We've all been there: it's 3 a.m. and you do the math to figure out that you could sneak four more episodes of House of Cards in before grabbing a quick shower and mailing it in at the office (sorry), just to rush home eight hours later and finish off the series. Hell, sometimes you can't wait that long and end up streaming an episode at work (sorry again).
Well, Newsweek's Andrew Romano set out to understand why we get hooked when binge watching shows on Netflix and what showrunners are doing to keep us itching for a re-up. Turns out, it's science and television is addictive just like Walter White's meth. Seriously. On average, Americans watch five hours of television a day.
Hypnosis isn't a bad metaphor. After watching Game of Thrones for a mere 30 seconds, my brain begins to produce the alpha waves typically associated with hazy, receptive states of consciousness, which are also generated during the "light hypnotic" stage of suggestion therapy. At the same time, my neurological activity switches from the left hemisphere to the right—that is, from the seat of logical thought to the seat of emotion. Whenever this shift takes place, my body is flooded with the natural opiates known as endorphins, which explains why viewers have repeatedly told scientists that they feel relaxed as soon as they switch on the television, and also why this same sense of relaxation tends to dissolve immediately after the set is turned off.
Romano goes on to break down some of the parallels between drug use and binge watching House of Cards. He briefly discusses the science behind the addiction, talks to Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz (kind of), and focuses a great deal of attention on the future of television, where actors and producers will have to compete with the likes of Kevin Spacey and David Fincher at the Emmys. Oof.