Caught between overstocked DVR queues — when you’re so behind already, why not save all those “Mad Men” episodes for a rainy day and then simply watch them one after another? — and the increasing availability of entire seasons on DVD and the Internet, television has become something to be gorged upon, with tales designed to be told over months consumed in a matter of hours. It’s television as novel rather than serialized story.
There is no bigger trend in TV watching than this idea of “catching up” on series you missed. Many people have given up their cable subscriptions and spend their time watching TV shows on Netflix that they never watched when they were on. I did this with The Sopranos before the final season, and have done it with a couple of other shows.
I agree with McNamara that it definitely changes the way that you watch a show. Longer story arcs are not as annoying because the gratification comes sooner than waiting 8 months of one episode bursts. I think the writers could make more complex stories because it won’t be as difficult for people to remember plot points when they watch shows all at once.
I wouldn’t make too much of this though. TV writing has evolved plenty over the last 20 years, and will continue to, no matter what.