Monthly Archives: December 2013

Binge-viewing bonanza, part 2

My binge-viewing habit started with movies. It was a snowy weekend while I was living in a little town just north of Niagara Falls. I didn’t have many friends at the time, so naturally I went to the video rental store. I still recall that blissful, wintry weekend of binging on the Godfather movies.

So I was surprised to see so few movies recommended for my binge-viewing list. Maybe it’s because you have to go back a ways for the really good stuff, and that stuff isn’t top-of-mind. (Facebook favors the top-of-mind.) And it’s true there is an embarrassment of riches on television these days. But I did receive a handful, including one fabulous trove of suggestions from my old friend and colleague Joe Vince. Anyway, here goes.

First, the paltry list from my non-Joe friends:

  • Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors trilogy: “Bleu”, “Bialy”, “Blanc”
  • The Harry Potter series
  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, ending with The Hobbit and then a trip to theater to see “The Desolation of Smaug”

All worthwhile films for sure, but a tiny selection. Joe’s list makes up for it. Here goes (I am repeating it verbatim):

Neo-Noir by Decade: Start with Lee Marvin in “Point Blank” (1967), then “The Long Goodbye” (1973), throw in Michael Mann’s “Thief” (1980) and Soderbergh’s “Out of Sight” (1997) and end with “Brick” (2005) and “Killing Them Softly” (2012)

Orson Welles (Minus “Citizen Kane” and “The Magnificent Ambersons”): “The Third Man,” “Lady From Shanghai,” “Mr. Arkadin,” “Touch of Evil” and “F For Fake.” If you’re feeling particularly game, end it with the animated “Transformers: The Movie” from the 1980s.

My Top 12 Movie Christmases: All of these are set during the season or have excellent Christmas scenes. “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” The Thin Man,” “GoodFellas,” “The Godfather,” “Die Hard,” “Boogie Nights,” “The Apartment,” “Brazil,” “Go,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Trading Places,” and “LA Confidential.”

“The Story of Film: An Odyssey”: OK, this is one thing, a 15-part British documentary series (each episode is an hour) that’s on Netflix and is phenomenal. I binge-watched this earlier this year, and it was a revelation. Biggest downside: The narrator’s voice is haunting, and I don’t mean that as a good thing. He’s Irish, but his accent and inflections are quite possibly the most discordant in the history voice-over narration. Not enough to make me not recommend the series, but enough to fill my sleeping hours with dread. A the kids say, tho, your mileage may vary.

Happy Holidays, everyone! See you next year.

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Filed under Musings, Obsessions

Binge-viewing bonanza! Or, what I am doing over my holiday vacation

I am about to experience two blissful weeks of Living Lightly. No holiday travel, four days off work (plus two weekends), barely any holiday parties, and a lovely low-stress boyfriend who does a lot of the cooking. When it dawned on me that this would be the case, I naturally thought: BINGE VIEWING.

I’ve got the time, I’ve got the couch, I’ve got the excuse (super cold and snowy outside). Just one catch. I have run out of ideas. I set up a binge-viewieng wish list a while back, and I’ve gone through most of it. What’s left is either outdated or, well, at the bottom of the list.

So I decided to crowd-source:


I was not quite prepared for the response. I received roughly 70 comments and 98 recommendations in all. And boy are they an eclectic mix.

I was so overwhelmed by the choices — and my friends’ enthusiasm — that I felt I should share. I think it’s a list that will help humankind. Consider it my holiday gift to you, my way of preventing you from wasting your time on untested BBC series, or questionable Showtime productions, or B-list HBO programming.

But first — a few observations.

The number-one most frequently recommended binge-viewing series: House of Cards (12 recommendations). Almost no one specified original BBC version versus Netflix, but given how recently it was promoted on Netflix I’m gonna guess the Kevin Spacey version was the impetus.

This was followed by:

  • Orange is the New Black (7 recommendations)
  • Downtown Abbey (6)
  • Homeland (6)
  • Game of Thrones (5)
  • Scandal (4)

And then it drops off.

My personal favorites were the surprises — lesser-known British series (thanks, Jeff, for tipping me off about Mapp & Lucia), or old gems (Twin Peaks!) or newer options I had overlooked (Portlandia and American Horror Story look pretty great). On the other hand, I am kind of shocked at some oversights (Rome! True Blood! Battlestar Galactica! People, come on!). And of course, there is a natural filter in that these come from my Facebook friends, and therefore from people inclined to have tastes, cultural references, and quirks similar to mine, for better or worse.

So here’s the list. I am breaking it into two parts: TV shows and movies. I am starting with TV shows, and am bold-facing ones that I have seen and can recommend. They are in alphabetical order with the number of recommendations listed in parentheses (if more than  one). Check back in the next day or two for the movies. Now, the only thing I need to do is pick what I’ll binge on tomorrow. Yikes.

Arrested Development (2)
Better Off Ted (2)
The Blacklist
Boardwalk Empire
Breaking Bad (3)
Burn Notice
Doctor Who (2)
Call the Midwife
Deadwood (2)
Downton Abbey (6)
The Following
Fresh Meat
Friday Night Lights (2)
Game of Thrones (5)
The Hollow Crown
Homeland (6)
House of Cards (12) (I saw the BBC version)
The IT Crowd
The Killing (2)
Life on Mars (the original British version) and its spinoff Ashes to Ashes
Mad Men
Mapp & Lucia
Monarch of the Glen
Nurse Jackie (2)
Once Upon a Time
Orange is the New Black (7)
Orphan Black (2)
Realtree’s Monster Bucks XVII
Scandal (4)
Sex in the City
Six Feet Under (2)
Slings and Arrows
Sons of Anarchy
The Top of the Lake
Treme (2)
Tudors (3)
Twin Peaks
The Wallender series
The White Queen
West Wing
The Wire


Filed under Musings, Obsessions