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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Fast Food Limbo: stupid queue systems

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 22nd november 2011.

Ladies and gentlemen, for your enjoyment this Tuesday, I’d like to have a rant.

I accidentally wandered into a popular fast food joint the other day to find that the traditional queuing system had been replaced by…I have no idea. I lined up in front of a register, as I have done since I was little and the food, for lack of a better word, came in foam boxes. Once my order was taken, I remained in my place, only to be asked to step aside for the person behind me.

Fair enough, but where was I supposed to go? If I move to the right, I’m in front of the next register. Same deal if I go to the left. I can’t go backwards either. There are people lined up behind me there. If I go forwards, I’ll need to put on an ill fitting uniform and work for minimum wage.

With no obvious place to go and no instructions forthcoming, I took a half step to the side and waited for…I have no idea. I didn’t have a number, RTA style, to play the “renew your driver’s licence bingo game”. I wasn’t even given one of those red flashing square things. And why exactly do they only flash red? Are there no other colours available?

They didn’t take my name either, like those expensive juice places. Buying a “tropical heavenly bliss” with extra wheatgrass is my only opportunity to use my real name, Shakespeare. And what’s with the crazy product names anyway? I’m buying a smoothie, not a state of consciousness.

I guessed that they would call out my order. The problem was, there are quite a few common combinations on the menu. Who ordered the unhappy meal? Ah, everyone?

Before I knew it, other hungry folk were lining up behind me to place their orders. I sheepishly explained that I wasn’t actually in a queue. I was in a kind of burger limbo.

When did the system change and exactly what are the new rules? I know from the TV ads that I inexplicably need to peel the sticker from the top right hand corner, but I don’t have a clue about how to get to my lunch.

Culturally, we’re taught from a very early age to queue up for things. From lining up at the school canteen for a sausage roll, space food stick and a packet of Burger Rings to passport control at the airport to waiting 2 hours to ride the Pepsi Max Big One roller coaster at Blackpool, the rules are the same.

When someone deviates from the traditional queuing system that is burnt into our brains, like the thankfully abandoned Orange Post Office alternating double queue system, people get confused.

I hate lining up for stuff as much as the next person, but at least I know where I stand, both literally and figuratively. Next time I feel the urge for junk food, I’ll take the drive through. At least I know how that works. Line up in the car, order and pay at the first window, pick up your order at the second window, and then drive home to find out that they forgot your fries. Simple.