New Yorker music critic Ben Greenman writes about the challenge of keeping up with everything in his field (using the band Vampire Weekend as an example), a problem that television critics are getting more familiar with:
So what’s a critic do when he or she must venture forth into a world filled with unheard acts? There are roughly three options. The first involves dogged and vigilant compensatory research: maybe there’s a week spent filling in gaps regarding mid-seventies Genesis, or late-nineties R.E.M. I once knew a critic who would set aside a week each summer to listen to all the albums he thought he had missed through the first half of the year, and another week around the holidays to catch up on the second half of the year. After many years like this, he began to suffer from anxiety attacks, which may or may not have been related. The second option involves critics pretending they have listened to albums that they in fact have not heard. This is called “lying,” and it goes on a fair amount. [...] The third, and easiest, way for a critic to deal with gaps in her history is just to leave them there. [...]
That first option is often taken by TV critics and viewers, leading to the disgusting habit of "binge watching" a series over a few days. I agree with Matthew Gilbert: "The binge [...] tamps down your imagination, as it eliminates those between-episode interstitial periods when your impressions run wild."
I have some blind spots as a TV critic. I've only seen a few scattered episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, missed out completely on Downton Abbey until only a couple of months ago, and have yet to see anything of Homeland, Parenthood, Revenge, or Scandal. I've been making detours to less popular shows (Enlightened, The Hour, Rectify) that took up a lot of time because they demanded to be seen in their entirety. But even when these shows grab my attention, I feel that they'd lose their power if I watched three or four episodes in a day. I wouldn't appreciate the subtleties of character development or enjoy things like the closing-credits music that put a button on each episode. I probably wouldn't notice plot holes as much if the episodes came at me quicker, but if I want to give my mind a rest, I can go to the movies.
As platforms for TV series proliferate — Netflix! Amazon! — my blind spots will surely grow. But it's still worse for a music critic, who is expected to know every major artist of the past 50 or 60 years. It's otherwise regrettable that television is so forgetful about its past (just try getting a lot of web traffic for an article about a show that aired last century, other than Star Trek and Seinfeld), but I can feel safe knowing that almost all of the buzzworthy shows on TV now will be completely forgotten in a few years.