Paul Rudd and Aisling Bea… is almost too much to handle on one screen. But TWO Paul Rudds in the one show? Well. Mind explosion. And if that’s not enough, there’s a special guest spot from Alia Shakwat.
Miles (Rudd) is living a mundane existence that is rapidly aging him in Living with Yourself. So he impulsively decides to spend hard earned savings (that was meant for fertility treatments) on a spa day, recommended by a friend.
And then he wakes up buried, wrapped in plastic. Upon returning home he discovers a clone of himself. But that’s not all that has changed. Something within him has come to life. Well, within one of the versions of him. Things are thrilling again— the air feels better, he no longer needs glasses and he has the confidence to kick arse during pitch meetings at work.
And the other (original) version, remains downtrodden by life, devoid of colour and like the juice has been completely sucked out of him.
Surely, it’s most people’s fantasy to be cloned or at least have a clone to help with the housework. As you’d expect, Miles starts putting his duplicate to good use by standing in at parties and so on. The trouble starts when people start preferring the clone. It’s a new and unexplored complexity to be jealous of yourself.
Most episodes alternate between the two Miles’ points of view, with a bonus viewpoint of his wife which strengthens the plot and adds additional dimensions through these perspectives.
It’s an interesting and non confronting look at identity, without being emotionally wrenching like how many dramedies are constructed these days. This is not a criticism, I like it, it’s just nice to have the reprieve and not have to have the dread of what is around the narrative corner. Plus, it retains its stamina throughout the whole season.
You might need to binge watch because the chronology is not the easiest to follow. Any excuse to binge watch, right?
Bonding is loosely based on real life experiences. This original web series details the life of a moonlighting dominatrix and her gay best friend, who becomes her assistant. It was created by Rightor Doyle who has previously worked as a bodyguard for a dominatrix.
Mistress May, the protagonist, who is played by Zoe Levin, is inspiring. She takes absolutely no shit from men both in her personal and professional life. Of course, this poses problems when men genuinely want to get close to her and ends up costing her relationships.
The characters are rich and well rounded and experience rapid transformation and development, which is faster than most modern TV series. What’s most interesting is that the episodes are significantly shorter than most shows. Which is quite a feat to represent such fast transformation within the characters.
There are very cute and enviable dynamics between the entire character set, which will appeal to a millennial audience. There is something completely magical and unique about all the supporting cast who actually pull focus a bit, in particular D’Arcy Carden, which you will know as being Janet from The Good Place.
The final episode of Game of Thrones had a runtime of 85 minutes. And while this lengthy runtime obviously works for such a complex and intricate TV shows. But not everyone has the time, energy and focus to sit through such lengthy episodes no matter how acclaimed or award winning they are. The introduction of streaming services like Netflix and Stan and original web series has done a lot to change the way we consume television programs. But one thing has remained the same: runtime.
Most TV shows run anywhere between 10 – 100 minutes. With the average “hour-long” show running for about 42 minutes and the “half-hour” shows running from about 22 minutes to the full 30, minus commercial breaks (remember commercial breaks?). Most TV shows on streaming services have stuck with this tradition for the most part. Even though they don’t have to adhere to traditional broadcast time slots or commercial breaks. This has led to TV shows with longer runtimes like The Crown. Which has an average runtime of about 60 minutes.
However, streaming companies like Netflix have started realising that shows with long runtimes may not be as popular as they were in the past. Studies have shown that most viewers have short attention spans which they tend to split with their smartphones, tablets, and laptops while watching TV. Their potential antidote to this is the short form episode. Netflix has begun showcasing a small selection of shows with short episodes that run for a maximum of 17 minutes. Shows like I Think You Should Leave and Bonding, It’s Bruno! feature bite-sized plots and short form episodes and seasons that can be completed in the course of a night.
The start of short run times
TV shows with such short runtimes were traditionally reserved for children’s channels like Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon as it’s quite a challenge to act out fully realised story in such a short time. All whilst holding the attention of busy minds. Still, it seems like Netflix is creating more shows that can be told in short chunks as a way to fill the 15-minute per episode niche. For example, the Netflix show, I Think You Should Leave squeezes about five scenes into its short runtime. This meant that the show’s scriptwriters and actors had to make the most of every scene.
