Remote Out-of-control: When Vacation Leads to TV Binge-watching

Haaretz's TV column has to come to terms with missing out on series he's committed himself to.

Michael Handelzalts
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Alicia Florrick, played by Julianna Margulies, may be entering politics in “The Good Wife.”
Alicia Florrick, played by Julianna Margulies, may be entering politics in “The Good Wife.”
Michael Handelzalts

here was this illusion I’ve been clinging to for many years, that life – my life – can enfold me like a seamless fabric, with me moving along it and within it without the constant need to mind the gap, watch my step and look out for the loose thread that is going to trip me up.

However, it seems to me now, having been on a short vacation and back, that it’s high time for me to kiss that illusion goodbye. Actually, the very fact of going away for a time – short as it may have been, a mere week – brings the message home to you. You may have replenished your reservoirs of energy and the old joie-de-vivre, but returning to routine within your family and work place necessitates a lot of readjustment; you must sew yourself back into the fabric, so to speak, that was managing without you for a while. This requires the aforementioned reservoirs and depletes them anew.

I’m not going to bore you with details of my personal life to prove my point (you wouldn’t care, but my family would). The easiest way – in my view – to show you what I mean is by telling you how someone with a weekly TV column (that’s me) comes to terms with having had to skip some episodes of a series he has committed himself to. Yes, that is my predicament: When I see episode one, I’m doomed to all that follow – so when I arrive back I have to make up for lost time by forced binge watching, so as to be on top of the plot and understand who is doing what to whom and with whom.

I have to fill myself in with missed episodes of the daily Israeli medical-procedural-criminal-supernatural series “Temporarily Dead”; the new selfie-celebrity series “Very Important Person,” with a local TV matinee-idol icon, Yehuda Levi, deconstructing himself; and 
readjust to the earth-gravity of Halle Berry’s conceived-in-space baby on “Extant.” And these are only three of the more important TV yarns in which I wallow. Do I binge watch the entire missed portion of one series and then the other? Or do I do it by seeing an episode of each in turn? Ah, the dilemmas of a TV junkie.

All that is a major time- and energy-consuming business, which must be taken care of while threading between the bursting seams of one’s personal and professional life, telling the boss and she who must be obeyed: “But I have to fill myself in on the details of the series I’m addicted to.” This doesn’t wash as an excuse for neglecting one’s other duties.

The other problem with taking time off from your usual schedule of work and play (and with me, oddly enough, some “play” – TV viewing – may count as “work,” is that by the time you come back, there are new series or seasons to attend to. Usually those are series returning for a new season after a hiatus, in which you may have forgotten what was going on and why it mattered. So, on top of your viewing debts, you have to find time for some sampling of seasons 
bygone, which are usually offered to your kind on VOD, so you may binge watch as well. By the time you are through with all those binges, your TV stomach will be bursting at the seams.

But enough bemoaning my fate (which is really not that bad). Let’s 
concentrate on the new seasons of old series coming to regale us in evenings to come. Say hello to season 6 of “The Good Wife,” to be with us every Monday on Yes, starting September 22 (a day after the U.S. broadcast on CBS), with seasons 1-5 available on Yes VOD.

The wife of the title is the lawyer Alicia Florrick, played by Julianna Margulies (the unforgettable nurse Carol of “E.R.” fame), with two Emmys to her credit for the role already, and she has had more than 11 million viewers following her escapades in season 5. By the way, the median age of “The Good Wife” viewers has been rising steadily with the seasons: it was 56.8 for season one, and 60.1 for the first episodes of season 5. Hopefully, by the end of season 6 my age (65) will fit. “Blue Bloods,” another series I have to fit in anew, has the oldest audience on network TV, 62.3, which is a very dubious achievement, as the age segment that matters most for ratings and renewal purposes on American TV is 18-49.

Alicia is the “good” – a very ambivalent adjective under any circumstances, and we are talking here about a legal-political-techno-savy drama, where a lot depends on circumstantial evidence anyway – wife of Illinois governor Peter Florrick, (Chris Noth, who was Mr. Big in “Sex and the City”), but the two pursue separate though parallel careers, with one’s path influencing the other. She is back practicing law after many years of being a housewife. She had been working in one office and is now running her own firm, jostling for clients with her former partners. The high – and debatable – point of season 5 was the unexpected, and arbitrary murder of Will Gardner (the actor Josh Charles), former partner and tentative flame of Alicia, which had her, and the plot and viewers, reeling and readjusting till the last episode of the season.

There were some spoilers in the American press before the premiere of season 6, but I’m not going to repeat them here, since I know what’s good for me. The only two things that are known for certain and cannot be seen as spoilers, are a new character in the series, a legal commentator, played by David Hyde Pierce (he played Dr. Niles Crane, brother of NBC’s “Frasier”), and the fact that Alicia is mulling the possibility of running for attorney general, crossing openly into the political arena where her husband thrives.

So, as you can see, no respite for the wicked (that’s me again). And as for my illusions, there’s a distinct possibility that the whole fabric of our lives is made up of seams, or better still, it’s a patchwork quilt (composed of work, love, TV series, hate, boredom, etc.) held together by the thread that is us. Happy sewing.

Chris Noth plays Alicia’s husband, Illinois governor Peter Florrick. Parallel careers.