Some of us have been there: It’s 9 p.m. and the laundry is done, lunch is packed and work is complete.
You plop on the couch for a few hours of TV.
A quick glance at the DVR. The only items left to watch are four episodes of “The Bachelor.” Thanks to your bestie, you are perfectly aware of who fought with whom this week, and frankly, it sounds exhausting.
You briefly contemplate live TV. Then you laugh out loud, shake your head and sigh at the ridiculousness of the idea.
Next you check Netflix. It’s been awhile since you browsed, and tonight you’re in the mood for something light.
There it is, staring at you in all its glory—10 seasons of “Friends.”
You gleefully hit play.
You’re sitting there for like, a second, and you glance at your clock.
It’s 1:30 a.m.
You could quit now, get six hours of sleep and feel like a human at work tomorrow.
But … what’s one more? When has 22 minutes of sleep ever been the difference between a functional day and a nonfunctional one? Plus, the next episode is the one in which Ross gets a monkey, and that’s the one you’ve been waiting for.
Suddenly, it’s 4 a.m. and your day is shot.
But guess what? Netflix is making every penny of its investment because you will spend 22 minutes for each episode of all 10 seasons staring at your television. That’s almost 83 hours of TV.
And a lot of people will do that in a matter of weeks. Ten years of television in four weekends. It’s done across the country.
Hordes have been sucked into the binge vortex. It’s a dark place where time goes to die.
It’s also fabulous.
Bingeing is also valuable for streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, which is why so many of them are producing original content and releasing it all at once, keeping audiences captivated for hours, days, weeks at a time. No longer do you tune in for 30 minutes and then forget. Now, you stare at the TV for entire weekends.
A recent example is Tina Fey’s latest, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” which originally was meant for a weekly slot on NBC.
When NBC started to get cold feet because of the time slot and a lack of other midseason (March) comedies to surround it, Fey called Netflix.
It’s a good thing, too.
A show such as “Kimmy” is meant to be binge-watched. The episodes are quick, light and easy to digest.
A show such as “Kimmy” probably would not have done well as a weekly sitcom. There isn’t any real reason to come back. But, watching the episodes back-to-back in one or two sittings, it feels more like a long movie.
The story does move along, albeit slowly, but enough to keep audiences pressing “next episode.”
It’s a perfect rainy Saturday afternoon time-killer.
Binge TV is an art. But lately, TV has gotten better at it.
There are obvious binge recommendations that I highly endorse, but that you likely already know about. I suggest watching “House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Transparent” and “Game of Thrones.”
But, here are a few you might not have heard of that are worth looking up.
WHAT: “Happy Endings”
WHY: Life is just better knowing that “Happy Endings” existed. And since its cancellation by ABC in 2013, fans of the show have been tortured fairly consistently by rumors of a pickup, once by USA and now by a streaming service such as Netflix or Amazon. The show’s three seasons were not even close to enough.
PLOT: “Happy Endings” is an ensemble comedy about six friends living in Chicago. Yes, it sounds like “Friends,” but there’s a black guy and a gay guy. It’s just so good. I will say it’s better than “Friends.” Watch the first season, and you will join me in the fight for justice to get “Happy Endings” back on the air.
FOR: Fans of “Friends,” “New Girl,” “The Mindy Project,” “30 Rock.”
WHAT: “The 100”
WHY: Hear me out. Get through the first few rocky episodes, and you will be hooked. Sure, it looks like “Twilight” puked all over the future (but without the vampires and such), but it’s an addicting action/sci-fi tryst that will leave you salivating for more.
PLOT: A group of 100 criminal teens are sent back to Earth 90 years after the nuclear apocalypse to see if it’s habitable. Between fighting for domination among themselves and defending themselves against what has survived, the action is nonstop. Plus, there are all kinds of relationship drama.
WHERE: Netflix, Amazon
FOR: Fans of “Battlestar Galactica,” “Star Trek,” “Vampire Diaries,” “Revolution.”
WHY: Westerns are a staple of American
cinema. Here, FX actually updated the genre—WITHOUT RUINING IT. You’re right to have your doubts, but I dare you to watch two seasons (I’m not putting my reputation on season one, but I will on season two), and tell me I’m wrong. Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens is the best anti-hero on TV since Walter White. (Yeah, I said it.)
PLOT: U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is transferred home to Harlan, Kentucky, after his controversial shooting of a mob hit man in Miami. He’s sort of an old-school lawman time-warped into the 21st century. In Kentucky, he’s dealing with family clans who wield power and are ruthless with him and one another.
WHERE: Amazon Prime
FOR: Fans of old-school Westerns, “The Shield,” “Longmire,” “The Wire.”
WHAT: “The League”
WHY: Semi-scripted comedies are not new. However, when they are well done, they can be magical. Such is the case with FXX’s “The League.” The actors are all gifted comedians who frequently improvise and just have fun with one another. It makes me want to be friends with these people. Bad.
PLOT: A fantasy football league set in Chicago consists of a group of friends that date as far back as high school. The members will do anything to win, including stealing, cheating and pranking each other. This show shines when it is most ridiculous.
WHERE: Netflix, Amazon
FOR: Fans of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Legit,” “Happy Endings,” “Kroll Show.”
WHAT: “Orphan Black”
WHY: Tatiana Maslany might be the best actress alive. In “Orphan Black,” she plays dozens of her own clones. Each has her own accent, tics, manner and personality. Often, Maslany is the only one in a scene playing multiple versions of herself. It’s fascinating. If you’re into science fiction, do yourself a favor. Not only does this one have a great story, but it’s poignant and scarily close to believable.
PLOT: Sarah Manning is a streetwise con artist trying to get her daughter back when she witnesses the suicide of a woman looking identical to herself. She takes on the women’s identity and proceeds to discover she is one of many identical clones that are all targeted by their creators.
WHERE: Amazon Prime
FOR: Fans of “Continuum,” “Intruders,” “Arrow,” “Dollhouse.”
WHY: We are living in a very exciting time for diversity on TV. We know not all of our friends are white, but why is it so shocking when all TV characters are? Here’s the good news: This year saw the birth of “Fresh off the Boat,” about a family of Asian-Americans moving to Orlando, and “Cristela,” the story of first-, second- and third-generation Mexican-Americans. It’s funny, sweet and very well done.
PLOT: Cristela is a law school student living in her sister’s house with her sister’s husband, two children and their mother, while she works at an unpaid internship at a law office of a wealthy white guy who lovingly refers to her as his diversity hire.
WHERE: Hulu Plus, Amazon
FOR: Fans of “Home Improvement,” “Last Man Standing,” “Fresh off the Boat.”