However, this format of shorter TV shows is only successful for a specific type of show. Such as those with low stakes and simple storylines that are not compromised as a result of the time constraint. But while this format may be great for some it raises the question: is it possible to act out a complex storyline in that time? And enough to satisfy the viewer and hook them into the journey?
Well, the new Netflix show Bonding attempted this with a fresh and complex story arc which left viewers with mixed reactions. While some viewers appreciated the show’s shorter runtime, others felt that it didn’t manage to build a strong enough foundation for its finale. I, of course, loved it.
TV show timing and plots
While there will always be shows like Game of Thrones that have interesting plots and storylines that can fill an hour without tiring out its viewers, this type of show just won’t work in a 15-minute format. The most compelling TV shows feature several moving parts that make it necessary for them to have longer runtimes. This allows the show to fully develop without having the viewers feel like they are being dragged along. That’s not to say that the idea of TV shows with short runtimes should be scrapped entirely. There’s certainly a place for them. And I predict we’ll see more and more of them in due course (alongside longer shows as well).
In a way, it helps clear up the air surrounding modern TV shows as streaming companies can now easily classify their shows for viewers. The hour-long format can be reserved for epic shows like Game of Thrones, thoughtful comedies and dramas can fall into the 30-minute format while the 15-minute long shows can serve as a filler for those who don’t have enough patience for longer shows. Especially, if you like a quick resolve.
Binge watching TV is a relatively new phenomenon (well, some of us have been doing it for way longer than we should have) which is mostly driven by the ease at which these TV shows are offered up to us. Over the years, there have been several advances in technology that have changed the way we react to media. The introduction of recording devices like the VCR and TiVo allowed people to record shows and movies without having to rely on a TV schedule. It also allowed people to share these shows with their friends and create playlists of popular shows. Seems so retro now, doesn’t it?
DVD and streaming services took this a step further by giving users to entire seasons without having to wait for weekly episodes. This level of access to lots of episodes of the same show, which were originally intended to be viewed once a week is the major starting point for our binge watching.
I remember the first time I seriously binge watched a show. It was about eight years ago and I was housesitting a friend’s house. I told myself I might as well watch twenty minutes of Breaking Bad. This is not hyperbole when I say that I watched it for six hours straight. And thus my love of binge watching was born.
For the love of binge watching
Another reason we love it so much is that binge watching TV actually makes us feel more relaxed. People take solace in the world they choose to tune into and feel more tranquil when viewing this alternate world. However, this relaxed feeling disappears as soon as you turn the TV off and we are subconsciously aware of this. This keeps us watching episode after episode to keep that relaxed feeling going. Can you relate to this relaxation addiction?
Finally, scriptwriters have caught on to the fact that most viewers binge watch their shows and have begun writing for it. This is why I love the entertainment industry. Unlike many other industries, they adapt to their demographics’ behaviour as soon as they notice trends in data.
Most modern TV shows now feature engaging storylines with complex and surprising cliff-hangers to keep their viewers glued. And as we’ve looked at, TV shows are varying their length to suit all sorts of viewers.
Do you remember your first binge watch? What was it?
‘All the same, Murderess is a strong word to have attached to you. It has a smell to it, that word— musky and oppressive, like dead flowers in a vase. Sometimes at night I whisper it over to myself: Murderess, Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt across the floor. Murderer is merely brutal. It’s like a hammer, or a lump of metal. I would rather be a murderess than a murderer, if those are the only choices.’ Quote from the novel, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood.
Alias Grace is a six part Netflix series adapted from Margaret Atwood’s (one of my favourite authors, who also penned such game changers as The Handmaid’s Tale) bestselling novel. Atwood previously wrote about Miss Marks in her 1970s play The Servant Girl. What’s intriguing is that it’s based on the 1843 true story of Grace Marks and Jason McDermott. Written for the screen by award winning screenwriter, Sarah Polley, who is reported to have spent a couple of decades— first approaching Atwood at age seventeen— trying to bring Alias Grace to life. ‘People know they need to look brutally and honestly at the world,’ Polley says about the appeal of Atwood’s work.
