Happy New Year everyone.
All too late, I realise I should probably have made a resolution (apart from my normal “detox for the rest of January as soon as the food’s all gone”). It's hard when the date on the Brandy cream is mid Jan and no-one else likes Christmas cake or pudding. Pretty sure I'm man enough for the task, though.
Trouble is, until the last decoration is down, I can’t get out of all the bad habits I picked up over Christmas. Like having a tiny glass of Bailey’s Irish Cream with my last cup of coffee (which is just before I go to bed) – for some reason, I’m immune to caffeine. Probably because I only have half a teaspoon – it’s little more than hot milk. But as well as the chocolate or cookie (just to stave of night-time rumbly-tummy), I’m now having rich fruit cake with a slice of cheese and brandy cream with it. Like ten minutes before I hit the sack. Does it get any worse, figure-wise? Yep, that half-stone (7lbs) I packed on since September is rapidly growing. If the January detox doesn’t shift it, we then have Lent – 40 days of giving up stuff (booze, snacks and not exercising). That should sort it.
But this pales into insignificance compared to the very worst habit of all. Binge-watching. I never even knew it was a thing til Bri got the new TV. One of those mega-huge curved things the rest of the world’s been watching for half a decade. And then he really stuffed me good. He put Netflix on it. Ai Caramba.
So on Sunday, my son and I watched two Castle episodes before lunch. Then Bri gave him a lift down to Horsham and I was looking forward to 7 hours solitary writing. The best laid plans.
What did I do? A couple of thousand words for the 3rd book in the Hostage series? Nope. My daughter and I watched 6 episodes of Orange is the New Black. Back-to-back with a couple of pee-breaks and incessant replenishing of the wine glasses and snack bowls as the credits ran. Aarrgghh.
I’m trying to analyse how I’ve gone from a girl who only watched one soap and one series a week to someone who can do eight 1-hour shows in a day.
Let’s back-pedal to when my kids were young. My guilty sin is Coronation Street – a British TV soap where many excellent screen/TV writers cut their teeth. I watch it because unlike most soaps, it really doesn’t take itself seriously. The humour, pathos and fantastic (in the true meaning) characters/situations make it a fabulous half-hour.
I would also watch any kind of Star Trek and Dr Who, and this progressed to Space 1999, Babyon 5 and more recently Firefly (what’s not to like about Joss Whedon’s writing?). But back then, you had to wait around until it came up in its once-weekly slot and each season ran for a few months then there was a big gap. It was a pleasure made more intense by anticipation and moderation.
Then came dozens of TV channels and huge rafts of US imports. We built up our couch potato muscles slowly with a steady diet of sit-coms and intense dramas. And then there were the re-runs and the ability to record series that showed in the wee small hours so if you only caught a show on season 3, you could go back and catch up. Still I managed to keep it down to less than 10 hours a week (not counting Saturday movie night).
All those addictive reality shows? I never watched more than 10 minutes of Big Brother. I managed to keep up with most of a series of the jungle one; never managed a whole episode of X-factor, but religiously watched every minute of Strictly Come Dancing (the UK’s Dancing With The Stars).
Then came the buying of the DVD sets. So whenever my son comes home, we will watch a couple of episodes of something – he has similar Sci-fi oriented tastes and we both like a good murder mystery.
None of this prepared me for the total lack of self-control which happens on Netflix. At least a DVD only holds four episodes and there is always a bit of fun while you try and remember exactly where you got up to last time.
Netflix denies you any pretence of autonomy as it and removes the need for even a remote control. ‘It’s alright love, you just sit there and I’ll remember where you were and start the next one with just enough time to grab another beer/empty out the last one.’
Is this what plugging into the Matrix feels like?
At 2am last night, rolling over to the 4th Orange/Black in a row, we decided that it was completely legitimate research. We were doing this to get a handle on what makes a series so compelling. As soon as we figure it out, we’ll let you know.
Maybe I have got an addictive personality after all.