Bodyguard BBC: are we sick of bingeing the streaming giants?

Bodyguard BBC: are we sick of bingeing the streaming giants?

You’re at the pub on a Thursday night, someone (a lawyer) is droning thunderously on about the implications of Brexit on EU-derived law vs domestic law, while another (a civil servant) pompously pipes up about how, actually, they’ve seen first-hand how draining the EU is on Britain, and instead of doing what you actually want to do, which is slam both their heads together and run home to bed, you try, diplomatically, to alleviate this gross tedium. "Guys," you say, as a mutual interest comes to mind, "We need to discuss the new series of Ozark! I’m so excited to see if Marty –"

"Yeah. Finished that last night," says the lawyer, bearing the same look of mild irritation a Boots cashier gives you when you can’t get your pennies off the counter because your fingers have become as useful as two fat saucissons.

"What, the whole series?" you ask, incredulously.

"Yes," responds the lawyer, exceptionally irritated now, because, evidently, you haven’t done your homework. What, the dog ate your Netflix account?

"Which episode are you on?" says the civil servant, generously.


"Oh," they respond, disappointed. "I’m way past that."

So it’s back to Brexit.

Here’s the problem: while streaming giants have allowed us to gorge on bottomless television like a Soho Chinese buffet, they have also served a death blow to British small talk. They’ve sucked the life out of the office tea-break and butchered the drunken pub debate. No one is able to discuss what they’re watching, because no one is watching it at the same time. Instead, we’re just running around with our hands over our ears squealing: "Don’t spoil it!!!"

Eschewing (mostly terrible) prime time TV for Netflix or Amazon Prime, viewers can micromanagage the pace at which they consume; dosing it out depending on their mood. Stressed? One episode. Sad? Three episodes. Hungover? The whole damn series. Sometimes, you have to do it secretly, having promised a signifcant other you would "wait to watch the next one!" Snaking your partner with a Netflix episode has eclipsed choosing where to eat as the biggest contretemps among couples. There’s even a meme for it: a cake iced with the words: "I’m sorry I watched it without you."

Recently however, a spate of surprisingly good prime time television has begun to unite the nation. In May, there was A Very English Scandal starring Hugh Grant in his best role yet. Then in July, there was Love Island, which, coinciding with the World Cup, created a joyous fervour that bordered on lunacy. Finally! Something to talk about at work. Something to analyse over drinks. Something to watch with your flatmates, without trawling through Netflix with each of you taking it in turns to say, robotically, "seen that" as the remote shudders. When Love Island took a break every Saturday night, our pleasure doubled. We were being rationed! The frugality! Patience – a virtue that "on-demand" everything left dead in the water a decade ago – became titillating.

Had we reached peak binge?

A month later and we’ve been thrown another BBC bone: Bodguard, a thriller from Jed Mercurio (Line Of Duty) starring Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes, which has pulled in more viewers than any television drama in the last decade. Charting the volatile relationship between the Home Secretary (Hawes) and her bodyguard (Madden) this six-parter is dramatic, sexy, and ridiculous enough to be fun, while not as stupid as to be shameful. (This isn’t Doctor Foster.)

And, since May, I’ve noticed my social life change for the better. My flatmates and I have spent more time together in the last three months than the entirety of 2017. My boyfriend and I have stopped arguing about betraying each other with Sky Atlantic’s Succession and this fresh conversational juice has even stopped my mother asking me what I ate for lunch. The pub is now a Brexit-free zone.

As Phoebe Waller Bridge’s hot new thriller Killing Eve comes to the BBC this Saturday (having already made waves in the States) and with Vanity Fair continuing to great acclaim on ITV, could it be that – whisper it – prime time telly’s making a comeback?

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September 15, 2018 at 04:07PM