Opinion

Sunday in the Park with Brian: Therapy Session #15 (The “Obsessive Binge-Watching” Version)

sunday-in-the-park-1

It seems I made something of a promise with the last “Park” in that I would try to keep things light-hearted through the end of the year, what with the holidays and all. In the interest of keeping that promise for at least one week, I hereby present you with the TV series that Terry and I currently bingeing or recently binged. I will do my best to keep things politically-neutral, void of soapboxing, and free of poignant nostalgic tales of my childhood wherein things did not go my way and I was bitter about the not going. Of course, me being me, I probably won’t make it three words before I veer left. And here we go…

ONE. “Arrow”

This series is based on the “Green Arrow” hero from DC Comics. Fair Disclaimer: I have never read the comics and I know nothing about them. (Comparative Note: I’m a big fan of “The Walking Dead”, the TV show. I do have some of the graphic novels on my Kindle, but I have only glanced at them. To be honest, when I’m talking about the TV show with folks and they want to whine about where it differs from the novels, I want to slap those people a little bit. Nothing fatal, of course, just enough to make them shut up. The entertainment industry is littered with examples of producers picking and choosing when it comes to transforming a great book into a completely different movie. I don’t like it, either, but it’s the nature of the beast. Just let it go and move on.)

See? It only took me three seconds to get bitchy. I definitely have issues, mmm hmm.

In any case, the TV show is a hoot. We have dual storylines, past and present, so it’s somewhat important that you pay at least minimal attention to the details. (This is refreshing, compared to so many shows that have been dumbed down to the point where every plot development is telegraphed way before those developments happen.) The characters are flawed and messy (everyone has a secret or a misunderstanding or an addiction), the story arcs are sometimes absurd but still entrancing, and the action sequences are the kind where you can actually follow what is happening (instead of the randomly-vague, rapid-fire editing on some shows where you have no idea who is winning or how).

Perhaps the most admirable element of the show? The episode-ending hooks. Somebody up on that production team knows what they are doing. You can swear to yourself that you’re going to bed after the current episode, but in the last twenty seconds they will snag you with a new twist, making this a prime candidate for binge-watching. In the last two days we have watched 12 episodes, and I have no shame about that.

TWO. “Battlestar Galactica”

With this entry, I’m talking about the “reboot” that ran from 2004-2009, not the late 70s incarnation. (Perhaps the original version had its merits, don’t know, never watched it.) The very basic plot here is that, sometime in the future, mankind has created machines which then revolt and turn on mankind, much like teenagers do when they learn that the world does not end if they violate curfew, emboldening them to reach for stars that smell like teen self-absorption. End result, a ragtag fleet of starships just wants to get back home (Earth?) where everybody used to know their name.

Now, before you respond with “I’d rather hurl myself off the cliffs of Dover before I watch a sci-fi geekfest”, let me point out that this series goes much deeper than that. Yes, we have lots of techno-babble (“Engage the Chlamydia Transponder!”) and there are too many instances where a single jetfighter overcomes all odds (“Corporal Bucktruck just destroyed seven evil galaxies using only an emery board and some grape jelly!”), but the focus is on the human story, our frailties and yearnings and fumbling attempts to connect and prove worthy.

My only real quibble with this series? The pivotal character of Gaius Baltar, a scientist who is truly mad, constantly conversing with an (imaginary?) companion/love interest/scheming tart who only exists in his head. On a paranoid battlestar where even the tiniest whiff of odd behavior can get your ass exiled into deep space, freefalling with Tom Petty and Major Tom forever, it’s unlikely that no one would question the innumerable times that Gaius has been discovered copulating feverishly with nothing but net. Perhaps he will eventually be called out, but we’re on the third season and nobody has raised an eyebrow.

THREE. “Nashville Flipped”

I have a love/hate relationship with the various “house flipping” shows on HGTV. For the most part, I am enraptured when the flippers can take a dump and turn it into something orgasmic with creativity and flair. On the other hand, the shows can make me depressed as hell about my own comfy but “sure could use a spruce up” dwelling. (I don’t have 30,000 dollars to spend on the bathroom alone. If I had that kind of cash lying around, I’m going to buy a car, not some fancy river rock tiles for the floor of the shower so I can get a foot massage whilst scrubbing my bits.)

