The best and worst winter binge watching

February 26, 2017

 

Lawrance Bernabo
Zenith News

Binge watching has been defined as watching two episodes of a television series back-to-back, which I think is insufficient to be a “binge.”


However, a Netflix study on binge-watching discovered that those watching the first season of a show usually do so in a week, which translates to two hours a day. Even a fast binger, who finishes a season in four days, only averages two hours and 30 minutes each day.


Netflix reports that after subscribers watch a show’s inaugural season, the general trend is to consume subsequent seasons at a faster pace. So two episodes in a day is not binging, but it is when you string together multiple episodes of a series over consecutive days.


Longmire, Season 5 (Netflix). Having just taught a course on Western films, I have more appreciation for how Longmire is a “neo-Western” (a.k.a. Contemporary Western), comparable to No Country for Old Men or Justified. This latest season is turning into a Shakespearean tragedy, specifically King Lear.


Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) remains worried about what is happening on the rez and a wrongful death lawsuit, but this season is more about the perceived betrayals by his daughter, Cady (Cassidy Freeman), and best friend, Henry (Lou Diamond Phillips).


Longmire keeps seeing the world in black and white, but it is the shades of gray that are going to kill him in a season where pretty much only one thing went right, and that was early on. It will be interesting to see what the light is at the end of this tunnel, because there are no happy notes at the end of this season.


The Man in the High Castle, Season 2 (Amazon). For me, the willing suspension of disbelief is not that the Axis powers won World War II, but that Hitler could live with Nazi Germany only controlling the eastern half of the United States while the Japanese Empire ruled the west. Adolf would have wanted the whole thing.


The series is not an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel, but rather takes that alternative history as a starting point for a different sort of story. Dick had a novel within a novel, where in an alternative history, the Allies defeated the Axis. The starting point of Dick’s version is Franklin Roosevelt’s assassination, which saw an isolationist United States left Hitler to overrun Europe and the Japanese to occupy China and the Far East.


Here there are “films within the film,” tantalizing black and white footage that we would recognize as what “really” happened, but which are beyond explanation to Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos), the show’s central figure, who became entangled with the resistance when her half-sister Trudy was killed by the Kempeitaithe, the Japanese military police.  


This series is similar to Westworld in that there is a great deal of mystery as to what exactly is going on. Will there be a revolution to overthrow the Nazis even with their super-weapons? Or is there a way to magically restore the correct history? We shall see.


The Crown, Season 1 (Netflix). This award-winning British import reminds me of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) appears to be the only sane one in either the Windsor family or the British government. The best that can be said for Prince Phillip (Matt Smith) is that he is an asshole, and even the beloved Queen Mother is a bit of a shrew.


The show takes a Band of Brothers approach, where each episode has a specific plot and theme, rather than providing a Game of Thrones intertwined narrative. My favorite episode was one in which Elizabeth, bemoaning her lack of a basic education, hires a tutor (Alan Williams), only to use her one subject of expertise, the Constitution, to dress down Winston Churchill.


John Lithgow’s Churchill is certainly a “Lion in Winter.” His best and most revealing scenes come in conversations with Graham Sutherland (Stephen Dillane), the painter trying to do a portrait of the great man for his 80th birthday. Sometimes a pond is more than a pond.


O.J.: Made in America (ESPN). Could it be that a five-part, eight-hour documentary is a better television series than FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson?


I thought the “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” episode of the latter was the best episode (and episode title) of the year, with its great scene in which Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) lays out the absurdity of the defense theory in a bar, complete with salt shaker visual aids.


The weakest part of the mini-series was Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s Simpson, who was more caricature than character. Ezra Edelman’s documentary is a more comprehensive and devastating portrait of Simpson, and a real look in the mirror for those of us who followed the whole bloody story as if it were a lurid soap opera.


Luke Cage (Netflix). This. Is. The. Slowest. Paced. Show. I. Have. Ever. Seen. In. My. Life.

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