Into The Coronavirus Binge-Watching Zone

You’re worried about the coronavirus, and even more worried about the fact that people seem to be weirdly panicky about it.  You’ve washed your hands to the point where they are almost raw.  You know you’re supposed to avoid large crowds and try to minimize your interaction with other people.  So, what else can you do?

shameless-cast-2017Binge-watching.  In fact, you could almost argue that the Great Coronavirus Scare of 2020 was custom-made for binge-watching.  In fact, if viewing options like Netflix and Roku didn’t exist already, we’d probably have had to invent them to deal with this latest soul-twisting crisis.

Kish and I therefore have been spending our evenings being good citizens and binge-watching shows we haven’t seen before.  As a public service, I offer the following recommendations to those of you who want to be compliant with the latest instructions from the CDC:

Shameless — if you haven’t watched any of the exploits of the Gallagher clan, you should give it a shot.  It’s well designed for Coronavirus binge-watching for two reasons.  First, there are more than a hundred episodes, so it will keep you occupied even if you’re going on a 14-day self-quarantine.  Second, the characters in that show have the most miserable fortunes and do the most appalling things imaginable.  It almost seems like the writers must lay awake, thinking of bad things that can happen to the youthful members of the Gallagher family — most of which happen because of their awful, amoral, deadbeat father Frank.  No matter how sorry you might be feeling about things, the Gallaghers have it worse.  Also, Kev and V are the best comedy couple since Burns and Allen or Lucy and Desi.

Better Call Saul — We’re watching this now.  It’s extremely well done, and Jimmy McGill, like the Gallagher kids, is a hard-luck type who can’t catcht a break.  An added bonus is that, if you’ve watched Breaking Bad, you know what ultimately is going to happen to some of the characters, which makes the show an interesting extended flashback.  And if you haven’t watched Breaking Bad, what the hell?  Put that on your Coronavirus binge-watching list, for sure.

The Borgias — This is perfect coronavirus binge-watching fodder because (1) it happens in Italy, where the entire country has now been put into a coronavirus quarantine, and (2) it involves characters dealing with mass deaths due to the Black Plague, which makes coronavirus look like child’s play.  The central character is the most immoral, lecherous Pope in history and we also get to know his equally immoral, incestuous kids.  Terrific production values, too.  The downside — it’s only three seasons long, having ended mid-storyline with an all-too-early cancellation.

Ozark — Another nailbiter with characters who have it a lot worse than we do and lots of excellent performances and storylines.  Not as many seasons as Shameless, but if you time it right you can watch the last episode and then roll right into the new season, which starts at the end of this month.

It’s binge-watching time, folks!  Pass it on and help your neighbors with a few recommendations of your own.

Setting The Hook, Firm And Deep

Skilled fishermen — and I’m thinking of the likes of the Brown Bear, here — will tell you that getting a fish to bite at the hook and lure is only the first step in the battle between the angler and his watery quarry.  Fish that just nibble at the bait don’t end up caught.  If you don’t make sure the hook is firmly lodged in its mouth, the fish will wriggle away and live to taunt the fisherman another day.

So the key is to set the hook. The accomplished angler will inevitably have a subtle move, a flick of the wrist that ensures that the hook is set firm and deep in the fish’s mouth, and that elusive fish won’t be a challenge any more.

The same holds true for modern television producers hoping to attract viewers to their shows.  There are so many options out there — on Netflix, HBO, Showtime, Amazon, the networks, and countless other outlets — that some people argue that right now, rather than the ’50s or ’70s, is the true Golden Age of Television.  And because there’s a lot of content to watch, if you’re a couch fish looking for a new series to binge-watch on a cold winter weekend, you’ll nibble at an episode or maybe two, but you’re not going to spend too much time on shows that don’t immediately set that hook and leave you happily wriggling on the line, looking forward to the next episode.

Kish and I experienced this phenomenon this week.  We watched the first episode of Russian Doll, which has been getting some buzz recently, and it just didn’t do much for us — it was just too flagrantly New Yorkish and a bit too consciously contrived for our tastes.  We decided to try something else, and we’d heard good things about Ozark, so we gave that a try . . . and after one episode we were absolutely hooked.

The flick of the wrist that set the hook, firm and deep, probably came at about the time the quick-thinking Marty Byrde seized upon a Lake of the Ozarks pamphlet to talk his way out of disaster, or maybe when Wendy Byrde’s paramour met his maker.  But whenever it happened, as soon as the first episode was over, we knew we’d be riding the Ozark train to the end of the line and our weekend and immediate TV viewing future was set.  And the series has only gotten better as unforgettable characters like Ruth Langmore and the Snells have entered the fray.

I wonder how many TV producers fish in their spare time?