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Ask a binge watcher: How can I be better at watching TV?




After recent nasty tropical weather, I imagine you all did a fair amount of television binge watching last weekend. Why stop now?

In my house, we don't regularly consume a whole series at once. We'll do about two episodes at a time, three if we're feeling alive. But my friend and Tampa Bay Times features designer Brittany Volk lives the opposite way.

Brittany watches more television than anyone I know. I am convinced she has miniature streaming devices inside her eyelids because I don't know how she finds the time. She was the natural person to lead our Fall TV Preview, which you'll find in Latitudes on Sunday, and here. Brittany, Chelsea Tatham and Christopher Spata have been busy rounding up new and returning shows, from Westworld to Son of Zorn to One Mississippi to Designated Survivor.

I wanted to consult with Brittany about TV topics weighing on my mind.

How do you get your mind right for a binge? Deep breathing? Stretches?

The best advice I have for anyone getting ready to dive into a boob-tube marathon is comfortable clothing. Rock those jams all day long.

Doesn't your back start to hurt?

Just switch to the other side of the couch. Or scour the kitchen for snacks.

What are the best snacks for binge watching? I would think it's a long game rather than stuffing yourself and then writhing uncomfortably for six hours like Jabba.

There's no need to pretend you're a healthy person when you park your tush in front of the TV for hours. You're not fooling anyone. So pop in frozen fried foods (big ups to Trader Joes here) and munch all day long.

Okay, but shouldn't one at least attempt to portion out the Thin Mints? I'll eat the whole sleeve.

I'm not saying you need to eat the entire frozen pizza at once. Half for lunch, the rest for dinner. Binge eating and binge watching go hand in hand. It's the American Way.


Speaking of terrible Americans, sometimes when I'm watching Downton Abbey, I feel ashamed of our society and my posture and the threadbare yoga pants I'm wearing. Do you think we should dress up and watch TV in, like, a parlor/parlour?

Absolutely not. I know you haven't finished...



Should the room be totally dark, or does that make you feel scary feelings, as if you've retreated into a Hannibal Lecter-style mental fissure from which you cannot emerge?

I like to keep my windows open to make sure the outside world hasn't turned into the zombie apocalypse while I've turned into a zombie.


The Zompocalypse is a real concern. Is there ever a show that you watched once and then thought, "Never again?"

This will surprise you, but I didn't like Breaking Bad. I don't think I'll ever finish it. However, I do a lot of vetting before I jump into a show. The Internet is great for people telling you what you should and shouldn't watch. But sometimes the people you love give you terrible recommendations. A dear friend promised I would love Rick and Morty. I did not. And I will never watch The Big Bang Theory, so stop telling me to.

Please, what is the most embarrassing thing you watch? I'll go first. It is Married at First Sight. That show is horrific and I hate myself.

I don't keep it secret that I'm obsessed with the Teen Mom franchise on MTV. I love those girls. I cherish them and all their flaws. I follow (stalk) each of them on Instagram. It's absolute trash television, but I wholeheartedly respect the cause. It's interesting because the show isn't just about the horrors of teen pregnancy, but also the spectacle of reality TV. Producers are just as much part of the show now. I'm excited for the next generation: Kids of Teen Mom. That'll be a hot mess. And I'll watch every second of it.


Do you feel lost and confused when you have to watch an ad?

I watch a lot of my shows on Hulu, and I don't pay for the fancy, ad-free version. So I watch the same ad over and over again. I think I can recite the birth control armpit implant ad by heart.

How do you respond to friends when they're asking you to please watch something light hearted with a spunky female protagonist so you all can discuss it, but all you want to do is watch dark Netflix documentaries about North Korea or 1990s murders tried in the press? Asking for a friend.

I don't think there's shame in people's taste anymore. We all can (and will) watch hours and hours and hours of trash TV on Netflix by ourselves. But, you're no one without SOME good taste in television nowadays. So as long as you at least watch SOME of your friends' recommendations, you're good. If you aren't friends with at least five people who recommended Netflix's Stranger Things this summer, you need new pals.

What do you think I should watch?

You really want to open THAT can of worms? Hands down you need to watch You're the Worst. The third season just started on FXX and the first two are on Hulu. But you like disturbing things, and I finally finished Six Feet Under. It's dreadfully depressing, yet surprisingly uplifting. You'd love it. And I know you have a questionably obsessive fascination with cults (as do I) so you'll love The Path on Hulu. Hugh Dancy as a cult leader. Sign us up.

Since you've watched All Of Television Ever, what type of character would you like to see more represented? Talking dogs seem to be covered, as well as privileged white men in midlife crises.

You know what I'm tired of? Weird millennial women.

But you are one.

Correct. Don't get me wrong, I love Broad City, The Mindy Project, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, etc. etc. etc. But instead, I'd love to see them do things beyond talk about their quirky lifestyle and carefree romances. Which is why I absolutely LOVED the new show Pitch on Fox. A female playing major league baseball with a scruffy Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Women doing things!


Why are so many of the new fall titles one word? Westworld. Eyewitness. Divorce. Are people too time-strapped for multi-world titles? You know, work-life balance and all that.

Maybe you don't watch TV, but this isn't new. Seinfeld. Lost. Cheers. Taxi. Glee. Friends. Titles are so important, though. ABC's new sitcom American Housewife was going to be called Fattest Housewife of Westport. Eye roll. Actually, ABC has a reputation for killing good shows with terrible titles: Selfie, Trophy Wife, Cougar Town. And midseason they have a an awesome show called Downward Dog. Just, no. ABC isn't the only offender. Netflix's Scrotal Recall -- LOL NOPE -- is now named Lovesick. And we're all better because of it.

One of the things I love about the new streaming platforms is how the stars of yesteryear come back into our lives. Winona Ryder, for example. Who else needs a Netflix show? I'll nominate Brandy. And because I feel maternal toward her and want her to succeed, Amanda Bynes. Also, the dad from My Two Dads. Not Paul Reiser. The other one.

WHY NOT PAUL REISER? He's actually on Amazon's throwback comedy Red Oaks. And he's great. I'm really excited about the upcoming second season.

See? This is why you're the expert.


[Last modified: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 5:34pm]


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