It’s 3 a.m. Friday, and President Francis J. Underwood is ready to deliver his version of a fireside chat.
As TV and laptop screens crackle worldwide, waiting for the third season of House of Cards to premiere on Netflix, Carter DeGennaro and his friends are about to bunker down inside a Columbia apartment for nearly 10 hours. The senior exercise science major at the University of South Carolina is stocked up. He’s got his energy drinks, his snacks and his friends.
There’s no better way to binge-watch the misadventures of the Underwood family.
Though he expects them to get through only half of the new season before breaking for Friday’s classes, he’s stoked to binge-watch the Netflix original series for as long as he can keep his eyes open.
“We’ll try and keep each other awake by yelling or throwing things at those that are dozing off,” he said.
His plan for staying awake will be the energy drinks they plan to drink through the night.
Plans are the theme of the Underwood presidency, but those who know what a good plan is might raise an eyebrow at DeGennaro’s.
One of the many problems with his plan, said nutritionist Yvonne Lucas, is that the various ingredients in energy drinks “absolutely overwhelm your autonomic nervous system.” It isn’t so much the caffeine, she said, but the sugar and other ingredients that can cause problems sleeping, digesting food and even thinking clearly.
Energy drinks aren’t the only things DeGennaro and all the other binge-watchers across the world will have to be wary of. Sleep deprivation can be almost as disorienting and dangerous as a night of heavy drinking, said Tim Fultz, technical director at South Carolina Sleep Medicine in Summerville.
Spending the night doing anything except getting a full night’s rest can actually make it harder to remember things and learn new material, he said. That means DeGennaro may need a refresher the next morning on just how much trouble Underwood got into throughout the season.
“I actually watch House of Cards, and I quite like it, but I’m not going to stay up to watch it tonight, and I definitely won’t watch it all at once,” Fultz said.
With their eyes glued to the screen, another challenge he and his friends will face is exactly that: their eyes.
Dr. Marvin Efron, an optometrist with Eye Associates of Cayce & West Columbia, said that extended time spent watching a single thing can cause eyestrain, which may damage one’s sight. The real problem is that the eyes are focused on one point for too long, he said, and normally eyes are used to focusing on various distances.
An easy solution, he said, is to take a short break for a couple of minutes whenever the eyes start to feel tense and strained.
The medical warnings are no deterrent to DeGennaro, who was determined to binge-watch anyways.
But Efron does have some good news for binge-watchers. Throw out the stories about the dangers of sitting too close to the TV. Viewers can sit as close as they want, so long as they don’t do it for very long.
So feel free to lean in as the Underwood family delivers one tense moment after another.