Thursday, January 16, 2014
Okay, we binge, but then so does half of the television viewing world these days, or so it seems. That's not an excuse. We binge because we can--we're retired. I know--that's no excuse either.
I never watched much television. For most of my life, the news was about it, plus maybe some late-night stuff to ease into sleep--and occasionally, when they're winning, the Iowa Hawkeyes. That recipe hasn't changed post-retirement, except the late-night stuff is no longer comedy. It's The Good Wife, Parenthood, The Wire, Downton Abbey, The Tudors, or any of a dozen others, lots of mysteries, in mega-doses, one after another until the old episodes have run out. We watch nothing on network schedule, everything in super-size.
And it's fun, but not always. Some binges are almost nightmarish. Honestly, we weary of boldface total depravity, characters with so little redeeming value that you continue to watch only because you can't believe their propensity for creative, endless villainy.
Netflix's House of Cards was created for bingers like us. When the series debuted, it was released in its entirety so that people--some even more addicted than we are--could watch every last episode in a long weekend. We're not that gone. It took us a week, maybe. Maybe.
Lately, for us anyway, it's ABC's big winner, Scandal, the eternally circling story of Olivia Pope, a tough-as-nails "fixer," who gets rid of other people's problems but can't begin to unwind her own, a good guy who's really a bad guy, but underneath all that is really a good guy with a bad problem she may not be good enough to get rid of. You know--just another blindingly strange tv anti-hero.
How bad is she, you ask? She's rigged the last Presidential election in tandem with a whole cadre of thugs who perform their dastardly feats, including murder, at government's highest level, including the President, with whom, by the way, she's having an on-again, off-again torrid affair, a President who got shot through the head not many episodes ago (a set up by one of his closest advisors), then experienced a miraculous recovery, only to become a drunk because he finds his every move corralled by scheming b____ of a wife, who induced her own labor in order to create photo ops that would keep her philandering husband from divorcing her, thereby holding on to power. Or something like that. Last night (by our binge calendar) this Pres murdered an aging, scheming Supreme Court Justice by choking her, but then she was already in a hospital, dying of cancer. It might have been almost euthanasia, if he hadn't been blind with anger.
I'm not making this up.
It's soap opera, but then almost all of our stories are these days. We're an American viewing public--and reading public--so bored with our lives that we imbibe forms of fantasy like a drunken sailor on a weekend pass. Even reality TV isn't, Storage Wars or Duck Dynasty.
If we are our stories, then most of us are dreamy-eyed and drug-addled. We lose ourselves in fantasies like Scandal because in those shows, thank goodness, nothing's real.
And then, along comes Gov. Chris Christie. Really, I like the guy. He's no-nonsense, and he cuts through so much of the prissy fabric of milk-toast political sweet talk that you can't help but think he's a man you'd like sitting for a spell in your own back yard. He's capable of and willing to cross party lines, a Republican whose through-the-roof ratings are made more unbelievable by the fact that he's in the cockpit of a heavily Democratic state.
And then along comes Bridgegate, and we're slumming in yet another soap opera, even though the stakes are less prodigious--nobody's dead, for pity sake, even though thousands upon thousands must have been mightily p.o.ed.
Is there no end?
We watched House of Cards, one episode after another, and by the end I started to get sick unto death of the peregrinations of a particularly perverse congressman and his own Lady Macbeth, a couple who live in a world where the only redemption is revenge and play political hardball in a fashion that makes Chris Matthews look like a t-baller.
I think I'm getting jaded. With Bridgegate, life imitates art (so to speak) in a fashion that makes me wonder what medium I should quit first--tv news or tv entertainment.
But I can't stop now--we're just about through the second season of Scandal and things are staying white hot. Don't touch that dial. There's a mole in the Oval Office. Seriously. I'm not kidding.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:56 AM