Apr 2, 2013

My TV Obsessions

The first one was Life on Mars. It was 2006 and I was often alone with two babies and at that stage I wasn't much into the internet. TV was my companion, and stuck in the house I watched a lot of it.

One night I stumbled onto this insanely good British mini series, a cop show with a twist. It was cool and dark and nostalgic without being camp or cute - there was no irony, just smart writing, a compelling plot and characters, and funny reminders of everyday life in the 1970's ("White dog shit," says Sam, staring at the footpath, "That takes me back.")

At that stage we had Foxtel (cut along with other non-essentials a couple of years later), and I think it was on UKTV. It was a repeat and they were screening each episode multiple times a week so I managed to catch most of the episodes of that first series over the next few weeks. Some time later, I bought series one and two on DVD - my first box set DVD series. The second series was as good as the first, and the ending was fantastic. I have to say, these British series that finish in two seasons are very satisfying.

I've watched Life on Mars probably 5 or 6 times - it was that good. I immersed myself in every episode and drank in every detail.

I spent some time briefly then with Vincent and Hustle, and got into Lost before abandoning it after two seasons in disgust. My next proper TV obsession was Mad Men. What's not to like? Everyone's favorite show and for good reason. I came to it late, as we'd cut Foxtel when it first came on and by the time it was screening on SBS some years later I couldn't get to the TV at the times it was on. I finally bought the first series on DVD, and was hooked immediately. I watched series two and three in quick succession, and finally got series four when it came out some time later.  I have recently bought series five, but haven't watched it yet, as I've been diverted by other obsessions....

Next was Homeland. I don't think I'd ever been as riveted by a TV show as I was by Homeland. By this stage I had found Twitter and found some fellow obsessives who tweeted funny and insightful things about the show and likely plot points, and whether or not Damian Lewis is hot (he is). There were also criticisms of Homeland and it's portrayal of Islam, and fair enough - but it's not as gung-ho as 24 and only almost as ridiculous. Anyway, I loved it.  The wait for series two seemed interminable.

But then I was done with season two of Homeland, and as season three was not coming any time soon, clearly I needed something else.

I was given two DVD box sets for my birthday last year: The Thick Of It and Boardwalk Empire. I had little knowledge of either, and it was a little while before I picked up Boardwalk Empire. I knew it was supposed to be good, but it didn't really grab me.  But that was only until I started watching it.... Obsession triggered! I got through seasons one and two pretty quickly and since I couldn't buy season three in the shops yet, I read the episode synopses on IMDB (not really as satisfying, but you do what you have to do).

By this stage I was a convert to the DVD box set (yes, ten years after everyone else). So I went and bought myself Once Upon a Time, as I'd missed it on TV and wanted to see it. Excellent! New obsession underway! Only problem was, that one was quite expensive, as it was new to DVD when I bought it. So while I do want to see season two, I won't be rushing into it, as even I find it quite silly to spend $60 on a DVD season and I won't be doing that again.

So once that was over, I decided I needed a series that had been around for awhile, which I could pick up cheap and have a few seasons available if I liked it. And thus I found my way to my current TV obsession, picking up season one for $20 and then quickly returning for seasons two, three and four:

"I am not in danger. I AM the danger!"

OH MY GOD. Is this THE best TV show ever made, or WHAT?

Actually I can't tell if it is or not - maybe it's just my current obsession. You see, when I'm in the middle of one of these, I have zero interest in any other TV show.  My previous TV obsessions fade to dim memory.  Why is that?  Well, you might respond, because you are a sad individual who needs to get out more. I will not argue that point, but I also think it is due to these factors:

1. Golden Age of Television. It has often been said we are enjoying a golden age of television, marked by original, clever writing and high production values. From The Sopranos onwards, TV drama series have never been so good. I don't think I found myself getting so obsessive before this, when the best that was out there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
2. Limited time for television. Unlike the old days (before children), these days I have very limited time for TV and whether I am scrambling to watch Homeland at 8.30, watching something on DVD or catching a missed episode on the free-to-air channel web viewers, I only have room in my life for ONE television show at a time. (OK, one plus Modern Family, which is my comedy extra). So that one television show has got to be extra good. And if they are extra good, they are addictive.
3. Fragmented attention span. The Internets have destroyed my concentration! I am still reading books, but fewer of them as my time is increasingly eaten away by Twitter, online news sites and, um, playing stupid games on my phone. Somehow at the end of a long day, a DVD is the easiest, most enjoyable option.  It's not just me. DVD box sets and downloading of TV series are booming. Can you even believe we used to wait a whole week between episodes in the olden days, when we watched shows on TV?

But anyway, there are specific extra reasons why Breaking Bad is my current addiction.

The premise is original and really well executed. The transformation of Walt from put-upon good guy to evil drug kingpin is compelling. The viewer goes from loving him to finding him firstly a bit off-putting, then unlikable and finally quite loathsome. His appearance changes too, so that by season four he is unrecognizable from how he was in season one. The protagonist starts off a good guy and ends up a really bad guy. I don't think there's been anything like it on TV before.

Plus it is funny. There's Jesse ("Yeah Mr White! Yeah Science!"). And there are scenes like this one from the season four finale, when Walt faces off against his crooked lawyer Saul's assistant:
Saul's assistant is shredding office documents, all the while ignoring the ringing telephone. There's a pounding at the front door, then the sound of shattering glass. It is Walter, who has broken in in hopes of locating Saul. Tired of another Walter White "emergency" she tells him he can have Saul's number for $20,000. Walter argues. She tells him $25,000. Walt advances on her menacingly, pauses, then says: "I'll be right back". He scrambles back through the broken door and goes to get her money. 

So at the moment I am HOOKED on Breaking Bad and I have no interest in any other show, including series 5 of Mad Men (sitting unwatched on my bookshelf) or hunting down series 3-5 of Boardwalk Empire.

ALL I care about is Walter White, Jesse, Skyler, Hank, Marie, Mike and Saul, and getting hold of season 5!

Meantime, I've read the synopses of every episode on IMDB, and watched every trailer and promo I can find on YouTube. So I know everything that happens, but still I am hungry for more. I must have season five!

Last night, in desperation, I bought season five on iTunes.

24 hours later, the first 3 episodes are still downloading, and my laptop is hot enough to fry eggs on. Will I blow up my computer in my obsession??

Meantime enjoy this Hardly Working video - which unfortunately I can't embed but which includes very good Jesse and Walt impressions, and which proves it's not just me addicted to Breaking Bad.

Do you have DVD obsessions? What's your current one?


  1. Hi Jackie,

    Great idea for a post - I think I will steal that (sorry!!!).

    I stuck with "Lost" but was slightly disappointed.

    Also watched "Ashes the Ashes" - the sequel to "Life On Mars" - also very entertaining.




    1. Steal away PM! It's now a meme :)
      I couldn't get into Ashes to Ashes - I tried.

  2. We download a lot of telly because we can only get BBC channels here. Our current series favourites are:
    The inbetweeners
    Fresh Meat
    New Girl
    The Big Bang theory (latest season)
    30 Rock final season
    Raising Hope
    Modern Family.

    1. I love Modern Family, and enjoy that I can watch it with my kids who also like it. I'm slowly coming round to The Big Bang Theory, as my girls love it (for some reason).
      I need to find a better way to download TV. iTunes sucks! (Or maybe it's my cheap Internet connection).

  3. The Hour was superlative - and The Doctor Blake Mysteries. Looking to see if I can find Game of Thrones in Bali to see if I can find out what all of the fuss is about.

    1. I've wondered about Game of Thrones as well, but not that interested I don't think. But it obviously must be good.



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