Once upon a time, a long time ago, there were just four TV channels in the UK. Programmes were just 30 minutes long, and were on just once a week, too. It was a simple time, some say a better time, but honestly… it was boring!
Then along came streaming services and everything got a fair bit better.
The best thing about living in the age of streaming is the constant option to binge content on an almost biblical level. With multiple streaming platforms all producing new shows every single week, it would be very simple these days to simply fill your days with hour after hour of quality television.
Some shows run for multiple seasons and that's great, but there is also something special about those shows that pack a lot into a single, perfect and utterly binge-able run.
Here are three great examples.
- Where: Disney+ (also on BBC iPlayer in the UK)
- Stars: Martin Freeman, Adelayo Adedayo, Warren Brown, Ian Hart, Mark Womak
- Created by: Tony Schumacher
There is a point during this series when Martin Freeman's protagonist Carl declares to a blatantly uninterested and overworked therapist that "this job has broken me". This admission, given at a point of absolute despair, is the crux of the show and the point at which the true nature of his character is laid bare. Modern life and especially modern policing breaks those involved. It breaks their spirit, it removes hope, and it breaks down the morality of those it touches.
It is from this base point on which the five-part drama, The Responder, is set.
Made (and originally broadcast) by the BBC and now available on Disney+, it follows a troubled police officer on his nightly shifts as a first responder on the streets of modern day Liverpool. The show gives us a first hand and brutally honest look at policing and the levels of damage, both mental and physical, it inflicts on those who take up the role. It is dark, gritty, unflinching and serves as a solid depiction of post traumatic stress and the ease in which good men can bow to the pressure of corruption and coercion.
In stark contrast to many police dramas out today, there is no real resolution to The Responder, no real victory, just a sense of survival and problems that will simply repeat. It is also, at only five episodes, a perfect single binge.
Although there is a second season in the pipeline, so it's best to get the first done and dusted sooner than later.
- Where: Netflix
- Stars: Nick Zano, Shelly Hennig, Terrence Terrell, Paola Lazaro, C Thomas Howell
- Created by: Julia Lillis Cohen, Bob Dearden
There are some shows that are great because of the basics, such as fantastic direction, beautiful cinematography, and award winning performances... then there is Obliterated. It is a show so universally bad in every respect that it crosses the line into essential viewing.
The plot of the show, for what it is, revolves around a group of special forces-style FBI agents tasked with taking down a terrorist threat involving a proposed nuclear attack on Las Vegas. From those very basic bare bones, the show goes off on what can only be described as "a tangent".
Imagine the 2000s show 24, but instead of tense drama and intrigue you had copious amounts of drug use, full frontal nudity, sex toys, binge drinking, gore, gremlins, male strippers and, of course, a drunk camel. It's blatant in its disregard for current values, bold to the point of being indulgent, and seemingly unafraid to cross any and all boundaries.
But, with all that being said, if you can get through the first 20 minutes, you will find it an entertaining binge... like eating a huge kebab at 3am.
- Where: Amazon Prime Video
- Stars: Emily Blunt, Chaske Spencer, Stephen Rea, Rafe Spall
- Directed by: Hugo Blick
Tales of revenge are nothing new, but few are centered on a female lead.
The English tells the simple story of a mother driven to revenge through the murder of her son. She has travelled across the world, from England to a newly-founded America, to kill those responsible and will stop at nothing from achieving this.
However, even with this basic premise, it is an absolute tour de force and works on every level. A fabulous script by Hugo Blick exhibits deft ducking and weaving, and some clever conceals and reveals. There is also a great sound-track and music (Federico Jusid), phenomenal cinematography (Arnau Valls Colomer), and a great cast of actors, with Emily Blunt and Chaske Spencer taking the lead.
Every word spoken and minor action adds to the dramatic tension and exposition – with the camera work catching every nuance. It all adds up to truly top shelf direction and production (Blick and Blick and Blunt respectively).
There is no sentimentality in The English. The brutality of the Wild Western times are highlighted perfectly and at no point do you feel safe. There is a constant looming dread over every scene and every character is flawed in their own way. There are no heroes here, just people trying to survive during a time of huge upheaval.
Special mention has to go out to Rafe Spall who, through the character of David Melmont, brings to screen one of the greatest TV villains in modern times. An absolute psychopath who repulses in every scene he is in... a stunning performance.
Running at only six episodes, the show is perfect for a binge watch although you should expect to be drained by the end. This is not an easy afternoon watch.