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To binge or not to binge? That's the TV trend

Saturday - 8/10/2013, 4:30pm  ET

breaking-bad.JPG
FILE - In this publicity image released by AMC, from left, Aaron Paul, Jonathan Banks, Bryan Cranston and Giancarlo Esposito are shown in a scene from the premiere episode of Season 4 of "Breaking Bad," the AMC hit television series about the methamphetamine wars in Albuquerque is helping the homeless. (AP Photo/AMC, Ursula Coyote,File)

WASHINGTON - The final season of "Breaking Bad" kicks off Sunday night.

And fans of Walt, Jesse, Hank and Skyler are fired up, thanks to a recent phenomenon: binge-watching.

There's no one way to binge-watch. It can be done with an iPad in your bed, with a laptop hooked to your TV, with an ethernet cable hooked to your Blu Ray player, through video game systems or through smart TVs.

"I'm addicted to Netflix, and I didn't know I had a problem until I started watching 'Breaking Bad.' I went through the whole series in about two weeks," said WTOP Editor Jamie Forzato, who binges on multiple devices on her three TVs.

The "Breaking Bad" binge soon led to other shows.

"When 'House of Cards' came out, I finished that in about two days, and then 'Orange is the New Black' I also finished in about two days," Forzato says.

Forzato prefers binging to the old way of "Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel."

"The big problem with watching television is that you're hindered by commercials and you always feel like it's segmented, and then you always have a cliffhanger you have to wait an entire week to resolve," Forzato says.

"But if you watch a series from start to finish, all in one sitting, you can really grasp the depth of these characters and all the plot lines."

WTOP Afternoon Editor Brian Drew is a "Mad Men" fanatic, as is WTOP Sports Reporter Dave Preston.

"I've considered buying Canadian Club [whisky], which is what Don Draper drinks, but that'd just be going too far," Drew says.

Aside from catching up on shows you haven't seen, Drew finds another binge benefit: the ability to rewatch seasons you've already seen, as a little refresher before the next live premiere.

"Sometimes with 'Mad Men' there's more than a year in between and it's easy to forget everything that was going on," says Drew, who also thinks "Arrested Development" is one of the best shows for repeat viewings, due to all the callbacks and hidden jokes.

However, the binge-watch approach can also backfire.

"Sometimes if you've binge-watched multiple seasons leading up to [the premiere], and that new show comes out, you're like, 'I've got to wait a week?!? Are you kidding me?!?'" Drew says.

"I got one of my old roommates hooked on 'The Walking Dead' on Netflix. That show always ends with a cliffhanger, and after the last season premiere, he was so upset, saying, 'I just can't watch this right away? What is going on in this world?'"

Renee Washington of Upper Marlboro, Md., knocked out "The Wire" while home on maternity leave from her job as a contractor for the Department of Justice.

"I got a little bit lucky with child No. 2, because she was a good sleeper from the very beginning," Washington says.

"So when I would get her down to sleep and I'm catching up on washing bottles or whatever, and I could watch the show while I was catching up on my duties and baby was sleeping."

Washington says the show hit close to home.

"I went to college in Baltimore, so I was familiar with some of the neighborhoods that were highlighted in the show," Washington says.

"And I have a few friends that are cops, so I've always been drawn to the law, order, espionage, drug genre of TV shows. ... The most stunning part to me was the level of corruption. It didn't matter if it was the drugs, the politics, the education system or simply working at the docks."

Washington tracked down DVDs from multiple sources. She bought the first three seasons herself, rented the fourth season from the library and a friend loaned her season five.

Drew also binged on "The Wire" via DVD, but quickly switched to his HBO Go app, which you can set up on your iPad or smart TV with a simple HBO subscription.

Drew and his roommates now use a Roku box to stream web content onto their living room TV.

"The Roku has a Netflix app, an Amazon On Demand app, an HBO Go app, an Epix HD," Drew explains. "I've recently become a cord cutter. I don't have cable at my house anymore."

That concept isn't just for 20-somethings.

"We're cord cutters," says 52-year-old Danny Hancock of Indian Head, Md.

"We dropped cable TV because we just didn't want to pay the exorbitant pricing for that and wanted to watch on online places like Netflix ... I don't miss having to watch it on [the network] schedules."

Forzato says binge-watching knows no age.

"My grandmother is the most conservative grandmother that you could ever think of," Forzato says. "She's played the organ in her church for decades, and she's addicted to 'Breaking Bad.' It brings in people from all kinds of different age groups and family backgrounds."

John McCaslin of Old Town Alexandria is just the opposite. He describes himself as "old school," binging the traditional way with back-to-back reruns on TV Land.

"I'm an Andy Griffith junkie. It was a simpler, more peaceful, more innocent time," McCaslin says. "We didn't have Anthony Weiner sexting scandals. We didn't have any kind of War on Terror. It's an escape for me."

WTOP Morning Editor Mike Jakaitis says he hasn't sat down for a nice TV binge since he was a kid, because watching sports occupies all his TV time.

And therein lies the saving grace for a live TV format that's quickly fading as we march toward an " la carte" television future.

"I think things that are happening immediately like the Super Bowl, the World Series, award shows, those will never go away," he says.

"But I think original content, TV series, movies, are going to eventually gravitate toward this binge-watching."

The possibilities are endless. Just make sure you occasionally get up and move around.

"You've gotta move your legs a little bit, or you start getting blood clots in your legs," Forzato said, laughing.

"Sometimes I would watch it so long that Netflix would come up with that screen that says, 'Are you still there?' That's when you know you have a problem, when Netflix asks you if you're still alive."

Follow WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley on Twitter @AboveTheJFray, read his blog The Film Spectrum or listen Friday mornings on 103.5 FM.

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