Last night, I turned away from the Trump-Biden debate, not because it was another train-wreck, but because it wasn’t.
My appetite for viewing curated chaos is now so refined that, not seeing any, I quickly left, the future of America be damned.
What I did was tune in to Ozark, the hillbilly-heroin series on Netflix. It’s about a wealth manager from Chicago who’s been laundering Mexican cartel money for years. They suspect his loyalty and he flees with his family to the Ozarks in Missouri where most everyone is a killer or a drug dealer. The result? Three 10-episode seasons of some of the finest drama you will ever see.
I’d never heard of Ozark until a friend recommended it. There are half a dozen of us, loosely aligned by our taste, our homebound state, the profound changes in how and what everyone consumes on the screen, and – AND – our growing addiction to serial drama. As they say in AA, one is too many and a thousand is never enough.
The Binge Club never meets, even online. Its members just send increasingly desperate e-mails to each other saying: “Got any?” We need say no more. In our group are two lawyers, a naturopath, a psychiatrist, a film critic (very handy), and a friend from California who lives near a forest, which means she can also watch her forest fire.
Jean and I were late-comers to cable dramas and online streaming. It was 2002 and a friend said: “You should watch The Wire.” We tried. After the first episode, I said to my friend: “We couldn’t understand a word.” He said: “Watch another episode.” So we did and we were hooked. One weekend at our cottage, we watched 8 entire hours of it. We had wasted a whole day of our lives watching TV. On a gorgeous autumn Saturday. Gone. The shame! What was wrong with us?!
Now that I think back, nothing.
What if we had spent that autumn Saturday reading a book for 8 hours? Someone weighty like Jane Austen or Leo Tolstoy or Charles Dickens. But hold on, Dickens’ novels weren’t unclimbable mountains, as they are today. They were published one chapter every week or month. They were serials. They were to the 19th century what Netflix is to the early 21st.
I have to confess, as I look about my den with the walls covered floor to ceiling in books, I haven’t actually turned a page on one in months. I listen to books all the time on my iPhone. But watch a book by turning its printed pages? Not any more.
I’m sure there are parts of my brain and upbringing that are already closing down because of this. But there are also parts that are opening for the first time.
If you spot my weakness for British police procedurals, I plead guilty.
Which brings me to the series that all of us in The Binge Club devour and recommend to everyone, including yourself:
Line of Duty, on Amazon Prime, about a Scotland Yard anti-corruption squad that became the BBC’s best-performing drama in 10 years.
It’s now filming its 7th season. Yes, that’s 7 times 6 episodes per season, which equals 42 episodes in all, which is what used to be a standard work-week, which……..
Line of Duty also has some of the best interview (interrogation) scenes you’ll ever endure.
In order to forestall the very kind of addiction you sense I’m slipping in to right now, Jean and I have a strict one-episode a night policy for everything we watch.
Like last night. I quickly saw that Trump-Biden weren’t saying anything new. So we watched an hour of Ozark over dinner. Then……..well, when that episode ended with the FBI swooping in and……….okay, okay.…..
So I quickly scanned CNN to see if I’d missed anything on the debate, then said to Jean: “Honey, how about just this once we….……..”
There are scads of online book clubs these days. Isn’t it time we had scads of online Binge Clubs too?