The Plague-Ground – The Binge Club

Last night, I turned away from the Trump-Biden debate, not because it was another train-wreck, but because it wasn’t.

My appetite for viewing curated chaos is now so refined that, not seeing any, I quickly left, the future of America be damned.

What I did was tune in to Ozark, the hillbilly-heroin series on Netflix. It’s about a wealth manager from Chicago who’s been laundering Mexican cartel money for years. They suspect his loyalty and he flees with his family to the Ozarks in Missouri where most everyone is a killer or a drug dealer. The result? Three 10-episode seasons of some of the finest drama you will ever see.

I’d never heard of Ozark until a friend recommended it. There are half a dozen of us, loosely aligned by our taste, our homebound state, the profound changes in how and what everyone consumes on the screen, and – AND – our growing addiction to serial drama. As they say in AA, one is too many and a thousand is never enough.

The Binge Club never meets, even online. Its members just send increasingly desperate e-mails to each other saying: “Got any?” We need say no more. In our group are two lawyers, a naturopath, a psychiatrist, a film critic (very handy), and a friend from California who lives near a forest, which means she can also watch her forest fire.

Jean and I were late-comers to cable dramas and online streaming. It was 2002 and a friend said: “You should watch The Wire.” We tried. After the first episode, I said to my friend: “We couldn’t understand a word.” He said: “Watch another episode.” So we did and we were hooked. One weekend at our cottage, we watched 8 entire hours of it. We had wasted a whole day of our lives watching TV. On a gorgeous autumn Saturday. Gone. The shame! What was wrong with us?!

Now that I think back, nothing.

What if we had spent that autumn Saturday reading a book for 8 hours? Someone weighty like Jane Austen or Leo Tolstoy or Charles Dickens. But hold on, Dickens’ novels weren’t unclimbable mountains, as they are today. They were published one chapter every week or month. They were serials. They were to the 19th century what Netflix is to the early 21st.

I have to confess, as I look about my den with the walls covered floor to ceiling in books, I haven’t actually turned a page on one in months. I listen to books all the time on my iPhone. But watch a book by turning its printed pages? Not any more.

I’m sure there are parts of my brain and upbringing that are already closing down because of this. But there are also parts that are opening for the first time.

Like a taste for dialogue that is getting plenty of exercise on series like The Capture, The Knick, and The Fall. 

If you spot my weakness for British police procedurals, I plead guilty.

Which brings me to the series that all of us in The Binge Club devour and recommend to everyone, including yourself:

Line of Duty, on Amazon Prime, about a Scotland Yard anti-corruption squad that became the BBC’s best-performing drama in 10 years.

It’s now filming its 7th season. Yes, that’s 7 times 6 episodes per season, which equals 42 episodes in all, which is what used to be a standard work-week, which……..

Line of Duty also has some of the best interview (interrogation) scenes you’ll ever endure.

In order to forestall the very kind of addiction you sense I’m slipping in to right now, Jean and I have a strict one-episode a night policy for everything we watch.

Like last night. I quickly saw that Trump-Biden weren’t saying anything new. So we watched an hour of Ozark over dinner. Then……..well, when that episode ended with the FBI swooping in and……….okay, okay.…..

So I quickly scanned CNN to see if I’d missed anything on the debate, then said to Jean: “Honey, how about just this once we….……..”

There are scads of online book clubs these days. Isn’t it time we had scads of online Binge Clubs too?

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27 replies
  1. Avatar
    Yvonne Worthington says:

    If you can get your hands on A French Village (I had to buy the expensive DVDs), it is brilliant – about how a small French village endures WW2 during the German Occupation. It’s a drama but apparently very authentic. And with SEVEN seasons at about 12 episodes each, it will keep you going for a long time.

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    Catherine Bruder says:

    Not sure if you’ve stumbled upon “Happy Valley”, but I’d recommend it given the above. Also, the first season of “Damages” is excellent.

    Reply
    • Bob Ramsay
      Bob Ramsay says:

      We did see Happy Valley and want more whenever they make the next season. Will take a look at Damages as well. Thanks for the ideas.
      Bob

      Reply
  3. Avatar
    Wendela Roberts says:

    My annual calendar revolves around the release of every new season of Line of Duty. If you like amazing police interviews, you might be interested in last year’s Criminal UK, also Criminal France, Germany, and Spain, on Netflix. Each of these tightly written series has just four standalone episodes.They just released the second series of Criminal UK — just as good as the first. Now I’m going to try Ozark.

    Reply
    • Bob Ramsay
      Bob Ramsay says:

      Wendela — We even saw Season 2 of Criminal UK and loved it more than all of them.
      Ozark is all-consuming!
      Cheers.
      Bob

      Reply
  4. Avatar
    Louise says:

    Join the club! Hinterland, Bodyguard, broadchurch, to name just two or three. And it appears that there are about a half a dozen actors in the UK who get to work on these dramas over and over again. How great is that!!

    Reply
    • Bob Ramsay
      Bob Ramsay says:

      Nancy — Funny you mention that. I first saw it years ago and loved it — especially Foyle, and most especially his young
      driver! — I will return to it with your prompting.
      Cheers.
      Bob

      Reply
    • Bob Ramsay
      Bob Ramsay says:

      Linda — I loved the first episodes of Succession. But Jean, not so much. And since……well, you know….
      Cheers.
      Bob

      Reply
  5. Avatar
    Jane Minett says:

    Loved Line of Duty and Ozark (although I was glad when I finished Ozark … very tense). Try Money Heist (great Spanish crime drama) and Borgen (Danish, not a crime drama, fabulous). Both are now dubbed.

    Reply
  6. Avatar
    Niki G says:

    I would add Treme, an old series from HBO on New Orleans and the impact of the hurricane on the various populations but particularly noted for its brilliant blending of story and authentic music performances. Also Borden, politics, Scandinavian style.

    Reply
    • Bob Ramsay
      Bob Ramsay says:

      I did watch Treme years ago and loved it for the reasons you did. But I never finished it.
      Now, with concentrated viewing time built into my COVID life, I will pick it up.
      Thanks for the recommendation.

      Reply
  7. Avatar
    Frank Whittaker says:

    Strongly recommend “Bosch” based on the novels of ex-LA Times crime reporter Michael Connelly. If you like it there are six seasons of 10 episodes. NetFlix.

    Reply
    • Bob Ramsay
      Bob Ramsay says:

      Frank — 6 seasons, 10 episodes a season. Why, Frank, that’s two months of viewing one episode a night!
      could get us through the winter cold!
      Cheers.
      Bob

      Reply
    • Bob Ramsay
      Bob Ramsay says:

      Will next watch The Queen’s Gambit.
      We’re in the middle of Tehran, but Jean’s attention is fading (she finds the young beautiful Israeli agent uncredible),
      so according to the rules of the house, I will watch the remaining episodes alone!

      Reply

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