Late to the Commie Party

One of the greatest new developments in pop culture over the past five years is the ability to binge watch television programs. This viewing pattern shift hit us just at the right time–we don’t watch as many programs as we used to and we’ve gotten far more selective on films we see in theaters. (I remember about 10 years ago, when it seemed like I had appointment television almost every night of the week, with most nights having multiple shows. My Tivo got quite the workout back then. The change away from this habit is partially due to the rise of reality television, but also an unwillingness on my part to invest in programming when the network could pull the plug after half a season or so.)

This pickiness has led to an opportunity for my wife and I–spend our free nights and weekends binge-watching programs, particularly ones that got great in their second or third seasons. It does lead to you deciding what camp you are in with respect to streaming services. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu–each has its highlights and not everyone wants to pay for all three. For years, we were Netflix only, and I will always subscribe to Netflix as a way of saying thanks for more Arrested Development, Bob & David, and the Marvel series. Plus, my wife and daughter love Orange Is the New Black. I also sometimes watch their older network series, particularly The X-Files, Parks & Recreation, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. On that last series, no one has watched it (and its spinoff Angel) as much as my oldest daughter. I think she has watched each series all the way through four or five times, each with a new friend. She wanted to introduce each of them to these shows–she was serving as Joss Whedon’s personal Pied Piper.

There’s a number of other shows on Netflix that people rave about, yet we’ve never watched when they were originally on TV. Chief among these are The West Wing and Friday Night Lights. Until recently, you could have added House of Cards to that list, but we have now watched the first two seasons of that show. We would have kept going on that, as well as the second season of The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt (which served as a comedy sorbet any time the machinations of Frank and Claire Underwood got a little too much to take), but we’ve taken an Amazon-related detour.We never had Amazon Prime until recently, but it has opened up our binge-watching possibilities. Both my wife and I had heard so many raves about The Americans that we’ve decided to dive right in. What a great choice–all the plaudits are well deserved. The show really threads a needle, getting the viewer to root for Russian spies. That might be the most surprising anti-hero movement since The Sopranos. Getting to know both the Russian spies and the golden boy of the FBI leads to a nice programming balance. We are already seven episodes into Season 1, and I’ve heard the next two seasons get even better.

After we get through The Americans, Amazon gives us some additional binge possibilities, including Hannibal, Deadwood, Veep, The Man in the High Castle, Transparent, Catastrophe, and Justified. (The last one is a bit of a stretch–I have actually seen Justified all the ¬†way through, but I want to make others watch it as well, and I’d be happy to see it again. I guess that makes me an Elmore Leonard or Graham Yost pied piper).

So what do people think? Is our list of binge candidates solid and complete, or are we missing some great possibilities? And of the ones we haven’t seen yet, what should be our next priority? Just don’t suggest getting fresh air and sunlight–no one wants to binge that.