Play All: The Bingewatcher’s Notebook,The Latest In The Race For Wisconsin’s Senate Seat

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Some say we are in a Golden Age of television, with the rise of streaming platforms giving birth to new and groundbreaking content. Our guest tells us how and why the industry has changed in favor of the binge-watcher. We also get the latest in the race for Senate in Wisconsin.

Featured in this Show

  • Play All: A Bingewatcher's Notebook

    An esteemed television critic looks at how the medium has evolved and how today’s long-form dramas are influenced by TV shows of the past.

  • Former TV Critic: We Are In The Golden Age Of Binge-Watching

    If you’re anything like most people, at some point in your life you’ve probably plopped down on the sofa to take in an episode of a TV show and become so engrossed that hours have passed and you’ve ended up watching multiple episodes.

    We’re in the era of “binge-watching” thanks to online streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO GO and more. The reach of these companies hasn’t slowed down, with more than 83 million people subscribing to Netflix this year. Many of these companies have started rivaling networks and cable companies by winning awards for original programming.

    Enter into this era of binge-watching, Clive James, the venerable essayist and television critic whose work appeared in the British newspaper the London Observer for about a decade in the 1970s. The ’70s was a time when shows such as “All in the Family” and “The Benny Hill Show” were in their heyday. A lot has changed over the last 40 years, not only with how we watch our shows, but the quality of the shows competing for audiences.

    James said he wishes he could have predicted the rise of binge-watching and today’s caliber of TV programs.

    “It came out of left field, it came out of nowhere,” he said.

    But while James said he thinks the current era of TV was a surprise, in hindsight he said he thinks certain shows paved the way for today’s blockbuster programs.

    For example, the mid-1970s, long-form drama “The Rockford Files” planted the seeds for the blockbuster HBO hit “Game of Thrones,” he said. He pointed to the well-crafted dialogue in both shows as an indication to networks that audiences want more programs with engaging scripts and premises.

    He also credited early competition between cable companies and networks with creating better TV programming and changing the broadcast landscape abroad.

    “What’s really happening in a place like where I am, which is here in England, is that the American exports eventually become overwhelming,” James said. “To the point where the local product has to compete with them. The same thing is happening in Scandinavia. It’s changed the whole world of viewing. Very much for the better, I think.”

    James’ foray into binge watching happened because he has been ill for the past several years, leaving him virtually homebound, he said. He has been able to watch several rich and engaging shows, inspiring his most recent book, “Play All: A Bingewatcher’s Notebook,” wherein he chronicles watching boxed sets of TV shows such as “The Sopranos” and “The West Wing.”

    Those two shows are prime examples of the competition between cable companies and networks, wherein the success and acclaim HBO’s “The Sopranos” received helped pave the way for “The West Wing” on NBC, James said.

    The attention paid to crafting dialogue on shows such as “The West Wing” is changing the culture for the better, he said.

    “When I came in, you were more or less forced to watch ‘The Love Boat‘,” he said. “And now, ‘Veronica Mars‘ is 10 times as good as that, a 100 times. So the standard of ordinary entertainment has gone up out of sight, which is good for civilization, I think.”

    But James does recognize the dearth of TV shows receiving accolades can make one feel as though they’re missing out. He said he feels that. Even he is a little bit behind as new shows, such as HBO’s “Westworld” are receiving buzz. However, while James is monitoring new programming, he still makes time to revisit old favorites – such as the 2001 mini-series “Band of Brothers” – as he plans his next binge-watches.

  • The Latest In The Race For Wisconsin's Senate Seat

    Ahead of the November general election, we’ll take a look at the U.S. Senate race pitting current Senator Ron Johnson (R) against former Senator Russ Feingold (D).

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Amanda Magnus Producer
  • J. Carlisle Larsen Producer
  • Clive James Guest
  • Charley Jacobs Guest

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