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Binge Worthy

Binge Worthy
Jeff Fitzgerald, Genius By

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TV is no longer the ‘boob tube’ (unless you count the copious nudity in the shows on premium cable and streaming services). It is a fully realized medium with much of the highest quality programming in its existence airing as we speak. There is almost literally something for everyone now. You almost have to go out of your way to have your intelligence insulted these days (PROTIP: Avoid the low-numbered channels and anything that fancies itself ‘news’).
If you are, like me, a card-carrying member of Generation X, we probably have more than a few things in common. We went through our slacker phase and our grunge phase, likely both at the same time. We probably still crush on Winona Ryder in Stranger Things as much as we did back in her Heathers days. And we likely were raised sitting in front of the TV.

It's okay to admit it. We're past the days when the boast of "I don't even own a TV" was considered an intellectual badge of honor. TV was our Baby Boomer parents' preferred babysitter. We grew up parked in front of the tube, watching Saturday morning cartoons and ABC after school specials. We were weened on Beverly Hillbillies reruns and, in the South at least, Dukes of Hazard. I became a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan because they were always on TV back in the Seventies in Clifton Forge, Virginia.

TV nowadays is no longer just three channels of the same dumbed-down nonsense. With the advent of cable, there are now hundreds of channels of dumbed-down nonsense. But there's also a treasure trove of quality programming to be found, if only you know where to look for it (hint: rhymes with 'bet fix').

We live in a new golden age of television. There is more worthwhile stuff on the flat screen (you can't rightly call it 'the tube' any more) now than at any other time in the history of the medium, and I'm more than prepared to fight the man who says different. Between cable, HBO, Showtime, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix, if you can't find anything good to watch, it's your own damned fault.

I will admit to you, before we get too far into this diatribe, that I don't really watch all the much TV. When I discover a new show, most likely on Netflix, I binge watch it and/or collect it on DVD. My all-time favorite shows, like HBO's The Sopranos and BBC America's Orphan Black, I discovered on DVD and collected every episode. Other GeniusDome favorites, like BBC America's Ripper Street and the Canadian police drama Flashpoint, I discovered on Netflix and went on a bender. Most of the time, though, the 'Dome is silent but for the click of keys on my computer keyboard, where I sit doing Genius-y stuff.

Outside of football season and a couple of guilty pleasures (Criminal Minds and Bones, both of which I binge on Netflix), I don't watch broadcast TV. I gave up on network TV a long time ago, when the sitcoms stopped being funny and the dramas became formulaic and unintentionally hilarious. Or rather, when I noticed those things about network shows. The final nail in the primetime coffin, for me, was the discovery of The Sopranos.

For the first time, I saw a TV show that was good as a movie. Never mind the taboo thrill of R-rated violence, nudity and profanity, the quality of the acting and the writing was far beyond anything I'd ever seen on the small screen. It was like discovering Coltrane after a lifetime of listening to Kenny G.

George Foreman once said that "Boxing is like Jazz, the better it is, the fewer people appreciate it." It would be just as true if you were to substitute 'television' for 'boxing.' And 'mouth-breathing cretins' for 'people.' Network TV, with few exceptions, has always played to the lowest common denominator in the interest of drawing the largest possible audience. I grew up in an era when there were three channels (not counting PBS, and let's not get me started on them), and we were at the mercy of whatever disposable fluff the programmers dished out. We watched such mind-numbing tripe as Gilligan's Island and The Love Boat because we had few other choices for entertainment.

Of course, we could always have turned off the TV and read a book or listened to a Jazz album. But it has been proved that television incites the startle reflex, the same thing we experience when our senses our momentarily heightened by something unexpected. It's the same feeling as when I first heard that 'Dome crush Heather Lind was momentarily nude in the show Boardwalk Empire. Except TV keeps us suspended in that state, instead of eventually getting back to work because as alluring as the comely Ms. Lind may be, these articles don't write themselves.

TV, by this time, had become our default entertainment choice because radio had devolved into nothing but music and talk, and our movie choices were limited by the single screen at the Stonewall Theater. But this is not another article about me growing up in Clifton Forge, Virginia, it's about the current state of television which requires some knowledge of the former state of TV so quiet down and don't make Daddy have to stop the car again.

Moving forward.


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