This week’s question is from reader Emma Glidden-Lyon:
Having just read the piece on the Fast And Furious movies, I thought of my long-established plan to binge-watch all of them at some indeterminate future time when I’m on bed rest, packing for a move, etc. I haven’t seen any of the series yet, despite my sister’s urging and a general love for Paul Walker, and now I find myself putting off watching any of them until I am able to do nothing but watch all seven movies straight.
Ignoring the potentially troubling mental health implications of looking forward to a period of incredible sloth and isolation, what movie or television series are y’all waiting to enjoy until you can do it all at once?
For me, it’s Game Of Thrones, and I’ve found it very freeing not having to live in fear of spoilers, because I know I’ll forget all of them before the series wraps up years from now and I’m able to watch it in one big binge. By happenstance, I did catch a clip of it in which Khaleesi devours what appears to be a horse heart in front of a crowd while her brother leers at her from the sidelines. (I’m seriously excited to see what that’s about, because I smell incest). That was a great scene to stumble upon via a friend’s living room last summer, because it appears to be a turning point for quite a few characters, and I mean, visually, it is undeniably intriguing.
My tendencies lean toward the opposite of this question’s premise: I can watch things in the smallest possible increments, in perpetuity. Months or more will go by, in between installments of things I don’t feel pressured to consume as they’re happening. (I can’t tell you how many years ago I started The Sopranos, and no, I’m not finished yet.) But there is something I’m eagerly anticipating bingeing: season one of Rick And Morty. It’s a hyperkinetic cartoon world unto itself, which makes it the ideal binge-watch for me: It’s fast, funny, and won’t take too long to get through. After all, nothing ruins a good binge like the feeling you should be checking your watch.
I never got into Person Of Interest, assuming it was a by-the-book CBS procedural lightly sprinkled with genre elements. Also, as a show with an elaborate mythology and with Michael Emerson in a lead role, it debuted too closely to the end of Lost for my comfort. It felt like the pop-culture equivalent of running into an ex for which I had unresolved feelings. I watched as the conversation around Person Of Interest shifted into “best show on television” territory somewhere around season three, but by that time I was already at a roughly 50-episode disadvantage. When there’s so much excellent content to catch up on, making time to crank through two full days of television is more than a notion. I trust it’s worth the effort, if only because while writing about Empire, I saw commenters evaluate that show’s worth relative to Taraji P. Henson’s departure from Person. But the specter of Lost still looms, so forgive me if I wait to see if Person sticks the landing.
Offspring are a definite hurdle to binge-watching. Mine arrived around the same time Netflix kicked off its stellar full-season series output that has resulted in TV-viewing catnip. I certainly didn’t intend to, but I ended up trying to cobble a binge together for both Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Orange Is The New Black (begging my husband to take the kids so that their addicted Mommy could watch her women’s-prison drama uninterrupted). So I know what’s likely in store for me if I delve into Bloodline. A riveting family mystery, featuring many of my favorite players like Kyle Chandler, Linda Cardellini, Sissy freaking Spacek, and Sam freaking Shepard? There’s no chance in hell I’ll be able to walk away until the very end. For the 13 hours this binge will require, I will probably need to pull an all-nighter, fueled by that Florida iced sun tea. Or I might have to send the kids to summer camp.
This is a tricky question for me, if only because I could comfortably answer “everything.” Confession time: I’m one of the dreaded Netflix watchers, hated by ratings-minded TV executives everywhere. It’s just too stressful to keep up with the shows I love; the idea of having to watch the new Bob’s Burgers within the next four weeks, or face it disappearing from Hulu without my having seen it, is too oppressive a feeling. So, I spend my life in periods of alternating sloth and activity, dodging around, say, Hannibal spoilers until a new season hits Amazon and I can blow 12 hours of my life on a little light bingeing and gruesome, beautiful murders. Right now, the show of my dreams is Better Call Saul; as per A.V. Club guidelines, I loved Breaking Bad with a fervent passion, and nothing I’ve heard about the spin-off suggests it won’t grip me just as hard. And as soon as the first season lands on Netflix, I’ll know for sure; you’ll know it’s happened when I start trying to talk about year-old episodes around the water cooler, like a Jim Gaffigan character desperate to discuss the greatness of Heat. (For the record, I also still haven’t seen Heat. I’m waiting for it to show up on Netflix.)
