Time was, one had to wait months or years for their favorite movies to make it into their home collections; television series, if they made it to home video at all, were unwieldy and unaffordable. Life was dark. But then DVDs changed everything. Suddenly, we could afford to own trilogies or series or season two of Cheers (that's the one where Sam and Diane are actually together … until Christopher Lloyd ruins everything), and life brightened. But, by 2013, Netflix's streaming model, firmly implanted in our hearts and minds, became everything we could ever want—instant movies, instant TV—anytime, all the time.
We started devouring things we'd seen, things we hadn't, things we didn't even like that much—but for a few bucks a month, why not? Life became white-hot, and the term "binge-watch" was born. By 2015, everyone you ever met had stories about the nights they spent lying "Just one more episode!" to themselves. The Collins English Dictionary even named the term their word of the year. And so, we watched; pausing so as to never miss a moment, warm under blankets, tears pouring down our cheeks as Sam flipped off the last bar lights and told that last potential customer, "Sorry, we're closed." Christopher Lloyd, meanwhile, got off scot-free (great scot-free?).
But it hasn't been all Cheers since then, and other streaming services have flared up and clamored to stay current and innovative. It used to be you'd get a couple Netflix DVDs in the mail; now many of us have that service alongside Hulu, Amazon Prime and HBO GO. Companies like DC, Disney, Marvel and even the dreaded Fox News aren't far behind. It's not all good news, it's not all great programming (who doesn't flip through Netflix thinking "What the hell is that?"), but it is indicative of how we want to consume our entertainment these days—no physical product cluttering up our shelves, just a simple interface, the click of a remote and the escapism of filmed media. Glory be!
And yet, to maximize our streaming experience, especially in winter, there is much to contemplate, products to add into the mix—here's our idea of a perfect wintertime evening binge-watch.
The Film: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
The Service: Netflix
The Premise: The Coen Brothers produce six bite-sized Western vignettes from the silly to the bone-chilling. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll maybe even feel a little bored sometimes, but it's worth sticking it out.
Pair With: We recommend Trader Joe's vegetarian chile ($1.99/can) served over their organic corn dippers ($1.99 and essentially Fritos, just better) with shredded cheese for that chuck wagon, Western-y but still kinda New Mexico-ish feel.
The Show: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014-current)
The Service: HBO GO
The Premise: Like a new and improved Daily Show, comedy genius and political know-it-all Oliver spends real time dissecting one important issue of the day. From the recent election in Brazil to what they're calling "Stupid Watergate," the story could be from months ago and is still reported in a timely, entertaining and meaningful way.
Pair With: You'll be laughing a lot, so you'll want to keep your options small and bite-sized. Try picking up a bag of caramel corn ($4.50-$4.95) from local confectioner Señor Murphy's
(177 Paseo de Peralta, 780-5179).
The Film: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)
The Service: Hulu
The Premise: Certified comic legend Tina Fey plays a journalist recounting her time in the Middle East (for some reason). Fey wasn't shy about how little she liked Santa Fe, where the movie was filmed, but you can take solace in how it's just not very good and was pretty much universally panned.
Pair With: Maybe a bit on-the-nose, but almost anything from Cleopatra Café (418 Cerrillos Road, 820-7381; 3482 Zafarano Drive, 474-5644) would suit this session. Our tip? Get a side of fries ($3.50) and a side of hummus ($5.50) and go to town. Try also the sheesh tewook ($7.95), a chicken dish that's insanely delicious.
The Show: Zack Morris is Trash (2018)
The Service: YouTube and Amazon Prime
The Premise: Born from the website Funny or Die, these mini-episodes tear apart the popular '90s teen sitcom Saved by the Bell humorously and brilliantly, pointing out all the ways central character Zack Morris is a complete and utter sociopathic garbage person. At three to five minutes apiece, you can tear through them incredibly fast, but trust us—they're some of the funniest videos we've seen in the history of the internet.
Pair With: If you're going for the full-on 1990s feel, special order you some Dunk-a-roos, dump some Sour Patch Kids into a bowl and relive the glory days of a time when you could eat anything you wanted whenever you wanted.
The Show: Titans (2018)
The Service: DC Universe
The Premise: As the line "Fuck Batman" rings throughout the nerd-o-sphere, many still wonder if the DC Comics streaming service has legs. We don't know yet, especially since we've found their filmic offerings pretty lacking after Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, but Titans is still a pretty cool property full of young and/or lesser-known DC heroes like Nightwing and, um, Cyborg.
Pair With: The smug sense of satisfaction that comes from being an early adopter with the kind of disposable income that allows you to have a streaming service so incredibly specific.
The Film: Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018)
The Service: Netflix
The Premise: Yet another retelling of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, this time with Andy Serkis (he's a voice actor and face actor but you probably and quite sadly know him best as Gollum) at the helm and Matthew "The Americans" Rhys all up in there alongside voice acting from Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale and Humperdink Cimberflap. We didn't hate the recent-ish Disney version, and we fully believe in Serkis.
Pair With: We kind of like the idea of watching a movie based in a hot place in the cold months, and even more so with the thought of a nice blanket to lounge under.
The Show: Cheers (1982-1993)
The Service: Netflix
The Premise: The sitcom that pretty much wrote the book for future beloved shows like Frasier, The Simpsons and too many others to count, we follow the antics of the staff and patrons from a Boston-area bar. What's that you say? It came out a million years ago? Maybe so, but that doesn't change how brilliant Cheers was, and for those who don't know, we think they'll find a shocking number of stolen jokes originating here … even if we DO hate Christopher Lloyd for what he did to Sam and Diane, Shelley Long for leaving after season five and Nicholas "Coach" Colasanto for dying—he was the funniest character by far, though, full disclosure, we also love Woody. There are 11 effing seasons to binge.
Pair With: A light beer, perhaps brewed locally—like Second Street Brewery's Kolsch—and you'll feel just like Norm Peterson.