Sunday, December 1, 2013

To Binge or not to Binge ?!

Over the past few months I realized that NetFlix has it’s own original “TV” shows. There is no waiting for next week to see a new episode, no pilot, no fear of the show being canceled; everything is right there. These raise the question “To binge or not to binge”. NetFlix users can watch an entire season/series in one day.
House of Cards is one of those shows.
House of Cards is a suspense/filled political drama. We get the entire inside information and all of these lies and scandal that can easily be happening in the White House right now. This show has a great plotline, each episode draws attention, and all of the characters are well developed. The entire concept and the storylines that come along with it are perfect. “Perfect” is a strong word but this series almost seems flawless.
Our star Frank Underwood is indeed the protagonist but is also the bad guy, and he does not have one true nemesis, it seems that everyone is Frank’s enemy. He has lied, cheated, denied, manipulated, and even killed this season. Keep in mind, this is only season one. All of the intensity is built up and then hits the viewers hard, in every single episode. No one is to be trusted, and it does not seem that any of these characters should be idolized by viewers either.
The series kicks off with Congressman Francis Underwood being cheated out of the position of Secretary of State. This affects Frank greatly and he immediately kicks off this intricate plot to influence, control, and basically exploit everyone around him to get what he wants. That is, besides his wife. We soon meet the character Claire. She is Frank’s wife and partner; as a couple and separately they are very well known political figures. Claire and Frank tell each other everything; besides being married they are also business partners and will do anything for each other.
Then, there is Zoe Barnes. She is introduced to us from the very beginning as a smart-mouthed, spunky, low-down dirty reporter. Well “low-down” and “dirty” is subjective but she does not shy away from that. She corners Frank with a proposition, and he obliges but it seems as if he was using her; then the question comes up “For what?” So many questions come up and even go unanswered throughout this season but I think a few important ones are about Zoe. Why is Frank working with Zoe? Why is Zoe sleeping with Frank? Why does she love Lucas? What does she want in life? What does she want from Frank?
What makes a character a good one is when there is conflict, when we viewers see what they want and the fact that they are having a hard time getting that want. This was not too clear when it comes to Zoe Barnes, as in her overall goals and reasoning for why she does what she does; but it is quite clear with the other characters.
As I said, the character development in this series is impeccable. Each character has a story, a want, risks, and small things about them that viewers can notice. I guess the man whom we can dub the “Antagonist”, being that his importance was almost at the same levels as Franks at one point, is Peter Russo. Peter is another character we meet in episode 1. He is sleeping with his assistant; he drinks, smokes, and solicits prostitutes. He is the bad boy. In attempts to clean up his image for his campaign for governor, he is set up; he relapses, and then dies; all because of Mr. Underwood. Frank was the Puppet Master throughout this ENTIRE series. It was incredible. One element which was crucial to Frank’s characters and a lot of the sticky situations was “Breaking the fourth wall”. Frank turned and literally spoke to us the viewers. When he lied he told us the truth, when he denied something he told us why, when he was suspicious or untrusting of someone he told us that, it was great; especially since Frank is not necessarily and “Good” person, it kind of allows or forces us viewers to be on Frank’s side. We can not hate his sneakiness because he lets us in on the secret. We’re sneaky too!
House of cards is an amazing show. Knowing that it was a political I thought it would be similar to a cop show my grandmother would watch, like Columbo. But House of Cards is not Columbo, nor is it Law and Order.
Although I watched each episode weekly, this show has proved to me that binge watching is the way to go, well if the viewer has time of course. I do not encourage drop out of school or miss work to watch House of Cards! But I certainly suggest that Netflix users watch as much episodes in a row as they can. This show is almost like a long movie, a saga. It keeps you at the edge of your seat and builds so much suspense there is no way one can resist watching the next episode, especially when it is right in front of you. There is nothing wrong with Binge Watching, you just have to strategize.
The CNN article Binge-watching makes TV better written by Aaron Riccio explains this clearly:
“Instead of watching live each week by “appointment,” viewers are taking a full day (or weekend or even week) to watch a show’s entire season or a series from beginning to end. This may sound gluttonous and monotonous, but bingers see it differently — a richer and more contemplative form of TV watching in which every nuance is savored and analyzed.”
The article is plainly saying that this “appointment” form of watching television is dying out. I fully agree with this notion. I am not a Netflix user but I do have DVR. I rarely have time during the week to watch news episodes of my favorite shows, so I record them. Usually by the time I have time the season is either half-way finished or completely finished and it feels like a treat being able to watch most to all of the season in one day or weekend.
Another article House of Cards: Netflix’s experiment in binging pays off written by Christopher Williams. Describes how the original drama’s success is almost revolutionizing the way people watch television shows. A significant number of viewers “binged” while watching this series and will continue to.
House of Cards and their other original series along with the privilege of Binge-Watching, NetFlix has struck gold. House of Cards is a great show and I am highly anticipating clearing a whole weekend to watch it all.

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