On binge-watching and bingeworthy series
Winter is here! It’s cold, it’s frosty and we might even be getting snow soon. Countless Christmas flicks and other wintery films have told us that this, of course, is the opportune moment to step outside and frolick in the unpredictable vagaries of nature like the true vikings of old would.
This is Amsterdam, though, and in Amsterdam we like to be down-to-earth and we understand that this is not how things go. We do not go outside and frolick, we stay in and have a nice cup of warme chocolademelk and cower comfortably under a dekentje from the frosty threat of life and its responsibilities, and we know that this is the true life instead¹.
In logical extension of this true life lies the art of binge-watching shows2, which will be the main subject of this article. The weather can be kind of dreary this time of year, and it can be nice sometimes to take a moment to escape and immerse yourself in something artful, and sometimes even more so if the artful thing gives rest and comfort. In an attempt to contribute to our collective mental dekentje, I’ve made a compilation of some artful, binge-worthy and addictive shows.
- Sense8 (2015) – Lana and Andy Wachowski, Michael Straczynski (12 episodes, 1 hour)
If you like cop thrillers, heist-movies, bollywood marriage dramas, Mexican soap operas and the LGBT politics of San Francisco then Sense8 is the show for you, because it’s all of those things (and more) at once and none of them at the same time. In the show eight people with very different backgrounds (and mostly from different countries) suddenly find themselves telepathically connected: when one character listens to a beautiful piano piece, the other seven share in the experience, and when another character is in a physical confrontation, the others may tap into that tension and pain. All is not well, however, and before long they find themselves chased after by a scary shadowy force.
Through connection of the sensates the show explores concepts like empathy and identity in a really refreshing way, and this makes for an addictive bingeing experience that will leave you feeling like the very emotional essence of warme chocolademelk itself.
- Bored to Death (2009) – Jonathan Ames (24 episodes, 30 minutes)
Writer Jonathan Ames has hit a rough patch. Whenever he’s perpetually not-writing his second novel (‘I’m still working on it!’) he smokes too much pot and drinks too much white wine, which also happens to be the reason that his girlfriend Suzanne has broken up with him. In a fit of melancholy zaniness Jonathan puts an add up on Craigslist offering his services as an ‘unlicensed private detective’. This works. Soon he teams up with older dashing magazine editor George and childish comic book writer Ray, reuniting Russian mobsters with their lovers, retrieving stolen skateboards and hanging from clock towers.
Based on the (sometimes non-)fictional autobiographical columns of the real Jonathan Ames, Bored to Death is an empathetically written ode to adventure and escapism that will have you hooked within the first episode.
- Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (2004) – Richard Ayoade (6 episodes, 20 minutes)
Twenty years before the airing of this documentary, Garth Marenghi, self-proclaimed “Master Horror Writer, dream weaver, visionary, plus actor” saw the invisible, touched the nonexistent and broke all boundaries of reality when he wrote, directed and starred in his masterpiece Darkplace. The show features Marenghi as ‘Dr. Rick Dagless, M.D., Vietnam veteran and former warlock’. The hospital he works in happens to have been built on top of the recently reopened gates of hell, which causes Dag and his crew a lot of trouble each episode. All this turned out to be “so radical, so risky, so dangerous, so goddamn crazy” that it was too much for the world to handle at the time, and it was taken off the air. Now that the world is ready, in the year of 2004, the brilliant masterpiece horror series has returned, interspersed with interviews with old cast members. Prepare to leave all convention behind and enter Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.
Silliness and confusion aside, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace is a great show about a self-aggrandizing documentary about a horrible show, filled with all the worst tropes3 of ‘80s television, that is sure to keep you and your friends glued to the screen and wanting more for the entirety of more than two hours.
¹As a student and as a person in general, I wholly support this way of life.
2Descartes liked to call utterances like these ‘clear and distinct truths’, because they need no further explanation.
3Such as awesomely silly one-liners: “If Won Ton gets wind of this my ass is grass and he’s got a lawnmower!”