Binging

Before Christmas I binge watched a few things. I don’t actually like to binge watch shows.

For decades when I heard the word “binge” I would, as I’m sure most people did before the 2010s, associate it with food and something that was shameful. Those who were “binge eaters” would do at night, in private, alone. Certainly it wasn’t something you talked about. I’m not a binge eater, but as an overweight person I’ve spent the majority of my life trying not to have eating disorders and my name come up in the same conversation.

These days, when you see or hear the word “binge” most everyone associates it with binge watching hours of television. Curiously though, people also do this at night (or on weekends) in the privacy of their homes. They also still tend to do it alone or with a trusted partner or friend but unlike with food, people do NOT keep it to themselves.

This will probably not be a big surprise to anyone who knows me, but I have a relatively addictive personality. The truth is, I’ve always wished we didn’t actually need food to live. It’d be so much easier to just not eat anything. With my current health situation I need to eat about 1000 calories or less a day to lose any weight. That is not easy. It would be a lot easier to just not eat anything. I mean, I quit smoking cold turkey. Okay, I had to quit twice (THAT’S a long story) but the second time it worked – 11 years and 8 months and counting!

Back to binge-watching, I don’t like it because I have a difficult time turning off the damned television. When I get absorbed by a show I will keep going until I can barely keep my eyes open. I keep justifying to myself how one more episode won’t hurt and before I know it, it’s 3 in the morning. And then my entire next day is messed up.

Also, I don’t know about you, but after watching hours and hours and hours of a show I find myself thinking about nothing else, especially if the show is intense. Sometimes it’ll be to the point of obsessing about it. And how could it not? Because if you’ve just spent 8 or 10 or 12 or 16 hours binge watching something over a day or two, well, you have basically lived in that world, it’s in your head. Think about how long it takes for you to adjust when you travel someplace and you get accustomed to a new place – not very long, does it?

Still, sometimes you just gotta do it. Binge watch that is. Because there is so much more than any of us ever could ever possibly have enough time to watch.

I didn’t intend for this to happen but there ended up being a bit of a theme to my binge watching. First I started with the movie “Late Night” starring Emma Thompson and Mindy Kahling (on Amazon Prime).

I read that Emma Thompson was nominated for a Golden Globe for ‘Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy.’ She definitely deserves the nomination. I think that Mindy Kahling should have been nominated as well (she also wrote the screenplay.) That was an oversight. The film was directed by a female director – Nisha Ganatra – but we already know that awards shows in general don’t do well in recognizing females in categories that don’t have the word ‘Actress’ or ‘Female’ in them.

The film is about a woman (Katherine Newbury played by Thompson the Magnificent) who has succeeded in a man’s world – late night television. In fact she’s the ONLY woman who has succeeded in this particular man’s world. Of course it’s complete fiction – in reality there hasn’t actually been a woman who has succeeded in this world yet. (Sorry Lilly Singh, as the reviewers have said, there is ‘room to improve.’ You haven’t quite found your beat yet.)

The thing about women who succeed in the corporate/business/management world (basically any place that tends to be an old boys club) is that they can often become ‘masculine’ in their demeanor – or what is commonly perceived as masculine – aggressive, harsh, unemotional, rigged, steely. Things of that nature. I suppose it’s a survival mechanism. Or maybe it’s simply learned? Anyway, god forbid anyone see them with any qualities that could be deemed “feminine” or “soft.”

Newbury has been at the top of her game for years, decades, but the movie shows her having become, well, frankly a brute. She fires someone for simply asking for a raise. Her staff (all white men by the way) run around terrified of her, and there is pretty much only one person who is willing to speak with her frankly, though even he does so with kid gloves for fear that he may create a tsunami that can’t be controlled.

It turns out too, she hasn’t been as much at the top of the game as she had thought. She’s a bit too highbrow, only willing to interview guests of a certain calibre, and unbeknownst to her, it has been costing her.

In a desperate attempt to seem less all-the-bad-things-her-boss-said-about-her, she instructs her second-in-command to replace the writer she fired with a woman.

Enter Molly Patel, played by the beautiful and talented Mindy Kaling. Molly gets hired solely because she’s a woman (the person-of-color thing is an added bonus) and the other writers aren’t too pleased about it. The thing is, she doesn’t know this was the reason she was hired. She actually thinks she was hired on merit, even though she has no experience and has been working in a factory. “It’s not a factory”, it’s a chemical plant, she continuously informs her co-workers when they point out that she was a factory worker. They don’t really care about the distinction.

Molly ends up being extremely talented, which is no surprise and starts to pull Katherine’s butt out of the mire until something from Katherine’s past, a mistake she made, comes back to bite her.

Mindy Kaling was amazing at getting through some difficult things like bullying from coworkers and being wooed by a colleague who is a complete womanizer – doing her Mindy Kaling thing of, in the face of adversity, remaining cheerful and strong and “watch out world, here I come.”

There were also some other tough scenes between Thompson’s character and her husband, played by John Lithgow, who in the film has Parkinson’s. Ever since my own Mom went through dying from Lewy Body Dementia, I am extremely emotional whenever anyone is facing a neurological disease. So that part was heart-wrenching for me.

Being labeled a “comedy,” the movie ended up happily and I was perfectly fine with that. In fact, I actually need that. Wish I had watched it second.

After I finished “Late Night,” I moved on to some real binge watching. I began “The Morning Show” starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carrell (on Apple TV+.)

“The Morning Show” is in its first season and has ten episodes, each lasting around an hour. The obvious similarities between “The Morning Show” (TMS) and “Late Night” -they both are about the television industry; they both are about older women who were incredibly popular but now that they have moved into their 50s, the studios are considering putting them out to pasture because they aren’t relevant/likable/relatable anymore (strange how that doesn’t happen to men in their 50s…) and they both are about really toxic work places.

However that is pretty much where the similarities end. TMS is intense, super intense, because the primary subject it deals with is rape and sexual harassment. That is on top of Jennifer Aniston’s character trying to deal with becoming obsolete and her guilt for a multitude of things. Reese Witherspoon’s character is dealing with her rage, which most likely stems from her incredibly dysfunctional family. Everyone else is in such an astonishingly toxic work environment it makes me wonder why any of them keep showing up for work.

And yet, I couldn’t stop watching because even though for about the middle four episodes there was hardly a single person that I found sympathetic or likable, I wanted to find out where this train wreck was going and man, am I glad I stayed aboard because it was a doozy! I cannot wait until season two – so I can binge watch some more.

Oh, I also binge watched The Mandalorian. Which doesn’t go with my ‘theme’ but aw man, all the hype about Baby Yoda is true!!!

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