I’d love to answer this question in terms of a movie series, but there aren’t many movies series where I’ve seen zero entries and aspire to see all of them, unless you count Roger Moore as James Bond (I’ve seen almost every other Bond movie, but only parts of Moore’s). Plus, my cinema bias means that I’ve long maintained a list of TV shows I’m saving for retirement and/or such time as I am too infirm, out of touch, or lazy to go to the movies: The Sopranos and The Wire, mainly. But what I’ve noticed really gets me motivated to inhale an entire series for the first time is a widely acclaimed TV show getting ready to end. With both Breaking Bad and Mad Men, I had a great time starting out from zero and getting caught up just as the last batch of episodes made it to air. With Mad Men just weeks away from the actual end, I’ve wondered what might attract that attention next, and I’m thinking it might be Orphan Black. I know it’s neither as acclaimed as Mad Men nor a show with an announced end date, but it is something I bet I would like (female lead! Science fiction!) and have never seen, so I’ll wait for word that it’s ending, start watching, become a huge fan, and annoy longtime diehards with my belated laments about how sad I’ll be when it’s over.
Given the success that Telltale has been able to find with the formula, it’s no surprise that more developers are starting to experiment with episodic releases for their games. Normally, I devour each two- to three-hour episode of a game’s season as it pops up, but I’ll be waiting it out until I can play through the whole of Dontnod’s Life Is Strange at my own pace. It’s a game about growing up and dealing with all the drama and awkwardness that accompanies our teenage years. That’s the kind of intimate story I don’t want interrupted by months of waiting between episodes, unlike, say, Telltale’s The Walking Dead, where the break between releases is just enough time to recover from the soul-crushing consequences of your stupid decisions.
For years, friends told me and my husband that Babylon 5 was the most amazing thing going on in science-fiction TV. But the praise always came with caveats: “Well, the first season is terrible, but you have to watch those episodes to understand the really good stuff.” “Okay, the last season is disposable because it wrapped up everything it meant to do in season four.” Way to sell, guys. We always used to joke that we’d experience Babylon 5 in our dotage, when it came in pill form, because time is short and there are five long seasons of the series, and so many other things to watch. But it’s still a lurking white whale for me. Recently, I bought the first three seasons on DVD ultra-cheap at a flea market, and now I’m starting to seriously think about hunting that whale again. But if were done when ’tis done, then t’were well it were done quickly. I suspect once I finally start in on it, if I pause to watch other things, I’ll lose the momentum I need to finally get through the bad stuff to get to the better-be-breathtaking-after-all-that-buildup stuff.
What Tasha just said, except for Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I can’t even count the number of people who’ve told me that I have to watch the whole thing, and even the related series… but then they tell me that the first season of Buffy is kind of a slog. Tasha even forcibly loaned me the first season on DVD, and I had it for years, never watched it, and eventually gave it back. Will I get there someday? I’m sure I will. Maybe at the retirement home, where I’ll be sitting in a rocking chair while Sean O’Neal sits on a couch with an afghan over his knees, getting super excited for every upcoming scene.
I’m going to admit something here, both because it’s timely and because I am a professional who values honesty above my pride (shhh, let me have this): I didn’t grow up in a house that watched Seinfeld. I don’t have cable now thanks to the magic of the internet, but that also means I can’t even catch reruns. I’m not upfront about this hole in my pop culture knowledge, since it tends to get me looks as judgmental as the ones I get when I say I don’t like peanut butter (yes, I know). But with Hulu announcing that it’s acquired the episodes, I’m looking forward to letting my autoplay run free so I can finally understand some of those jokes that have hovered around my pop culture subconscious (something about a Chinese restaurant?). Also, I think a marathon watch will be the best way to bask in the glory that is Elaine Benes, because while I don’t know the most about Seinfeld, I already know I love her.