Alejandro “AJ” Fragoso was at work on Wednesday. This is notable only because the morning before, at 5 a.m. EST, under the strict surveillance of an official from Guinness World Records, he passed the 94-hour mark of a television binge-watching session that had begun the previous Friday. The session was sponsored by CyberLink, who just released the streaming service he used to play the shows. But while the reasons were manufactured by advertisers, the struggle wasn’t.
To qualify for the record, Fragoso could only look away from the screen for five minutes out of every hour. The task proved too physically taxing for his partner-in-binge, who dropped out. But Fragoso powered through, a feat he attributed to his Mediterranean diet and frequent stretching, which helped him stay awake and kept his blood sugar stable.
The previous record of 92 hours, achieved by five Austrians, was set just last month, at an event organized by LG Electronics Austria. The Austrians were attempting to break a record set by four Canadians in December of 2014, who watched for 91 hours as a promotional event for CraveTV. And the Canadians? They were besting a Swede who watched for 90 hours to promote Viaplay Premiere early that same year. With increasing frequency, twentysomethings are being pushed to the limits by technology companies in bids for publicity.
But they aren’t complaining. We caught up with Fragoso to ask about his record-breaking binge to get some tips for when Game of Thrones returns this month, and curated our own list of the ultimate binge-watching marathon, with a varied diet of shows to stay on alert for 94 hours. (Disturbingly, the Swede only watched the show 24.)
Alejandro ‘AJ’ Fragoso’s Watchlist
Game of Thrones (first 6 episodes)
Curb Your Enthusiasm (2 seasons)
Battlestar Galactica (almost 4 seasons)
Twilight Zone (3 episodes)
Bob’s Burgers (3 seasons)
Adventure Time (season 5)
Master of None (1 season)
Q: What’s the story behind your decision to try and break the binge-watching record? How did you connect with CyberLink?
AJ: My friend recruited me for a project his work was putting together for CyberLink to promote the launch of PowerDVD 16. He was talking to me about it one evening, one thing lead to another, and before I knew it I was sitting on a couch binge watching TV.
Q: How’d you know you’d be able to beat the record?
AJ: I researched sleep deprivation prior to the attempt in order to make sure that I wouldn’t die or do any long-term damage to my body. I read that somebody had managed to stay awake for 11 days before and that made me believe I could push for just short of four days.
Q: Walk me through how you selected each show you watched. How many of them had you not seen before? Did you watch through entire seasons at a time, or did you jump around?
AJ: Molly (who attempted the record with me) and I discussed the shows we’d want to watch over the course of the event. I’ve always been a big fan of Battlestar Galactica so that was an easy pick — I hadn’t seen that show in forever and I was surprised at how good it looked on PowerDVD. Twilight Zone was requested by the Motherboard reporter that documented the event from a first-person perspective. We would watch a show straight through or at least until we could no longer stand it.
Q: What was your go-to staying-awake tactic? Was anything not allowed?
AJ: I was constantly trying to sit up straight and take regular breaths. When I felt myself fading, I would stand and stretch out my body while watching — that helped a lot. I probably spent a third of the time standing. You could pretty much do whatever you wanted as long as you were watching the television and your eyes could be seen by witnesses and the recording equipment in the room.
Q: Which hour was the hardest in the 94-hour stretch? Why?
AJ: Somewhere around the 70-hour mark things started to get tough. Molly had been disqualified and I was just dead tired. It was soul crushing to realize I still had another 24+ hours to go… I really didn’t think I was going to make it at one point.
Q: If someone else was going to attempt this, what advice would you give?
AJ: Always reserve some break time for technical difficulties. Early on in the attempt, the standalone optical drives we had to play the DVDs stopped working, and the Internet dropped at one point, so we were scrambling to get the television going again before the break time we had ran out.
Q: By the third or fourth day, are you still following plot and appreciating dialogue, or is it all sort of washing over you?
AJ: You still comprehend it. Bob’s Burgers is still just as funny!
Q: How’d you feel when the clock hit 94 hours?
AJ: Tired, excited and glad it was over! It was definitely an experience and I’m glad I did it, but never again.
And How We’d Do It…
J. Travis Smith’s Watchlist
The West Wing (season 1) — 15.4 hours
Chappelle’s Show (entire series) — 10.3
Black Mirror (entire series) — 7 hours
Rick and Morty (entire series) — 7.7 hours
Jackass (entire series) — 10.4 hours
Freaks and Geeks (entire series) — 13.2 hours
Game of Thrones (seasons 3-5) — 30 hours
“The West Wing has always been on my watchlist, so might as well start by being productive. Then Chappelle to rest for a bit before getting into heavy sci-fi for some mental escapism. Then Rick and Morty and Jackass, maybe alternating, to really wake myself up with some low-brow laughs and violence. Then it’s Game of Thrones, which has enough sex, blood and one-liners to ride me out to the end.” — J. Travis Smith
John Zientek’s Watchlist
What I’d actually do:
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (all seasons) – 99.4 hours
“Travel the world with Bourdain as his hair turns from black to gray and his outlook changes from cool and sardonic to accepting and humbled.” — John Zientek
But for a mixed list:
Rocko’s Modern Life (season 1) – 5.4 hours
A Cook’s Tour (all seasons) – 12.8 Hours
The Layover (all seasons) – 14 Hours
Parts Unknown (all seasons) – 53 Hours
Mind of a Chef (season 1) – 6.4 Hours
Celebrity Deathmatch (season 1) – 4.2 Hours
“Sandwich some good travel and eats television with classic ’90s TV, early episodes of Rocko’s Modern Life and the first utterly ridiculous season of Celebrity Deathmatch.”
Ted Jamison’s Watchlist
South Park (season 10, because of the cartoon wars) – 6 hours
Bob’s Burgers (all seasons) – 24 hours
Adventure Time (all seasons) – 36 hours
Attack on Titan (full series) – 12 hours
Futurama (season 4, because everyone says it’s the best) – 6 hours
Pokemon (starting from season 1) – Whatever time is left.
“Generally speaking, I am not a wacky man. I’d fill these 94 hours with cartoons — and only cartoons — as both an education in whimsy and a test of my constitution.”
Chris Wright’s Watchlist
Scrubs (season 1-3, 8) – 33 hours
Curb Your Enthusiasm (full series) – 40 hours
Millionaire Matchmaker (season 1) – 4.6 hours
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (final season) – Whatever time is left.
“Scrubs is my favorite sitcom of all time, and apparently one of the most realistic shows to medical life ever (so I’m told). Seasons 1-3 were gold; season 8 is the last one, as far as I’m concerned. Curb because I am a far less funny Larry David. Millionaire Matchmaker because if you’re gonna watch 94 hours of TV, some of it has to be guilty pleasure, right? And finally, The Late Late Show because I miss Craig — the best late night host of all time, hands down — and his gay robot skeleton, Geoff. Their absurd banter would mesh well with my hallucinations around the 90-hour mark.”