I used to be like you, you know. I used to have a life.
Oh, those were grand times. If we weren’t on some weekend vacation to exotic lands such as Wiscasset or Vassalboro, I was riding my bike deep into the woods and doing everything possible to lose my way back.
Nights were forays into the star-strewn unknown. I’d stay up writing strange fiction into the wee hours and then, bleary-eyed and half drunk with creative hangover, watch the sunrise from the stoop.
I used to have something. I used to do things.
I never wanted that silly service, you know. There was a time not long ago when I’d sneer at fools who stood around the water cooler rambling endlessly about hit shows such as “Game of the Dead,” or “The Walking Thrones.”
I fancied myself better than them, because while they were spending precious hours indulging in worlds created by others, I was out living stories far grander than those.
Then Netflix happened. It was somewhat thrust upon me, but I went willingly enough. I’ll just have a taste, I figured. I’ll bite off one tiny slice of “The Walking Dead,” just to see what all the fuss is about, and then I’ll be done and on my way.
October went by in a blur. They say there was actually a November last year, but I don’t remember it. Too busy bingeing the way a career drunk would binge if he found himself in a fully stocked liquor store in an abandoned town.
By the time I was caught up on “The Walking Dead,” I ambled away from the computer like one of those zombies that so entertained me. Probably smelled like one, too.
Shaken and embarrassed, I made justifications for the long indulgence. I don’t have a problem — YOU have a problem. I mean, who WOULDN’T get hooked on a show about walking dead folks in an apocalyptic world? That’s like chocolate-flavored crack for a guy with conspiratorial tendencies.
It wasn’t my fault, in other words, so just save your intervention talk.
Warily, I went back to Netflix, promising myself that I’d stick to shows that didn’t intrigue me whatsoever. All I wanted was a little white noise in the background while I went on with my exciting and adventurous life.
So I cracked open “Breaking Bad.” A story about a depressed chemistry teacher trying to supplement his income. Two words, my friend: “bore” and “ing.” Yawns all around.
The first episode nearly killed me. I had no plans to go back for a second, but come on! The chemistry teacher was stumbling around the desert in his underwear, a locked and loaded .45 in hand and two dying drug dealers in his crappy Winnebago. What, was I supposed to NOT find out what happened next?
Two weeks later, I awoke in a seedy motel gaunt, shaking and singing “Baby Blue” in a crazed falsetto after watching the series finale, which was the best I’d ever seen.
OK, so clearly I had a problem. What I needed was to get that white noise fix from a show that had absolutely NO CHANCE WHATSOEVER of entertaining me.
With that in mind, I started “Weeds,” a show about a suburban widow trying to supplement her income by peddling pot to bored housewives. I mean, how interesting could THAT be?
Eight trippy seasons later, I emerged hairy, hungry and squirting Visine into my bloodshot eyes, a ruined fellow who had turned down many invitations to real-world thrills for fear of losing touch with that wacky Botwin family.
I detoxed from “Weeds” by watching “The Wonder Years” — a show that had bored me to tears when it first ran — from start to finish. I tried to quit four seasons in, but I just HAD to know how things worked out for Kevin and Winnie. (Note to future viewers: They all die in the end.)
Then there was “Black Mirror,” an anthology of strange tales that center around technology and a show so good, my only criticism is that there aren’t enough episodes. “Black Mirror” was so intriguing, I found myself approaching random strangers on the street to see if they’d watched it and if they wouldn’t mind talking to me for just a little while.
Stupid Netflix. It had to stop. Desperate to cut the cord, I made myself watch only shows made in Australia. Seriously, what good entertainment has ever come out of that weird continent? I was safe. Finally, I’d have something on the screen that was too utterly stupid and full of talentless wankers to steal my interest.
Unfortunately, I was kangaroo kicked by the dazzling prison drama that is “Wentworth,” a show so profoundly captivating, I had to take bereavement time off from work when it was over. I mean, I went bunta over that show, and so should you, if only so that we can talk about that crazy thing that happens in the end of Season 5.
After “Wentworth” I stumbled into “Glitch,” an Australian-made show about a handful of dead Australian people crawling out of their graves and wreaking various havoc upon a wee little Australian town. Shouldn’t have been good. Was good. And there went another Saturday afternoon full of sunshine I never got to enjoy.
Even an overhyped mess like “13 Reasons Why” took a chunk out of my life, although it was nine episodes in before I stopped complaining about how horrible it was.
Why did I stick with it for nine episodes if I hated it so much? Pure psychology, yo. I was never much of a TV person. It just never appealed much to my all-or-nothing nature. Who wants to spend precious time watching an hourlong show plagued by 20 minutes of commercials and then have to wait a week just as the story was getting hot?
Turns out that what my troubled mind craved was the ability to binge-watch television: In my twisted pathology, anything that’s worth doing is worth doing to excess.
But you, my weekend warrior friend — if you haven’t yet succumbed to the siren song of Netflix, you can learn from me. Steer well clear of the programs listed above and go straight for the crap. There is plenty of crap on Netflix and it will cure you before your addiction has even started. Go straight for those shows with horrible acting, abysmal writing and atrocious dialogue.
I give you “Between,” a sort of “Lord of the Flies” rip-off that features dialogue so bad, it’s stunning. We’re talking about writers so lazy, they will try to cram years’ worth of back story into one short conversation between 35-year-old actors who are being sold as teens.
“Hello, Adam, my childhood friend whom I drifted away from over the years and who just got accepted into MIT,” according to one line from the movie that I’m possibly making up. “It’s me, Wiley, the reverend’s rebellious daughter you’ve always had a crush on but were to shy to act on it. How are you today?”
It’s that bad. In fact, you know what? It’s so bad, I think I’m cured of the Netflix Jones forever. I’m free! Free to live my life! Free to become the hedonistic thrill seeker I once was! It’s over, man. It’s done.
Editor’s note: One hour after this column was delivered to the newsroom, writer Mark LaFlamme discovered that a new season of “The Ranch” was available on Netflix. He hasn’t been seen since.