How to Binge Watch Like A Pro by Jacob Shelton

Art by Tomas Brewer

Art by Tomas Brewer

Last week I was alerted to the fact that popular 90s television program, Friends, is on Netflix in it’s entirety. Until recently, I’d never seen an episode of Friends all the way through, or if I had, I was unaware. But now thanks to my roommate, Olaf, I’ve decided to watch Friends from top to tip, and I won’t stop until I’m studiously versed in all things Friends.

It goes without saying, if you decide to watch an entire series of a television program, that’s a big commitment. I’m in the enviable position of being a columnist, and with that job comes quite a bit of free time. Sure, I may need to slap down 500 words about the new Filthy Grabbers album, or review a new ramen burger pop up that only makes itself available under the 405 on every second full moon, but I hardly need to get out of bed for such work. But every so often I feel a ghost tapping on my shoulder, the fear of missing out.

“What if everyone is making reference to a very popular 90s sitcom and I don’t even know?”

This thought has kept me awake for far too long. The only responsible thing I can do is watch Friends all the way through, as quickly as I can.

With so much quality programming online these days, you’re bound to watch something all the way through. Be it inspired by boredom, apathy, depression, or a genuine desire to be a part of the human conversation. I’m a serious artist, so the first three options don’t apply to me, but I do need to feel connected to the cosmic something that we’re all a part of, if for no other reason than to channel it into my various projects at a later date. I also have quite a bit of free time on my hands; I may have mentioned that earlier.


If you’ve never embarked on such a perilous quest, there are a few things you may want to take into account. Before you get started you’ll want to stretch. Nothing ruins an all day viewing of Saved By The Bell: The College Years like a charley horse. One moment you’re guffawing at one of Screech’s timeless faux pas, and the next thing you know you’re on the floor of your apartment wheezing in terror as your legs spasm out of control. Advanced binge watchers have even begun to stretch while they watch television. It seems nutty, but it can save your life.

The next thing to consider for your venture into binge watching is what to wear. I can’t tell you how to dress, I can only lead by example. Depending on the time of day, what I’m doing, and whether or not the men who work three feet away from my living room window have their binoculars out, my outfit fluctuates. Beginning with season 1, I went in fully clothed, and as the episodes progressed I slowly undressed; one bootlace per episode, then my belt, jeans, and so on. By the time I made it to the sixth episode of season 3 I hadn’t even bothered to put on clothing in the morning. This was now my job, and my uniform was nothing.

As the sun rises and sets, hunger pangs begin to weave themselves in and out of your daily life.

I was saved by my good friend Joey during the Russ/Ross episode of season 2. As my body was threatening to eat itself from the inside, Joey spoke to me from his kitchen,

“Jacob, how you doin’? You look a little peaked, you should eat somethin’.”

Since then I’ve been keeping a bag of snacks next to me at all times. It’s mostly healthy refreshments; carrots, an ear of corn, normal stuff, but I try to keep myself guessing. Sometimes I’ll throw in a couple of chocolate buttons or a raspberry piccolo for fun.

One of my favorite innovations of modern entertainment is that it can be ingested anywhere. In the living room, by a lake, or while driving your car; as long as you’re connected, anything is possible. Some days I like to take my laptop into the kitchen and watch my stories while I do dishes. On the off chance that someone takes me up on my invite to watch a few hours of television I don’t want them to think I’m a filthy troll or that I’ve tricked them into coming over to take care of my chores for me. Not that I would deny anyone the satisfaction of giving my apartment a good swabbing.

If things start to get a bit squibbly in your brain after a few hours, don’t hesitate to take a break from your new favorite program. There’s no humiliation in stepping away for a moment of quiet contemplation. Slip on a fresh pair of trousers, put on your sunglasses (you’ll need them depending on how long you’ve been inside), and take a walk down to Central Perk to clear your head.

After speaking with Gunther for several hours, it’s become obvious that I haven’t been watching a popular 90s sitcom at all. In fact, I’ve been watching a documentary. It hit me around episode 15 of season 4 that the “program” that the world went gaga for in the 90s was actually a 250 part series about my life in New York City. How I didn’t recognize it from the onset is lost on me. But there I am, helping Ross and Rachel with their romantic problems (why oh why did I show Rachel that list?), bringing Chandler and Monica home baked cookies when she discovers that she’ll never be able to have children, and there I am playing drums along with Phoebe on her hit song, “Smelly Cat.” I should check my mailbox; residuals should be coming any day now.