be honest my opinion is still what it was at the start of this post. I think people are too different, and their habits and reasons far too varied, to ever quantify the tipping point of being ‘hooked’.