Wednesday 7 December 2016

'Binge-watching is the new big thing and it’s getting old very fast' - Pat Stacey

Better Call Saul should be savoured, not gorged...

Pat Stacey

Published 09/03/2016 | 10:52

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut and Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman
Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut and Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman

To binge or not to binge, that is the question. Binge-watching is the new big thing. If you don’t partake of it, you risk being ridiculed.

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“Here’s the whole fourth season of House of Cards — get that down you. What do you mean, you’re feeling stuffed already? Wimp!

“You’ve only watched eight episodes. There’s another seven to go. You’d better get a move on, pal, because that third season of Orange is the New Black you promised to watch last week is not going to stay fresh forever, you know.

“By the way, you looking forward to the new Daredevil? It’ll be on Netflix next week. Hang on . . . are you seriously telling me you haven’t even seen the FIRST one? What, not even one episode? What do you mean, you don’t have the time?

“Jaysus, man, I watched all 13 of them in one day! What’s wrong with you? You need to get a life.”

Yes, binge-watching is indeed the new big thing. And in the manner of all new big things, it’s getting old very fast, and getting annoying even faster.

Just as, not all that long ago, the sentence, “Oh, I never watch television, I only watch box-sets” (as though the two weren’t connected) got old very fast — and so annoying that uttering it should have been entered into the statute book as a punchable offence.

Without wishing to come across as uncool Mr Uncool, winner of the Seriously Uncool Competition, I don’t binge-watch a whole lot. I like to taste what I’m consuming.

I’ve done it in the past, but more often than not for the purposes of this column. The closest I came recently to binge-watching purely for pleasure was when I chomped through all 10 episodes of Making a Murderer in a fortnight.

No doubt the average serial binge-watcher would regard this as the viewing equivalent of the Atkins Diet. Or perhaps slow death by malnutrition.

Better Call Saul is probably the best argument there is right now against binge-watching. The fact that we’re drip-fed it the old way — one episode lands on Netflix every Tuesday morning, a few hours after its been shown on AMC in the US — leaves us hungry for more, yet having to wait a full week for the next instalment just makes you savour every one of its roughly 42 minutes per episode.

And Better Call Saul is a series worth savouring. It repays a slower, more considered watch. So far, the second season has been a succession of shiny and perfectly formed jewels.

Creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould aren’t afraid to nudge the Jimmy/Saul story arc to the edge of the picture now and again in order to give the other main characters room to breathe and grow.

This week’s episode, Gloves Off, saw Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) jeopardising his and Kim’s (Rhea Seehorn) jobs, not to mention their personal relationship, when he rang an unauthorised TV commercial aimed at soliciting clients in the care home suit.

Law firm HH&M dump Kim onto lowly filing duties, while Jimmy’s enraged boss (Ed Begley Jr) at Davis & Main tells him that one more strike and he’s out.

But taking centre stage was Mike (Jonathan Banks). If the series is ultimately about how Jimmy McGill became Saul Goodman, this was about how Mike wasn’t always the Mike we knew, or rather will know, in Breaking Bad.

Having enlisted Jimmy to get the dopey would-be drug runner with the hideous Humvee off the hook with the cops (a hilarious scene that defies description in print), Mike eschews Nacho’s offer of $50,000 to kill his unstable partner Tuco and instead concocts a clever set-up that leaves Tuco facing a five-to-ten stretch and Mike battered and bruised, but $25,000 richer. The later Mike would have taken the 50 grand and pulled the trigger.

I doubt many will watch, let alone binge on, Fuller House, a sequel to a US sitcom called Full House that ran from the late-80s to the mid-90s.

The reviews Stateside have been savage and it’s easy to see why. Taped in front of a pumped-up studio audience who screech hysterically at everything and nothing, it’s like a deliberately bad parody.

One taste of this sugary, nostalgic slop and you’ll choke on your own vomit. Horrendous.

Better Call Saul season 2 first episode review - 'quietly, cleverly propulsive'  

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