The Professional Binge-a-Rama
Game of Thrones, HBO
Though shutout of the nominations game this season, Game of Thrones is the fantasy epic you didn’t know you’d like until you actually sat down and did it. Terrifyingly intimidating in size and scope (and the utter voraciousness of its audience), Game of Thrones is beyond enjoyable, it’s downright delicious. Intersecting and overlapping storylines rife with the political dealings of an almost-magical realm tell real stories of the emotional and war-waging battles that come with having and serving greater powers. It is merciless and cruel, but wholly addicting. Never again will you doubt the abilities of television to create sweeping epics — in fact, never before has a story been so well appropriated to television. Especially when you consider all of the moving parts. Besides, winter is coming: what better time to snuggle up to the Lord of Light? The night is dark and full of terrors, after all: let Peter Dinklage’s utter perfection warm your HBO Go account.
Sure, it might be one of the most divisive shows on television to date, but Homeland’s high-octane antics make it perfect for a just-can’t-stop mega binge of television proportions. Sure, there are plenty of things to criticize about Homeland’s rough-and-tumble twirl these past three seasons, but there’s plenty to love. PLENTY. From the first season, Homeland grabs you with a terrifying force, turns your heart an anti-gravity torture chamber, and continues to twist and turn throughout every episode of its three seasons. And that doesn’t even include the glory that is Mandy Patinkin and his oft-regarded beard. That beard, folks, is worth the price of admission alone. Sure, there’s a love story in there, but if you ignore all that and focus on the CIA antics and American terrorism machinations as told through the bipolar eyes of Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes is an addled treasure), then you’re sure to enjoy the wealth of riches to be found amongst its minutes and minutiae.
Big Love, HBO
My own personal fascination with Mormonism aside, Big Love is a beautiful and intriguing turn on how polygamy, a man’s game, is actually quite a confounding relationship bridge for the women involved. And while you could take a dip into the reality-trenched world of it with TLC monstrocities like Sister Wives, its Big Love’s ambitious and careening five seasons of largely well played melodrama that makes it sing (as long as you pay lesser attention to, say, season four). It is intimate relationship theater of the highest order, and one you’ll be happy to sink your teeth into.
Six Feet Under, HBO
In my own television viewing experience, Six Feet Under may be the greatest show I’ve ever come bear to witness. The heart-achingly rich series on life and loss and love and death is the sum of all of its hauntingly heartbreaking and interwoven parts. The series is uncompromising in its vision of the world, so brazen in its own brilliance, there’s little I should have to say or do to get you to tune in. Six Feet Under is comedy, drama, insightful life-looks by way of a visual aptitude rarely seen on television elsewhere. The acting, the tender honesty: everything about Six Feet Under shines as required viewing for anyone who enjoys anything at all about storytelling — visual or otherwise. It may not leave you feeling warm-fuzzy, but so much of life is not that, and its trade-off results in moments both graceful and gonzo, and what happens when your entire life revolves around facing the mortality of existence. If your family lived in and ran a funeral home, you’d have a fucked up sense of humor then, too — wouldn’t you?
Angels in America, HBO
Though nowhere near as long as some of the other major binges here, Tony Kushner’s socio-political epic about the AIDS crisis in 1980s America is heavy stuff. The 2003 epic — with a cast of brilliants such as Emma Thompson, Al Pacino, queen Meryl Streep, Mary-Louise Parker, Justin Kirk, James Cromwell, and Patrick Wilson just to name a few — has all the trappings of a truly career-defining masterwork. Death, isolation, desertion, distance, the mundane sprawl of everyday life are all brilliantly portrayed in duplicitous dealings, highlighting the humanity underneath those universal feelings. It’s incredibly big, and with that, deserves time and energy akin to watching a more expanded series, because it begs you to examine the existential issues of your own life as well as the world around you. For anyone who managed to miss the now 10-year-old miniseries, now may be the perfect time.
Honorable Mentions to Shows That Are On My List:Though I woefully cannot speak to their brilliance — though there are several hundreds of other people on the Internet who can and will, if you’re curious — the following shows are actually on my premium cable to-watch list, and would be welcome to your binge-watching party if you are as embarrassingly out-of-touch with them as I. They include: Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Wire, Parade’s End, and The Sopranos.