Get me an IV of TV, stat!After watching 9 episodes of Prison Break back to back on Saturday in an attempt to get caught up before last night's Season Two premiere, I've come to the conclusion that mainlining TV shows has both good and bad aspects.
The good part is that you keep the momentum of the show going. This is great particularly for fast-paced shows in which only a brief period elapses between episodes. When you watch episodes in big batches, you don't have to put in the extra emotional energy of waiting for things to be resolved week to week. They leave you on a cliffhanger? You get it resolved ten minutes later when you watch the following episode.
This can also be helpful for shows that have convoluted mysteries. It might be hard to maintain your interest (and keep plot points straight) from week to week, but when you watch them all in a batch, you'll have a better understanding of the flow of clues and investigations.
The downside, however, is that character development can suffer. When you take a day to watch episodes that are meant to occur over the space of a few months in a character's lives, it can be hard to understand their reasoning and reactions. Something that happened months ago to them was just a few hours ago to you. What's meant to be a gradual thaw between characters can seem like a microwaved plot if watched too quickly.
When I first got a friend hooked on Veronica Mars, we watched the entire half of the first season in one night -- from "Silence of the Lamb" to "Leave It To Beaver". While I happily re-watched the L-V romance unfold in hyperspeed, she found it a bit jarring to see Logan's intentions towards Veronica change over just a few hours. She didn't see their week-by-week progress towards becoming friends again -- she saw Veronica kissing someone who thought she was trash. After watching the episodes a few more times, however, she had a better sense of what the characters were meant to have gone through.
All in all, I think watching TV shows marathon style works if a show 1) is meant to occur in near-real time, like Lost or Prison Break or 2) if the characters don't change too much over the course of a season, like House. Which reminds me: I've got a DVD to go purchase...