11 January 2014
Bingeing on TV Series
by Elizabeth Zelvin
Thanks to the October-November 2013 issue of the AARP magazine, I've learned that there's a name for something I've been doing for the past year or so, since I got an iPad and a flat-screen computer and joined Netflix and Hulu Plus: binge watching. According to AARP, it's even age-appropriate. I'm taking advantage of my access to old as well as current TV series to watch consecutive episodes of series that I loved and some that I missed, not to mention catching up with series that are still running that I've heard about but haven't had a chance to try.
The author of the AARP article cites a media psychology expert, saying "she sees binge watching as empowering: It allows viewers to watch TV the way they might read a book." As it happens, I am an expert on addictions and compulsive behavioral disorders myself, and I try not to cross the line with any pleasurable activity. Not being perfect, I occasionally risk a headache to watch one more episode instead of quitting while I'm ahead--the equivalent to staying up till 3 AM to finish a suspenseful novel. But by and large, it is like reading a book: once I'm drawn into the story, I want to keep going, and I stop noticing how much time is passing.
As with books, my tastes are idiosyncratic. A certain percentage of my favorite shows are British crime series, some based on novels that I read and loved, some not. Some are American--fewer crime series, as I don't like the graphic gore in many shows, but there are some wonderful legal and political dramas. I like well-acted, well-written period pieces. And I'm always curious about shows that speak to my other particular interests, such as recovery and country music. I'm less likely to watch a show whose protagonist is an active alcoholic or drug addict with no recovery in sight (bor-ing!). I prefer the commercial-free Netflix streaming or DVDs, or those on HBO and PBS (both have free apps), to Hulu, which has commercials, but I'll put up with them for the sake of a series (or past seasons) I can't get otherwise. I do draw the line at laugh tracks, which bump me right out of the story.
Here are some of the crime shows that I've watched so far:
Midsomer Murders: Based on Caroline Graham's Inspector Barnaby books. The twenty-two seasons featuring John Nettles as Barnaby ring endlessly inventive changes on the British village mystery: Drop-dead charming villages, stately homes, gorgeous gardens, and a seething mass of malice and all the deadly sins beneath the surface.
Dalziel & Pascoe: Based on the late Reginald Hill's brilliant books. After the first few seasons, the show went off in its own direction, divorcing Pascoe's feminist wife Ellie and making up its own mysteries instead of using the exceedingly brainy later books or delving more deeply into Sergeant Wield's love life. Netflix has it on DVD only, and Seasons 7 and 8 are not yet available.
Sherlock: The present-day version with Benedict Cumberbatch as a Holmes who manages to be appealing in spite of having a lot more brain than heart and Martin Freeman, looking just a little like a hobbit, as a blogging Watson who has recently returned from, yep, Afghanistan. The first two seasons had only three episodes each, but they were doozies. Season 3 starts this month, and I can hardly wait.
To be continued in a future post.
Posted by Elizabeth Zelvin at 00:01