Binge-Worthy – By Peter Ellis

This Friday I present to you, my list of Binge-Worthy shows.

A binge-worthy television series is one that rewards you the more you pay attention, which is easy because, if they’re good, they grip your attention so well that you don’t want to miss a second. If you want to live in another world for hours at a time, then getting into a binge-worthy series is the way to go. These series are designed to make you invest in them.

In the United States, the production philosophy aims to get us to spend more time reading about the series on the internet and talking to our friends about it than we spend actually watching it. This is because, with ease, the best advertising for a binge-worthy series is the sheer volume of content created by its fans and posted on the internet. For example, think about all of the memes that HBO’s Game of Thrones spurred!

The thing is, binge-worthy television series usually need time to get you hooked. Usually this means you’re going to need to watch a full season before you get hooked, but sometimes it can be a lot quicker. People are often averse to these series because of how long they are, but you’ll going to be wishing that they’re even longer by the time you finish them. These are my four recommendations:

Breaking Bad (US) (Crime Drama, Rated MA 15+) Available on STAN.

For me, the gold-standard for binge-worthy television series is the AMC drama Breaking Bad (which you can stream on STAN, along with its spinoff Better Call Saul). I know what you’re thinking—it’s such a big commitment! But I would strongly advise you to believe the hype that surrounds Breaking Bad, because once you start you won’t want to stop. Watching high school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) ‘break bad’ after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer is one of the greater televisual pleasures of the 21st century. Walter desperately wants to provide for his family before he dies, or at least that’s what he tells himself. Eventually, his criminal proficiency brings him a kind of success that will swallow him up, as his character grotesquely contorts from a kind-hearted family man to the skilled sociopathic criminal ‘Heisenberg’.

It is very violent, so be warned, but what makes this series sing isn’t the violence or the crime, but the artistry in its exploration of humanity. Also, as with any good series, it is funny! You might find yourself laughing out loud one minute, and then grasping at your heart in harrowing despair the next. Sometimes you’ll do both: for example, in the series’ fifth season there is a vividly violent prison killing spree that we watch while listening to Nat “King” Cole’s rendition of the smooth feel-good jazz classic ‘Pick Yourself Up’. The song is a real knee-tapper, and you’ll find yourself smiling to the sound of its delightful rhythm, while also grimacing in polar contrast to the depiction of the ten horrific murders that take place in various prisons. Everything about the audio and the visuals in Breaking Bad services the manic humanity that it explores, never offering the good without a slice of the miserable, and never demonstrating the harrowing without consoling us with something light. It’s bloody great!

Watchmen (US) (Dystopian Pseudo-Superhero Drama) (Rated MA 15+) Available on Foxtel.

Now, maybe you read that word ‘superhero’ and now you’ve turned off and you won’t even read the rest of this… Well, don’t! Watchmen is a story about how the racist history of the United States can reverberate down through generations, demonstrating how the violent lines drawn in its racist past are still present, even celebrated, today. Simultaneously, it explores the paranoia and mistrust that is sewn throughout the American population after decades of lies from its government and its media. Also, it features time-travel, science-fiction technology and biology, action, and mystery.

The Fall (US/UK) (Crime/Thriller, Rated MA 15+) Available on Netflix.

Gillian Anderson stars as the flawed and complicated detective, Superintendent Stella Gibson, who is tasked with trying to catch and prosecute the charmingly psychopathic serial killer, Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan). The Fall owes a lot to Scandinavian television crime dramas, successfully sewing the style and tone traditionally found there into its classically British characters and locales. This makes for a deeply moreish binge-worthy series. If you like criminal mysteries, and who doesn’t, then you should watch it, AND it’s just three seasons long, with only seventeen episodes in total—an easy binge if ever there was one!

Six Feet Under (US) (Family Drama) (Rated MA 15+) Available on Foxtel.

Well I can’t EXCLUSIVELY recommend violent dramas, I suppose. HBO’s 00s drama Six Feet Under is as compelling and complex as dramas come. Created by Alan Ball, who also wrote the 1999 Academy Award-winning film American Beauty, the series follows the lives of the Fishers, a family who run a funeral home. While it doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, the series’ exploration of death and personal identity is surprisingly hilarious and relatable.

More Binge-Worthy Recommendations:

Netflix: The Staircase, Mad Men, American Crime Story: The People v O.J. Simpson, Umbrella Academy, The Fall, Making a Murderer, Black Mirror, Wanderlust, Ozark, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Peaky Blinders, The Crown.

STAN: Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Honourable Woman, Sherlock, Twin Peaks, Hannibal, Misfits, Orphan Black, Sons of Anarchy, Preacher, The Handmaid’s Tale, Dexter.

Amazon Prime: The Man in the High Tower, The Expanse, Transparent, American Gods, The Shield.

SBS On Demand: The Handmaid’s Tale, Homeland, Broadchurch, The New Pope, Twin, An Ordinary Woman, Shrill.

ABC iView: Killing Eve, Humans, Stateless, The Capture.

Other: The Sopranos, Chernobyl, Atlanta, Barry, Battlestar Galactica (2003), Boardwalk Empire, Sharp Objects, True Detective, The Wire, Westworld, My Brilliant Friend, The Morning Show, The Mandolorian, Deadwood.

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