By Darren Johnson
Ah, time. That bandit, making you think you have a lot of it left, until you don’t.
And this is part of the reason I write this column – time is valuable. Before you know it, you’ll be old, and wonder why you wasted so much of it.
Perhaps with this column – pointing out what’s worth your time on Netflix, Amazon Instant and similar services – I can save you time. Taking five minutes to read this article may save you hours of your life.
Therefore, this column I’m going to devote to Netflix and Amazon Instant series you may have wanted to watch – they have been heavily hyped – but I’d given up on them early, because they involve a lot of episodes, and you may want to avoid such commitment, too.
In other words, while they may be great – they aren’t worth my time, and probably not yours, either. Here is my top-five drop-out list – too many episodes, too little time – and the much more succinct movie/show I suggest watching instead.
- “Stranger Things.” This series was heavily hyped around Christmas time. The critics loved it. It got a lot of buzz. It’s about a bunch of adolescents solving some supernatural mystery in the 1980s. There’s lots of retro kitsch and the kids are cute enough – just, I remember the 1980s, and my memory works just fine. I don’t need a reminder that people had wallpaper, tube TVs and dial phones back then. Second, I hate movies where kids are solving huge crimes. When I was that age I barely could figure out my paper route. I quit this after one episode. Instead, to see kids solving a mystery during a retro era, queue up “Stand By Me.”
- “Lost.” The pilot is really cool. A plane crashing on a deserted island with a few dozen survivors. OK, you piqued my interest, Netflix. But it quickly gets into the metaphysical aspect of some weird happenings on the island. I’d really prefer something more realistic; 97 cliff-hangers are just too many. Instead, for a gritty, stranded-on-an-island adventure, queue up Tom Hanks’ “Castaway.”
- “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.” Watching the pilot, I had a good laugh recalling all the zany events surrounding the O.J. trial from a long time ago. But then I saw John Travolta playing one of O.J.’s lawyers with his face totally pulled back and frozen by plastic surgery and realized this was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. He was doing Vinny Barbarino, not Robert Shapiro. Instead, if you want to get the condensed, less silly version of “The Trial of the Century,” try the relatively new documentary series “O.J.: Made in America,” produced in 2016 by ESPN’s excellent 30 for 30 crew. It’s only 7 hours in total.
- “The Man in the High Castle.” This Amazon Instant franchise has great set work and the premise grabbed me – an alternate reality where the Allies lost World War II and now Japan controlled the West Coast and Germany the East Coast of the US. But this series, despite its arresting scenery and set/costume design, is so damn slow. I did give it one season, but can’t commit to another. If you’re going to show me an alternate reality, make it move! Instead, queue up the “Star Trek” episode “Patterns of Force” (Season 2, Episode 21) – banned until recently in Germany – where Captain Kirk goes back to an alternate reality like the aforementioned, and also dons a Nazi uniform. Spock and “Bones” McCoy, too. Way faster pace!
- “Sneaky Pete.” I gave this Amazon Instant vehicle a chance because “Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston attached his name to it, and I did watch the whole first season. It’s about a professional faker who cons everyone – including a small-town family in the bail bonds business. Just – spoiler alert – they end up being corrupt, too. While the action is fast, the issue with this show is that no one is all that likeable. I really don’t care what happens to any of them. And the cliffhanger at the end of the first season is way too heavy-handed. Instead, if you want to follow a con man – this one very likeable – queue up “Better Call Saul,” in full on Netflix with new episodes appearing now on AMC.
Let me add, this column is not to say I am a quitter. I have kept up with or finished “Orange Is the New Black,” “The Walking Dead,” “Making a Murderer” and many other acclaimed series on streaming services. It’s just I don’t have time for everything.
Don’t feel bad quitting an acclaimed series after an episode or two. Go for a walk, get some fresh air, instead – because time is NOT on your side.
Darren Johnson, pictured right, invented “It’s New to You!” in early 2010. It’s a look at what’s worth streaming. To republish these reviews in your publication or on your site, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.