Addicted to the 'Flix

Susan Flanagan
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We weren't big on TV till Netflix came along

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We used to be a good family. We didn't have cable. We used rabbit ears - still do, in fact - and we watched DVDs, maybe even from the library.

We were in control of what we watched. Maybe we were even a little smug. And then, along came Netflix.

You know Netflix. It's that online TV and movie channel that invaded Canada in the fall of 2010. It's that addictive, irresistible, un-turn-off-able streaming software that now has over a million Canadian viewers signed up for $8 a month.

For anyone who has Netflix, you know just how addictive it can be. Instead of waiting a week to cosy up in your favourite chair and watch the next episode of "Republic of Doyle," you can watch an entire season of a show (although not Doylies) in one night on Netflix.

Before the condensed credits have even stopped rolling on Episode 1, the next show pops up. "Your next episode will begin in 13 seconds," the encouraging voice announces and before you have a chance to shut down the computer, you're halfway to the season finale and the sun is coming up.

I have to admit that even I, the non-TV watcher of the family, was addicted to the British TV series "Sherlock," with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Luckily for my family's sake, there were only three, fantastic 90-minute episodes; otherwise they may have gone without supper. I even got hooked on "Lost" for a while, but was able to break the habit after a couple of weeks when Season 3 or 4 got really far-fetched. Not everyone is so fortunate.

There's one person I know - let's call him "Hubby" (not his real name) - who has watched so many seasons of so many shows in such a short period that he believes he is becoming a TV critic.

"TV shows and movies have switched places," he says. "All the edgy, gritty, creative story writing is in TV series. Movies have become the bland weekly serials; they're just a bunch of comic book sequels, stretching thin story lines to predictable, unwatchable lengths."

OK, I thought, I'll embrace this idea. I tried to bond with him over "Breaking Bad." The story about the chemistry teacher turned drug lord was riveting, but let's say a little too rough around the edges for me.

So Hubby has moved on without me. For a while, it seemed he was only watching shows that began with the letter L: "Life," "Luther," "Life on Mars." Now he's into "Justified." He finished Season 1 on the weekend.

"'Justified' is an R-rated version of 'Republic of Doyle,'" he says, "Same kinds of characters, same plot line, same flawed hero."

In "Justified," the rugged handsome U.S. Marshal Raylan Gibbons fools around with his divorced wife, dates cops and chases bad guys (really bad in this case) in a small community with an inexplicable overabundance of criminal and underworld types. The setting is even as much a character as St. John's is in Doylies. Sound familiar?

Besides "Justified," he's also latched onto "MI5," "Homeland" and the Netflix exclusive, "House of Cards" with Kevin Spacey.

"Watch them all," he says. "Recommend them to your book club. Forget books for a while."

When we lived in Japan, we could go to the video store and Hollywood movies would be grouped by actor. So if I liked Tim Robbins, for example, I could go to his section and see what they had to offer. Netflix is a bit like that. When you watch a certain series, it suggests other series you might like.

But like a video store with no new releases, you can get tired of walking down the same aisles, looking over the same titles you rejected a week ago.

Even Hubby is saying it's time to give up Netflix.

"Seen all the good shows," he's been saying since Christmas. "And what's the sense of wasting time watching movies. Two hours of predictable, slow-paced computer animation and explosions. Give me 'MI5' any day," he says. "They're not afraid to kill off the main characters. They'll jolt you right off the couch."

I'm patiently waiting to see if he actually has the guts to pull the proverbial plug. I know he can't quit cold turkey. That's too much to ask.

If he does manage to break away, I know he's got a DVD season of "Homeland" squirrelled away somewhere. And he's been to the library and spied "The Wire." So he may cancel Netflix, but his obsession with TV series is far from over.

His final words: "Hey, if Obama can find time to watch 'Homeland,' surely I can fit in a season on the weekend."

Susan Flanagan is a journalist whose husband helped her write this column. She can be reached at susan@48degrees.ca.

Boxe(s):

Reader feedback

L'Arche feedback

Jenn Power writes: "A friend recently forwarded me the article you wrote for The Telegram about the Cornerstone Housing Society, a group committed to the ideals and values of L'Arche. I wanted to drop you a note to say how much I enjoyed your piece.

