I only binge-watch TV when I'm unemployed
I don't watch a ton of television. I'll catch the news every now and again, and I try to keep up with wrestling, and that about sums it up. I am about as far removed from the TV monoculture as a media-literate person can get. If you were to count on your fingers the total number of episodes of Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and Westworld I have seen, you'd be staring at a couple of balled fists. Don't get it twisted: my TV set does see it's fair share of action. It's just that movies and YouTube and Twitch make up most of my televisual diet.
Except for when I'm unemployed.
Over the last few years, there have been four great spikes in my consumption of TV shows, three of which coincide with periods of unemployment. The odd show out is Bob's Burgers; I watched seasons 1-7 this past January while I was still employed. My intention was to just catch up with the later episodes I hadn't seen yet (i.e. everything after season 3), but I rewatched “Human Flesh” and fell in love with the show all over again. Be careful if you binge-watch Bob's Burgers because you might be compelled to triumphantly proclaim that “farts are liberty,” much to the confusion and disgust of your friends.
My first proper Funemployment Binge was in the spring of 2013, when I watched the first six seasons of Futurama. Pound for pound, episode for episode, this may be favourite Matt Groening project. It doesn't have the dizzying highs or long shadow of The Simpsons (then again, what does?), but I think its batting average over seven seasons is higher than The Simpsons's over 29. In fact, I'd put seasons 2-4 of Futurama up against pretty much any three-season run of TV I can think of in terms of banger density. The four movies that comprise season 5 are pretty fun, and season 6 had it's moments, but it's just as well that Futurama ended when it did. I'll say this, though: almost 20 years on and Christopher Tyng's theme song still slaps.
The second Funemployment Binge was weird. I was on medical leave due to work-related burnout and managed to warp my sleep schedule pretty badly. So rather than toss and turn in vain until dawn, I plowed through all the episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants available on Netflix Canada (i.e. seasons 7-8). The vibrancy and ebullience and casual absurdity of the show was a nice mental salve. And as far as I can tell it's still one of the great shows in its weight class in terms of sustained quality and overall longevity. I mean, Pokémon certainly didn't do stuff like splice footage of noted cult TV show Fishing with John into one of its episodes as a gag.
My current Funemployment Binge might be the strangest one. Breaking with tradition, I started watching a live-action show rather than a cartoon (although it's silly enough that it might as well be), and it's also the first of these shows where I wasn't alive when its pilot aired. That's right, y'all, I am currently three and a half seasons deep into binge-watching Night Court.
Man, that theme song is a jam. I'd be lying if I said that hearing that tune multiple times in a row wasn't a key factor in my brain choosing to binge this particular show. But it was by no means the only thing: star Harry Anderson had just passed away, I was reminded that Desert Bus for Hope used the theme song as a gag two years running, and it's by far and away the show in that titanic mid-80s NBC lineup I had the least familiarity with.
So for a 30-plus-year-old sitcom, Night Court holds up rather well. Turns out warmth and goofiness don't really go out of style. Come to think of it, warmth and goofiness are the running threads between all four of the shows I mentioned here. Maybe I'm just removed from the TV monoculture because a lot of it is bitter and dark.
So I'm due for another one of these binges in 2020 or 2021. I wonder what my weird TV bliss will have me watch. Maybe 2020 is the year I really get into MASH or something.