One reader suggested I write about the changes in television and its role in our later years. He said rightly that, while a tad sedentary, TV viewing constitutes an important pastime for many/most retired people. Indeed the likelihood of being a frequent television viewer (21 or more hours per week) rises steadily with age, from 20% at ages 20 to 24 years to 52% at age 75 or older.
While television is not technically social media, it is a social medium given the ample discussion TV programming generates among spouses, friends and family. Take The Sopranos, for instance. The series premiered on HBO in 1999 and became one of the most successful series ever. Ten years after it went to black, viewers still debate its controversial ending: Tony Soprano, dead or alive?
The Sopranos got Glen and me hooked on watching TV series together. Before it, we viewed movies only — on video cassettes, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. We didn’t record TV shows to see at our convenience, though millions did. Some even turned PVR (personal video recorder) and DVR (digital video recorder) into verbs! We simply bought a season when it became available and added it to our expanding collection. We still lag behind the times in terms of following programmes when they first air. This month we’ll watch The Vietnam War on DVD, though PBS showed ten episodes last fall.
We progressed in 2012 when Shaw Communications came to install various services in our Vancouver condo. (Dinosaur alert: we use a landline.) The technician casually asked if we wanted to watch Netflix. I opened an account, and we’ve loved this service ever since. Streaming services — Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and others — have caused a steady decline in traditional TV subscription services. In the third quarter of 2017, Netflix had 109.25 million streaming subscribers worldwide, including approximately 5.9 million in Canada and 52.77 million in the U.S. The popularity and accessibility of programming on these platforms also introduced the notion of binge viewing, defined as watching at least three episodes of a TV show in one sitting.
Instead of conceiving resolutions (to break) for the New Year, Glen and I came up with a short list of shows we saw, analyzed, discussed in 2017. They weren’t necessarily released that year. They either became available on Netflix or we borrowed them from the local library. Interestingly three of our five choices are Netflix original series. (Original programming premiered on Netflix in 2013 with House of Cards.)
TOP FIVE SHOWS
El Chapo Beginning in the 1980s, this drama chronicles the rise, capture and escape of notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. The story exposes corruption and betrayal among unsavoury thugs in the drug cartels, as well as officials in all levels of government.
The Fall Gillian Anderson plays an unabashedly sexy (spikes and all), smart detective (Stella Gibson) called from London to Belfast to head a task force dedicated to solving a sexually motivated killing spree. Early on the series gives away the killer: Paul Spector, a handsome, athletic, family man who works as a counsellor. An unlikely psychopath. Then for three seasons this thriller pits Gibson against Spector in a complex, psychological game of cat and mouse.
Line of Duty Who polices the police? This BBC series follows controversial anti-corruption unit AC-12, operating within West Midlands Police Force, and each season presents a new investigation. According to one critic: “what separates Line of Duty from its more generic peers is its extraordinary interrogation scenes — some of the most audacious pieces of writing and performance that TV currently offers.”
Mindhunter In 1977 the FBI was struggling to comprehend a new wave of depraved killers. How can agents stop murders being committed when they don’t understand why they’re happening? In Mindhunter two FBI officers awaken to the idea of using the minds of real-life monsters to stop similar crimes happening in the future. Dark humour plays a prominent role in this drama about the emergence of criminal profiling.
Narcos presents the global growth of cocaine cartels and the attendant efforts of law enforcement to confront them in bloody conflict. It centres around billionaire Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar, who manages to be charismatic, almost likeable, despite his brutal ways.
Please share your favourite shows of last year in the comments below. •
P.S. Glen and I may be the only people on the planet who do not follow Game of Thrones. Its ratings trajectory has been astronomical. In 2015, it topped The Sopranos as HBO’s most-watched series ever when it crossed the 18.2 million viewer mark. In 2017 its seventh season averaged an astonishing 31 million viewers per episode once live, time-shifted, on-demand and streaming plays were tallied.