Still, the host of this show, Troy Dean, who specializes in restoring historic homes, is infectious with his charm and his ideas. He gets so excited about his projects that you almost want to wet yourself for him. And the best part? He sets a modest budget, sticks to it, and then resells the home at minimal profit. (This is considerably different from many of the HGTV glamour shows, where the spokesmodel flippers make more money in one conversion than I made from 1983-1997.) Troy, at least on camera (he might be a total pig when the spotlight is off, who knows), really loves what he does and it shows. If only we could all have careers that we actually enjoy. Wouldn’t that be a finer world to live in?

FOUR. “American Horror Story: Roanoke”

This is one that we intended to watch “live”, but we never got around to it and suddenly the entire season was piled up in our DVR, winking and beckoning. We finally gave in a few weekends ago, and we blew through the whole thing in roughly a 24-hour period. (Yes, we still managed to bathe and eat, as we’re not completely irresponsible, although we often poke at the threshold.) If you’re not familiar with AHS, each season involves a different “story”, although the core cast remains relatively the same, with a few changes here and there. (We miss you, Jessica Lange. Please come back to the Five & Dime.)

This season’s murky tale proffered a haunted house, and that’s about all I can say. To mention anything more would dispel the mystique of the “cold opening” the series had, where the producers intentionally kept publicity to a minimum and no one knew what to expect when the premiere aired. (In a surprising twist on the old adage, sometimes the best publicity is no publicity at all.) The conceptual structure of this season actually works, with a strong nod to the dynamic acting which is a trademark of the show. Until we get to the midpoint of season, when the producers introduced… something new. The new did not work for me. Some viewers and critics loved it, and the producers almost pulled me back in with the final episode, but the taste in my mouth was still too bitter.

FIVE. “Being Human”  (UK/BBC Original Version)

A vampire, a werewolf and a ghost walk into a bar… and the next thing you know we have a TV series filling a void that no one knew we might have. Yes, there are some supernatural elements to it (how can you avoid it with such a casting call?) but those angles are kept to a minimum. Instead, the focus is on folks who are just trying to make a life when they are different from others, and the stories are honest and messy. Naturally, this rings some of my bells and pushes some of my buttons. What is it going to take for society, as a whole, to reach the point where we understand that every human life has value?

And thusly, I’m on the soapbox again, despite my intention to avoid. I just can’t help it. Well, I probably could, but I really don’t want to, not until each of us finds a place we can call home…

Cheers.

 

33 replies »

    • We have it in our bucket. Terry actually started watching it, because I was in the middle of NaNoWriMo and I told him I didn’t care. Then I happened to catch part of one episode when I was waltzing through the room, and I was all “um, that looks good, so you need to stop watching it so we can watch it together”. So he did and we will… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Isn’t binge watching wonderful? I have been curious about BG since I was a fan of the original. I haven’t really gotten into the Walking Dead. AHS is on my list. Although I heard the fans aren’t really keen on Roanoke. Right now, I am enjoying Burn Notice. I guess I must have blacked out from 2007-2013 or something because I was aware of the show but didn’t watch it. Since I finished the 2nd season of Ash vs Evil Dead, I am going to binge the 1st season. You can never get enough of Bruce Campbell, lol.

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    • Hurray, I’m glad you said that about BG, because it always annoys me when a good series ends in a bad way. Now I’m looking forward to it. And, since we’re confessing, I have actually considered watching the O.C. as well. I never watched it when it was live, but I’ve always been curious what the buzz was all about… 😉

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  2. Woo-hoo! It’s snowing in the park!

    I Must admit that I don’t watch a lot of television. If I had the opportunity to binge watch anything it would be Saturday Night Live, starting with the very first episode which aired on Oct. 11,1975. I would watch EVERY episode that starred the original cast members from 1975-1980.

