Are you still watching? You bet I am... | Jack Marshall's column

Netflix logo (credit: Netflix)Netflix logo (credit: Netflix)
Netflix logo (credit: Netflix)
Come in, take a seat. Welcome to the golden age of television. Rejoice, revel, skip the intro, and keep watching.

Never before in history has there been so much to choose from, so much content of genuinely astounding quality, so much on offer to cater to every taste imaginable, and so much of a community based around the supposedly-antisocial act of watching TV.

We’re living through humanity’s great binge-era, a time of sequels, prequels, 20-season blockbusters, and ‘Are you still watching?’ Grab yourself some popcorn and make yourself comfortable. We’re in for the long haul.

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It’s almost frightening how much good stuff there is available to us these days. In fact, it’s become a common refrain over the past decade or so to puff your cheeks out as if fighting a losing battle when someone asks if you’ve seen the latest hit show.

“There’s just so much good telly on these days,” you mutter, as if resigned to the heartbreaking fact that poor old you simply hasn’t got the time to enjoy all this great entertainment. “Plus, I’m rewatching The US Office at the moment, so…”

All that quality comes at a price. Splintering all these must-see amazing TV shows off onto a growing handful of TV subscription services, the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and NOW TV have commodified the binge era like never before. We’re putty in their pixels.

Want to watch Bridgerton or Stranger Things? That’ll be £8.99 a month for Netflix. Fancy some Fleabag or Vikings? That’s £7.99 a month for Amazon Prime. And it’s another £9.99 a month for NOW TV to watch Succession and £7.99 a month for WandaVision on Disney+.

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Not only are there more ‘must-watch’ shows around, they’re bigger and better than before, too, so paying more seems fair. But outside swiftly becomes a foreign place when you’re rewatching Friends for the millionth time in the midst of a global pandemic…

Rife with hypocrisy, I write this as someone who watches Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Sky TV every day. And I quite fancy Disney+ now, too. It’s got all the old Simpsons episodes and I still haven’t seen Nomadland.

What’s the alternative? To *not* have access to all the Marvel movies? To admit I’ll probably never get around toThe Wire because I’m too busy watching Breaking Bad again? To turn the TV off and pick up one of the 50-odd books on my to-read shelf?

No chance. After all, there’s this amazing new series coming out...