A professional binge-watcher shares what life's like under the constant glare of the screen

Apr 08, 2018, 11:23 IST | Kusumita Das

A professional binge-watcher shares what life's like under the constant glare of the screen

Nitin Sisupalan at his workstation in his Trivandrum home
Nitin Sisupalan at his workstation in his Trivandrum home

It's 1 am and everyone around him is fast asleep. But, Nitin Sisupalan gets himself a bag of chips and a bottle of water from the kitchen, sinks into an ergonomic chair in front of a 20-inch monitor, logs on to Netflix and settles down for what could be a three-to-four hour long binge-watching session. This picture might seem familiar to most of us who indulge ourselves time and again, when we just cannot gather the will power to push the pause button on a show we are hooked on to. This 27-year-old, however, is on his way to work in front of his monitor. Since December last year, Sisupalan has turned his binge-watching spree into a profession wherein he reviews Netflix shows for a monthly English magazine.

A still from Peaky Blinders that he binge-watched from 2 am to 7 am
A still from Peaky Blinders that he binge-watched from 2 am to 7 am

A few days ago, Netflix viewers around the world went a little crazy when the online streaming platform posted a job requirement for an "editorial analyst" of original content, whose responsibilities include to "watch, research, rate, tag, annotate and write analysis for movie and TV content". "Sounds like just the job for me," enthuses Sisupalan, who is currently based in Trivandrum. Watching Netflix, however, is not his primary job. He works as a business journalist for a US-based firm. "All I need is a laptop; therefore I can work from anywhere in the world. I start at 4 pm and work till 1 am, sometimes 2. And, after that, I give myself another three hours or so to watch a show. I can afford to sleep late because I don't have an early morning. Besides, I work from home. So, there's no paraphernalia of getting ready to leave for work," he tells us over a telephonic interview.

Vikings was among the first shows he reviewed
Vikings was among the first shows he reviewed

Since his college days, Sisupalan has been a binge-watcher, even though the world was yet to be acquainted with the term. "It only starts when you have your own laptop and you don't need to ask parents for TV time. Like most of us, I started out with Friends, and then moved on to Smallville, where I would do four-to five episodes a day. There was also Dragonball Z, whose 150 episodes I completed in under three months. Naturally, I would finish the shows before my friends did," he says. One of his earliest experiences of binge-watching that he fondly remembers is the time when he spent 12 hours watching all three Lord of The Rings movies at one go. "A KFC chicken bucket kept me going. After watching the films, I slept for 12 hours straight. When I woke up, I felt good; not tired or disoriented. That's when I realised that 'hey this is my thing!'"

Altered Carbon was a 'trending' choice that he tried out
Altered Carbon was a 'trending' choice that he tried out

That was back in 2008. Because he was always ahead of others on shows, Sisupalan started to review them on various social networking sites. "They were 100-150 word reviews; on Twitter I would 'binge-tweet', you could say," he laughs. A regular reader and also a friend suggested he take up the magazine job, and make some money out of his passion. "I gave it a thought and realised that because I work US hours, I could make this fit." So, since December it has been a regular affair for Sisupalan, who has been effectively juggling two jobs. Among the shows he has binge-watched since then are Vikings, Peaky Blinders and Altered Carbon. "I have the liberty to choose the shows I watch, but then, I make it a point to go beyond 'trending' shows. Since I am clued in, I get alerts on upcoming shows, much before they even become talking points. And, sometimes they don't. I maintain a good mix, which is something I feel works. And, the fact that I never give out spoilers. Also, because I watch all kinds of shows, the Netflix algorithm cannot point me towards one particular direction. They have earmarked me as the guy who watches everything, so, I get all kinds of suggestions."

There are times when his wife too joins in, like it happened during the second season of Stranger Things and Marvel's Jessica Jones. "Those watching hours are like family time, that I can also use for work. Having another perspective always helps." Sisupalan never starts writing immediately after watching a show. "I give it a day. Because otherwise you tend to echo the emotions in the show. So, for instance, if you are angry at a certain character, that bias will show in your review." He does not revisit the show, "except in my head" and jots down pointers he wants to cover. The extent of binge-watching also depends on the nature of the show. "House of Cards, for example, I could not watch more than two episodes at one go. The same applied to 13 Reasons Why. But, the third season of Peaky Blinders I watched straight from 2 am to 7 am, last week."

While talking about the effects of binge-watching, psychiatrists talk of 'para-social interaction' which is a one-way relationship, wherein the viewer feels a close connection to a character in the show. Does that happen to him, we ask. "We do a lot of character analysis at home, but it ends there. I don't let the shows enter into the emotional plain." Maintaining posture and hydrating oneself is key to effective binge-watching, he says. "The night-mode on screen is a huge blessing. I keep a metre's distance from the monitor. It's best to avoid binge-watching on the laptop." While weekends are a time we usually catch up on shows, Sisupalan goes off work, which means off shows, and sometimes off the phone too. "It's strictly family time, no-screen time." So, are there any flip sides to binge-watching? "Not for me, except that I continue making references to shows and characters that nobody understands," he laughs.

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