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    • SNL would be a great binge. I’ve had my eye on the box set for a while, but I’m waiting for the price to go down. (Lorne Michaels is very proud of his product, apparently.) I used to never watch television. I didn’t even own a TV for several years, and when my partner and I got together 16 years ago, he was stunned that I didn’t have a DVD player or even basic cable. He had no hesitation in showing me the error of my ways… 😉

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  3. Okay. How you can be so dismissive of the original “Battlestar Galactica?” Bonanza in space with Dirk Benedict, future Face Man of theA-Team? How very dare you. OKC, 1974, arteests work in downtown deli. Hire troupe of out of town actors from Contemporary Arts Foundation theater. Homeless musicians from that era now in the futuristic Houston of 1981 watch someone they made sandwiches with get hit on the head and shoved in closet on “Battlestar Galactica!” Somebody made it! There was hope, momentarily, for all of us to be hit on the head and shoved in a closet in our own three minute walk-on of fame. And now this epic of hope has been dissed? My holiday season is ruined…

    I may have to go watch the entire run of “Scarecrow and Mrs. King” and worry about the Russians disguising a mini submarine to look like Shamu, infiltrating Sea World San Diego with it and hacking the dailies from the ticket booth. Without popcorn.

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    • Now, now. I didn’t dis the original. I just fessed up that I didn’t know anything about it. But at least my cultural ineptitude set the stage for you to provide another one of your entertaining anecdotes that just kill me, so in that sense my ignorance has proven worthy. I’ve also watched “one of our own” hit the big time in a tiny way, when a gal from drama classes I took at the University of Tulsa hit the big time in a small way, appearing briefly in several episodes of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks”. (She also, supposedly, starred in a movie, but I don’t think anyone has ever seen it, including her.) But since you bring up “Scarecrow”, and therefore Kate Jackson, do you recall the mid-70s series “The Rookies”?

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        • Damn phone. And “Adam 12” all that radio talk stuff. “Transporting now. Vitals being transmitted”
          “Okay. Let’s add 50cc of dialogue because the background is the same exterior as the last three episodes. And get someone to shake the ambulance, maybe stop for some earthquake victims.”
          Now I’m trying to remember the one with Captain Kirk and Heather Locklear…

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  4. Oh oh oh, Being Human UK is 100% top notch. I have never tried the American version because, for me, the UK version of ANYTHING is usually better.

    I had such high hopes for AHS. I loved the first season, didn’t watch Asylum because I have a phobia of all things asylum-y, loved Coven, and hated every single second of Freakshow to the point where I stopped watching it because of how terrible it was. I gave up after that. Is Hotel worth watching? Gaga makes me reeeeally want to watch it….but ugh, I don’t want to get burned again.

    How do you feel about Doctor Who?

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    • First Confession: I was actually talking about the BBC version, but I neglected to make the distinction. I have now corrected my badness.

      Second Confession, about AHS overall: Loved the first season, had some trouble with the “Asylum” season because so many of the episodes are just bleak and mean but the “redemption” episode toward the end was beautiful and flipped the whole season for me, and I loved the “Coven” season. Now, “Freakshow” was dissatisfying in some ways. There were some fantastic scenes, but I wasn’t fully on board. Until we watched the extras on the final disc of the DVD set, wherein the producers and actors explained what they were TRYING to do and, again, the season was flipped for me. Now it all made sense and the intentions were clear. They just weren’t clear in what actually made it to the screen. Finally, the “Hotel” season was very similar to “Freakshow” in that it was hard to like most of the characters and you often didn’t know what was going on. It’s easier to take than “Freakshow”, but it doesn’t compare to seasons 1-3.

      Third Confession: I have never seen any incarnation of Doctor Who. None of them. It’s not that I’m avoiding them, it just hasn’t happened. You can unfriend me now, if you see fit, but it will make me cry a little bit… 😉

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      • Okay, good to know about AHS. Makes my decision of not coming back to it pretty easy. Haha.

        Haha, I just figured with all the sci-fi, you’d have at least watched a bit of Doctor Who. I 100% recommend it as it’s the third love of my life.

