A Game of Binge Watching – Game of Thrones

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 7th January 2014.

The way we consume entertainment has changed, and the studios know it. No longer are we obediently tuning in once a week for a fix of our favourite TV show. Instead, we are turning to “binge watching” and the market is adapting to our needs.

Many moons ago, when I was studying at university, the highlight of the week would be my weekly episode of The X-Files. Every Thursday night, I’d sit transfixed by the spooky adventures of Mulder and Scully, and Friday morning would be dedicated to the dissection of the storyline with my mates, between lectures of course.

Dominant US streaming service, Netflix, fired a shot across the bow of traditional television   content providers last year when they began to produce their own exclusive series. House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black both premiered to critical acclaim. The resurrected Arrested Development and Hemlock Grove were met with mixed reviews. Instead of a traditional weekly release schedule, these new shows were unleashed upon the world in complete season blocks. Viewers could watch episodes at their own pace.

Combined with the ever popular DVD box sets, iTunes downloads and marathons on pay TV, the pressure is off to timetable TV viewing. Binge watching is the new normal, and I experienced it for the first time this past weekend. Say goodbye to sleep and hello to Game of Thrones.

Lauded by critics and fans, I was well aware that Game of Thrones, based on the popular books by George R. R. Martin, would be a must-see on my never ending list of movies and TV shows to eventually watch. However, I kept putting it off as I was reluctant to deal with its large ensemble cast and complex, political storyline.

Spurred on by my significant other, who has already devoured every available episode, I was inspired to purchase the double season box set on blu-ray (I don’t steal media) and begin my binge. Let the games begin.

My Game of Thrones experience had a confusing start when I accidentally watched the second episode first. Initially impressed by the brazenness of the writers to begin the show mid-storyline, my enthusiasm soon turned to frustration. I didn’t have a clue what was going on.

A quick check of an episode guide online set me straight and I begin in earnest. Thankfully, everything made sense this time around and by the third instalment, I was well and truly hooked.

Produced by HBO, home of my beloved Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones is serialised storytelling at its best. Lavishly produced on location mostly in Northern Island, with CGI enhancements, the show is a feast for the eyes, particularly in high definition. The acting is uniformly exceptional, with a cast willing to strip off with great regularity.

With fifteen episodes devoured and five to go before I have to make the critical decision to either wait for the Season 3 box set to become available on February 19 or download the lot now from iTunes, I am well and truly addicted. Besides food and (a little) sleep, nothing will stop me from finishing the show. I’m even fast forwarding the opening credit sequence to get to the story faster.

Game of Thrones Season Four will premiere early this year. It’s already in my diary.

Published in: on January 7, 2014 at 16:59  Leave a Comment  
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Transformers 3: less than meets the eye

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 5th July 2011.

Like many movie goers this weekend, I took in a screening of the much anticipated Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Directed with the subtlety of a sledgehammer by Michael Bay (Bad Boys, Pearl Harbor, Armageddon), this 157 minute toy commercial was shot in 3D with the assistance of little known director, James Cameron. Mercifully, my session was in 2D. Whilst I was initially excited by the prospect of 3D cinema, I’m now over it completely. The glasses are uncomfortable and make me look like Buddy Holly pre-crash, plus I find the picture a little too dark and cannot follow the action.

The crazy thing about the Transformers sequels is that they are so unnecessarily complicated. I could not tell you what the storyline of the latest film is about. There’s plenty of running, explosions and shooting.  And not much of the movie takes place on the moon.

As a card carrying member of Generation X, I grew up playing with Transformers toys (I even had the opposition toy range, Machine Men or GoBots) and watching the cartoons. My dream Transformers movie would be the realisation of the battles that took place in my head and on the living room floor when I was a kid.

How about this for the perfect Transformers movie? Optimus Prime and the Autobots explore my mum’s kitchen in search of the Whisk of Power. The evil Megatron teams up with Skeletor and E.T. to locate the Egg Beater of Destiny in the second drawer down and the final battle takes place under the living room table. Chaos ensues until bedtime.

Seriously though, I’m struggling to recall anything that took place in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Nothing has stuck. The trailer certainly made a greater impression. How sad.

And what’s with the title? Did Pink Floyd deny Paramount and Hasbro the rights to their famous album name? If that’s the case, why go with the nonsensical “Dark of the Moon” then? I guess it doesn’t matter. Considering the film is a mess, they probably should have gone with Transformers: A Momentary Lapse of Reason instead.

My recommendation is that you by-pass this holiday’s crop of mediocrity. Jim Carrey’s Mr Popper’s Penguins looks pretty dire. By all reports The Green Lantern is terrible. Harry Potter and the Cauldron of Penguins Part Seven may be the only hope for filmgoers.

If you have pay TV, stay at home and enjoy some of the landmark shows about to kick off. Boardwalk Empire, a 12 part series set in Prohibition era Atlantic City, has just concluded and was absolutely amazing. Executive produced by Martin Scorsese and starring Steve Buscemi, this gripping series was television storytelling at its best.

The next instalment in the Dr Who spinoff, Torchwood, will debut next Saturday. Entitled Torchwood: Miracle Day, John Barrowman returns as Captain Jack Harkness in this ten part season which will explore what happens when the population of Earth stop dying.

Finally, the much anticipated Game of Thrones, another big budget series and starring Sean Bean, will debut on July 17. Based on the popular books by George R. R. Martin, the show follows “kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars and noblemen as they vie for power.” I can’t wait.

Some of the best storytelling is taking place on your idiot box. With toy companies now in the filmmaking business, why not stay home and have a big night in?