Left: Sketch of Stellan Skarsgård as D.I. River in his pinched and stylish suit, contemplating life. Permanent pigment ink and watersoluble dye-based ink on Nideggen in a 7.5 inch square handmade journal turned on end vertically.
Brother of my friend: Have you seen “Man in the High Castle”?
R: No I’ve seen it advertised, isn’t it an adaptation of a book by Philip K. Dick?
The friend’s brother begins to outline the plot. I’m nodding, we’re having an interesting and engaged conversation. It’s a large dinner party and there are enough people that everyone has someone with whom they can converse easily.
Suddenly there’s an interruption.
Wife of the brother of my friend is speaking quickly, without pausing for breath: You told me you watched it all in two evenings. You were BINGE watching. If you didn’t like it all that much then why were you BINGE watching? Why talk about something that you were BINGE watching and didn’t really like, because you’ll never get that time back. That’s over 10 hours that you wasted in two evenings.
I felt badly for my friend’s brother. We were having a fun conversation and now he’s being publicly taken to task about his TV viewing.
I turn to the wife, and with the biggest smile I can put on my face (and if you’ve met me in person you will know that I have an enormous smile that reaches all the way to my eyes) and say sweetly—
But you’re saying "binge" as if it’s a dirty word? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with watching multiple episodes of a TV series in a row. Episode BINGEING is a great thing. Most series are better for it.”
I pause, holding both thumbs up in front of my now amped up smile.
I am, and always will be, the poster child for the Age of Television.
Some people you can never win over. Some people you shouldn’t try to win over, like this woman. The real issue is something other than binge TV viewing habits.
But if you’re a true believer in binge TV viewing too I have a great show suggestion for you. Watch Stellan Skarsgård as Detective Inspector John River of the Metropolitan Police, in the eponymous “River” on Netflix.
There are six episodes that explore the relationship and events in the lives of River and his sergeant Stevie Stephenson, played by Nicola Walker.
Skarsgård is mesmerizing. Silent, contained, propping up the air in the room in some scenes, while busting out on the edge of an emotional breakdown in others. (Walker plays Stevie as gutsy, irrepressible, and the perfect foil to River. Adeel Akhtar is touchingly sincere and pragmatic as another member of the police force.)
There are six episodes and I recommend you watch them two at a time over a three day period. You’ll want to savor the experience but not become overwhelmed by the dark mood and themes.
Ultimately it’s Skarsgård’s acting which lifts the mood from the humdrum pop-psych of other “challenged-detective” dramas and delivers the resonance contained in the excellent script.
Binge viewing, even at only two episodes a day often leads to withdrawal symptoms. This drama will have you thinking about it and the “what ifs” of life long after you watch the final episode.
I've been particularly vague about the details of this show because I didn't want to spoil it. I came upon it without any advance notice. Everyone should have a fresh experience. If you comment on this post please keep that in mind. I'll remove comments which discuss specifics, but I might not get them fast enough.
Written by award winning screenwriter Abi Morgan. Tim Fywell, Jessica Hobs, and Richard Laxton each direct two episodes.