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  5. I’ve not watched any of these shows, but enjoyed your take on them. (I was a fan of BG in its 70s rendition – always loved the Cylons best. Side note: why are villains the most interesting characters? Or is that just me?)
    We’ve only binge-watched a few shows. With our kids, so they would know the TV magic of the late 70s, we watched: WKRP in Cincinnati, Barney Miller, and the Muppet Show. I’m happy to say both kids recognized their brilliance.
    Then a few years back, when I was in and out of the hospital due to complications from a surgery, my husband and I fell into the mania that was Downton Abbey. I remember with fondness my husband visiting me, setting up his laptop, and he and I catching up on all the past episodes via Netflix. For this reason alone, whoever created Netflix should be canonized. (Probably my husband too, now that I think about it. 🙂)

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    • See, that last bit, with The Hubs going above and beyond, would make a very sweet blog post. Not trying to dictate, just mentioning. (For the record, we have Downton Abbey on DVD. We just haven’t gotten there yet.) I agree that late 70s TV was pretty swell, for the most part. There were still a lot of taboos that you couldn’t touch, although some producers were trying and succeeding. We didn’t have huge budgets yet, and special effects were years in the future, so the focus was still on the acting and the writing. On top of that, the networks still committed to a show for the whole season, instead of axing the show after the first episode because the ratings weren’t stellar. This allowed a show to experiment and grow and find an audience. Frankly, WKRP and Barney Miller and the surreal (in a good way) Muppets would not have survived in the modern world of instant success or failure. Sometimes progress is good, other times, not so much….

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  6. I haven’t watched any of these shows and have no desire to…but, I do have fond recollections of the original “Battlestar Galactica” – it was pretty good, from my (very) pre-teen perspective! The Cylon warriors from the original were far better than the silicone-enhanced “fem-bots” they were made into for the reboot, which is why the new version is unwatchable.

    I think that the only shows that I binge-watch shamelessly are any marathon of “AbFab,” “Twilight Zone” (again, the original), “Doctor Who,” BBC’s “Planet Earth,” and “Law & Order” (the first two seasons, which are hardly ever shown). There might be a couple others that I’m forgetting about, but there’s probably a valid reason!
    😄

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    • [Sounds of scribbling down your suggestions.] Okay, we already have everything on DVD that the “AbFab” folks have ever done, so I’m good there. (Those discs are WORN OUT.) We also have hit-and-miss seasons of “Twilight Zone” (both original and reboot), but my partner isn’t quite fond of them so they’ve basically been neglected. The rest of your suggestions I will have to seek out. Now, as for the “silicone-enhanced fem-bots” in the reboot of Battlestar, I haven’t really noticed that. Maybe it happens later in the series. Then again, I’m not usually looking at the women and instead I’m waiting for the men to take off their shirts for no apparent reason… 😉

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      • LOL – exactly! I want more male nudity! There’s already WAY to many nude women on TV, with “side-boob” commercials and all – I already know what a woman looks like in the nude…I see one every time I get out of the shower or pass the mirror when going to bed!
        😄

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  7. We both binge-watched the entire collection of West Wing last year! I had watched it when it was on originally but hb is sniffy about US dramas of any kind and refused to watch. Then, out of the blue he announces he might just buy Season 1 on Ebay! He got it for 99p. We began at a leisurely single episode a night, but by the last season we were on 4 or 5! Then we passed them on to our daughter and her hb and got them hooked too, even their 13 yr old son took to it. Our son refused to go near it, having seen the damage such addiction had wreaked on our two households: the house practically fell apart, phones went unanswered, children had to make their own packed lunches and on and on…

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    • I’ve definitely been intrigued by the siren call of “The West Wing”. That show ran (for the most part) during a time when I didn’t watch TV, so even though I got the impression that I would really like it, I’ve never seen an episode. It’s assuredly on my “must get around to at some point” list. As for the binge-watching angle, it certainly can lead to a slight dereliction of duties and life responsibilities. Still, the ability to watch a whole season in one week is a pretty nifty thing… 😉

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