I have been a member of L'Arche Cape Breton for the past 19 years, and just recently took over the role of Regional Leader for L'Arche in the Atlantic provinces. Obviously I have a tremendous passion for L'Arche! I am also a proud Newfoundlander, originally from Calvert, where my parents and extended family still live. It's exciting for me to see the message of L'Arche slowly making its way into my home province. I have had occasion to meet with the folks of the Cornerstone Housing Society and they are a lovely group of people with all kids of enthusiasm for L'Arche. I am sure they were really grateful for the exposure you gave their cause.

In my years with L'Arche, I have had many opportunities to deal with the media and I can say without hesitation that it is rare for a journalist to "get" the message of L'Arche and express it as well as you did. Your language was respectful, and avoided many of the patronizing pitfalls that befall so many others. You came across as both professional and inspirational at the same time.

So thanks again for such a quality piece of writing, and for your help in publicizing L'Arche in Newfoundland. Perhaps we might cross paths some time in the future as the Cornerstone Housing Society continues to develop."

Tely Teaser feedback

Townie writes: "These people need to be aware that this was not the Tely 10 and the roads were not closed. For their own safely they should not have been running four persons wide in some areas of Topsail Road hindering traffic on a morning when driving was already treacherous."

Eastern Edge writes: "I have for many years run the streets and trails of St John's and I ran the Tely Teaser this year. Townie has a point, in that some runners do not use either common sense or courtesy and do run four abreast or otherwise endanger themselves and other users of our roads, but I think it important to state that, in my experience, these people are the exceptions. Most runners are sensible and, whenever possible, run on the trails or very much on the edge of the pavement, just as most drivers are courteous and are careful not to splash or come too close to us. In both cases, however, there are a few selfish idiots who make everyone look bad. As for running on the sidewalks, concrete is many times harder than either asphalt or gravel, therefore to do so would quickly destroy the runner's knees and other joints. With care and common sense, the roads are wide enough for everyone."

Driver's Training feedback:

Susan's note: In British Columbia, if a teenager successfully completes an ICBC-approved driver training course, they can get

° a six-month reduction in the novice stage of graduated licensing, and

° two credits towards their high school graduation.

Recent graduate writes: "There are enough useless courses in the high schools already. You gotta take Healthy Living even if you're on the provincial and high school rugby teams. You have to take Career Development even though it's a glorified crossword and colouring class; you don't even learn how to do taxes in that course. You have to take fine arts courses preventing you from taking extra sciences in case you wish to pursue REAL education and not an arts program. It's garbage. You don't have a choice in high school so the last thing we need is even less choice because they want to introduce a program that most people prefer to pay for on their own anyway."

James writes: "I took lots of science classes in high school, graduated with straight As, and then went on to get a real education and a successful career in the arts. If you think that "real education" means sciences only, then you have clearly failed as a student."

Jack writes: "In order to stop students from skipping school to apply for a Driver's Licence or Beginner's Licence, the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Government Services should take the page out of Access Nova Scotia and extend their business hours to 7 p.m. Wednesday to Friday."

Jack writes: "While I agree that driver training should be taught at a high school level, I think that all high schools across Newfoundland and Labrador should provide Driver's Education courses at a manageable price, no more than $250. During my Grade 11 year at Halifax's J. L. Ilsley High School, I took a Driver's Education course. This course consisted of classroom instruction, observation, actual driving sessions and a driver's test. Even if you pass the driver's test and become a newly licensed driver, students had to complete all course components to get their Driver's Education certificate, and hopefully, get lower insurance rates. When I took the Driver's Education course, the fee was only $75. However, since most schools in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and Labrador have cut subsidies for Driver's Education or privatized it through Young Drivers of Canada, a reasonable fee is $250."

 

Organizations: Netflix, Cornerstone Housing Society, The Telegram ICBC Healthy Living Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Government Services J. L. Ilsley High School

Geographic location: Canada, St. John's, Mars U.S. Newfoundland and Labrador Japan Hollywood Calvert Topsail Road Eastern Edge British Columbia Access Nova Scotia Nova Scotia

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