The series, starring Sarah Gadon, is a well constructed and haunting story. It details the murder of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery by Marks and McDermott. It has been a popular watch. After only a few weeks on Netflix and Rolling Stone dubbed it ‘…the most relevant show on television.’
Author of Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood
Atwood, who is a celebrated feminist writer, highlighted throughout the novel the differences in the way female and male murders are treated. And how they are perceived and regarded by society (then and now). And, of course, takes an intimate look at The Woman Question.
Atwood has stated about the protagonist and real life Grace ‘…The interesting thing is the way everybody projects their ideas onto Grace.’
Leaves us questioning (as many of the characters are also) is she a victim of the situation and ‘… a good girl with a pliable nature…’ [page 25] (and trying to make the best of) or is she a cold blooded murderer and ‘…cunning and devious…’ [page 25]. It also highlights how a murder is not in and of itself. That people, especially women, are three dimensional, even if they commit what are considered to be evil acts.
Atwood said in this interview with her publisher, Penguin Randomhouse: ‘Other people took the view that women, when they got going, were inherently more evil than men, and that it was therefore Grace who had instigated the crime and led McDermott on. So you had a real split between woman as demon and woman as pathetic.’
Who will like Alias Grace?
It holds something for most audience members. It comprises history, feminist overtones, mental health, supernatural, domesticity (specifically quilting is used as a prominent leitmotif) and— of course— romance. And whilst it may be historical, the themes and concerns are just as present today. Solidifying the necessity to storytell and excavate these themes until the light that touches them to perpetrate radical change. Building on the increasing popularity of flawed female characters and unreliable narrators that we are equally harrowed by and empathetic towards. In the vein of Gone Girl, Girl on a Train, Fates and Furies and Jessica Jones. We are now embracing the idea the women are more multifaceted and whole than they have ever been depicted and that even the most determined murderess still has the capacity to love, feel empathy, create long lasting and meaningful friendships.
Additionally I found the recent series of The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace both pleasingly true to the novels. The details, the same mysterious atmosphere, ambiguous ending and pertinent premises come across exactly as I anticipated.
Alias Grace is an easier watch that the harrowing The Handmaid’s Tale. And whilst it will question your sensitivities and will haunt you for at least a week afterwards, it will not leave you in terror like The Handmaid’s Tale. Knowing it’s in the past and not a probable speculative fictional future.
What’s more, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a cameo appearance by Margaret Atwood herself.
Sometimes, no matter what you try, you can’t seem to shake a bad mood. It happens to the best, and chirpiest, of us. But here are four Netflix things to watch that will almost certainly pull you out of a bad mood and have you sparkling again.
The Good Place
A delightful and wholesome comedy that will help alleviate your existential angst, whilst teaching you about philosophy. In an afterlife where you can’t swear that was created by a character played by Ted Danson, a pleasant omniscient computer in human form called Janet and a protagonist played by everyone’s favourite Kristen Bell, there is a lot to love about The Good Place.
Jim Gaffigan – stand up specials
On Australian Netflix there are five Jim Gaffigan stand up specials: Obsessed, Mr Universe, Beyond the Pale, Cinco and King Baby. His jokes are gentle and unoffensive (except, maybe, to vegans) and it’s a refreshing change from all the shouty, frustrated white man comedy that dominates the stage. Gaffigan gets bonus points for never making fun of “being too PC”.
Created by and starring charming father and son duo, Dan and Eugene Levy (those eyebrows!), this surprising comedy relies on the vigour of all the well crafted characters. As well as the absurd setting that the Rose family have found themselves in. Schitt’s Creek is a “fish out of water” tale that is cringe worthy without being painful. It’s also rewarding when we get to witness vapid characters experience personal expansion.
Now You See Me
Perhaps I’m swayed by my love of magic and illusions but this heist movie (and its sequel) is one of the most pleasurable movies to watch on Netflix. The Now You See Me cast is so robust with Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and more. And the ongoing tricks, mystery and sense of theatre are thrilling and unpredictable. Great if you like movies like the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy.
Watched them all and need more Netflix things to watch? Why not try Pine Gap?