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Cavalcade of Binge-Watching!

The way we watch TV has been changing—for quite some time, really. The move from watching a show at a fixed time changed in the mid-70s when VCR ownership started to move past the early adoption stage. The VCR allowed users to record shows on tapes and watch them later. This could capture a wide dearth of content for those willing to program their devices. With the introduction of TiVo in 1999 the process was simplified by recording to a hard drive instead of tapes. With the advent of streaming from websites like Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Amazon, and through torrent-based options, “binge-watching” has become a thing. So much so that cable companies have been seeing a decline in cable TV subscriptions over the past few years.

The idea of binge-watching came into the lexicon when TV shows become available on DVD and whole seasons could be consumed in a long evening, or two. If you wanted to drop out of life all together, you could submerse yourself into days of viewing and watch an entire history of a long running show à la Portlandia style.

With so much streaming one would think that from an economics perspective the sale of seasons on DVDs would decrease. However, in 2014 the most torrented television show was HBO’s Game of Thrones, yet it was also the most purchased television show on DVD. More than likely the former was do in part to HBO not streaming its original programming except for those that subscribe to HBO. As noted before, this is a problem for individuals who do not subscribe to cable TV, because HBO does not allow for streaming-only subscriptions. Only recently have older HBO shows been added to Amazon Prime Instant Video for streaming.

Over the past year I’ve taken on some more easily digestible TV series. Here are a few of my findings:

Black Mirror
Channel 4 – 2 seasons, 3 episodes each – torrent
This is a fantastic show based around technology and how we will deal with it in the not so distant future. There’s an episode, “Be Right Back,” that pre-dates Her, and pushes the idea of A.I. relationships to the next level. Robert Downey, Jr.’s production company, Team Downey, has optioned another episode, “The Entire History of You,” to become a movie.

Dead Set
E4 – 1 season, 5 episodes – YouTube
This is a mini-series that aired in five consecutive days in the UK and is written and directed by, Charlie Brooker, who created Black Mirror. This dark comedy takes place on the set of UK’s Big Brother TV show while they are unaware that a zombie apocalypse is breaking out. Think Shaun of the Dead meets The Waking Dead.

Channel 4 – 2 seasons, 7 episodes each – Netflix
This Jessica Hynes and Simon Pegg created sitcom also features Pegg’s right hand man, Nick Frost. Pegg is a prototypical, late-90s slacker out of Kevin Smith’s universe. It’s very interesting to see the many troupes and themes in this series that would later appear in later Pegg/Frost joints. Great use of music, too!

Bored to Death
HBO – 3 seasons, 8 episodes each – Amazon Prime
Written by and based on some real life antics of Jonathan Ames. Jason Scwartzman stars as Ames, a writer who’s procrastinating working on his second novel by becoming an illegal private detective. Zach Galifinakis and Ted Danson portray his friend and boss respectively that join Schwartman on his adventures. The series is really as good as you would hope it would be with this cast. Rumors are that a follow-up movie is in the works.

FX – 5 seasons, 10 episodes first season, 13 each the other seasons – Netflix
It’s a bit amazing this cartoon can be aired on TV, even cable. It must really push at the FCC decency rulings for TV. The setting is in an ambiguous time period, though it often has a retro look to it. Archer is the lead agent at the American-based ISIS private spy agency run by his mother. There’s somewhat of an OSS 117 vibe to it. The voice work on this series is awesome.