It’s seven o’clock in the evening, the end of the day — time for dinner and a little TV. Or a lot.
We bring our dinner plates to the coffee table and switch on the news. Floods, famine, wars in other countries, regime changes, the Oscars, Brexit; it seems like they have all faded away. These days there is one subject and one subject only: the president of the United States.
After less than an hour of “news,” anchors start repeating themselves, the same opinions expressed in different ways, from different and predictable points of view, the so-called experts and pundits, angry people talking over each other and being difficult to understand. Numbness sets in and we need to escape this daily endless drumbeat.
Binge watching. The first time it was with an old, beloved show — The West Wing. (For those who have not seen it, The West Wing is about a president who is accomplished, intelligent, compassionate, witty, modest, determined and honest, a true leader.) We had seen it in weekly installments on NBC at the turn of the millennium. This time we watched four and five episodes at a time. Some scenes brought tears to my eyes. Intelligence is sexy, while today’s news is oppressive and dull.
That is how we started binge watching and we did it again and again: Mad Men (how society has changed since the fifties!), Last Tango in Halifax (there is hope after seventy!), The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (one could conquer the world with a joke!), Shtisel (the delicate balance between tradition and modern life of the religious Jews in Jerusalem), Downton Abbey (the delicate balance of a vanishing aristocracy), Call my Agent! (in France, like in the US!), and finally A Place to Call Home (the unfortunate Bligh family in Australia can’t get a break).
I have to confess. While we binge watch, we augment our pleasure with cheeses and crackers and wine. With chocolates, and sometimes (over my objections) with apples and oranges, washed and peeled in advance. If my cholesterol is through the roof I know why.
The only rule that we have is no violence — physical violence, I mean. The spiritual one is OK.
My wife says binge watching is like reading a fairy tale to a child at bedtime. I agree. I need it in order to soothe the pain of the day, to wash away the bad taste. I need to stop feeling embarrassed.
And I love the remote.
Reading — the other escape — requires an effort. When I read I have to stay focused, to react, to respond. I have to turn pages, to move around, adjust my light. Watching a TV show is comfortable and simple and it fits the lazy (tired?) part of oneself. They say watching TV is communicating one way.
I am thankful to Amazon, Netflix, HBO, Zulu and other companies streaming the real fake news.
And when binge watching is over, it’s time for the late night comics. Then we laugh and call it a night.
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