Netflix Anxiety Disorder – the social pressure to watch TV box sets – has replaced obsessional interest in music and trainers as the way to define whether you are cool or not, writes Kevan Christie.
“Have you seen Killing Eve yet? You should watch it - you’ll love it. Yeah, you can download the lot on BBC iPlayer.” Fast forward one week ... ”Have you watched Killing Eve? I’m telling you – you’ve got to watch it ... you’ll love it. Watch Killing Eve.”
The above passive-aggressive conversation or similar is being played out in offices, cafes and pubs across the country anytime two or more friends get together for a catch-up and a break from the daily grind.
The problem is that as soon as you’ve watched the eight episodes of female psychopath drama Killing Eve as ordered, your telly tormentor will be onto the next ‘must see’ show.
So, by the time you’re ready to have the Killing Eve conversation – they’ll be smugly telling anyone who’ll listen to watch the latest series of Inside No 9 on BBC2 – “it’s genius”.
If none of this makes sense to you and you’re asking what Killing Eve is, don’t worry you’re fine. You fall into the category of ... perfectly normal human being and who might even spend time outdoors.
If, however, you’re cancelling social engagements, gym appointments and the flu jab in the hope of getting ill, so as to make time for ‘box-setting’ then you’ve got a problem and are showing the first symptoms of a fledgling illness, let’s call it Netflix Anxiety Disorder (NAD).
This obsession with television in the form of box sets is the new cool for those of us who care about such things.
In my day, it was what music you were into and what trainers you wore to stand outside the chippy that mattered and woe betide anyone who turned up in the school playground wearing Adidas Kicks instead of Samba. The Face magazine was our bible and everyone dressed like a golfer on acid.
Go back to the 70s and it was the album under your arm that defined you – Roxy Music, Bowie or Steely Dan good, anything by The Wurzels bad.
But now, the all-consuming television or ‘idiot box’ as it was once known is calling the shots and heaven forbid that you’re one of those relics who still watches terrestrial TV in chronological order – Bic Biro pen at the ready waiting to circle preferred programmes in the paper.
At this point, I have to admit to I’m exhibiting the classic symptoms of NAD. I’ve found myself getting anxious if my TV planner has less than 30 per cent capacity left for recording programmes. It’s the same feeling I get when running low on milk or sticking the last piece of bread in the toaster. I also worry that I’ve not got enough Maltesers in my chocolate stash to see me through a marathon box set sesh.
To compound the problem, my planner is full of stuff I’ve taped – yes, I still say taped – but know I’ll never watch.
This is made up of programmes I watched as a child and still feel nostalgic about – The World at War and the Rockford Files being two examples, although I reckon this is down to the theme tunes.
There’s also a fair chunk of pretentious stuff that I know I’ll never watch but I have taped in the faint hope it might improve me as a person.
This includes the Art of France, Germany and Scandinavia, Jean-Luc Godard’s classic 1962 French New Wave drama Vivre sa Vie, starring Anna Karina and the sublime 1954 film noir Crime Wave, starring Sterling Hayden and Charles Bronson, directed by Andre De Toth. This was referenced by the great Stanley Kubrick in his film The Killing.
I know all of this useless information because it comes up in blue every time I scroll through my TV planner to see what I’ve taped – before scrolling back to watch Ballers starring Dwayne The Rock Johnson. To my knowledge, Ballers hasn’t been referenced in any classic film noirs but it’s early days.
Such is my TV planner anxiety, I’m thinking of putting a note in a will telling my wife to delete the 22 episodes of the Rockford Files that I’ve taped in the event of my passing.
The last thing I’d want is for a grieving widow to run out of TV planner space.
Don’t get me wrong – I totally understand the benefits of being able to pause the telly while you nip to the loo or make a cup of tea.
But there’s definitely a formula to these types of shows, an alchemy that draws us in and keeps us coming back series after series. I know it involves the unexpected death of a main character having learnt that from The Sopranos and The Wire but the rest is as yet a mystery.
At this point, I have to ask, does anyone go the pictures anymore?
Could it be that we’re going through one of those dark periods for cinema, much like 50 years ago when television was king and movies took a backseat as picture houses started to close? If so, this is a shame.
I cherish the memory of Friday, 26 October, 1990 – the date Goodfellas had its UK cinema release. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I took a half day from my job as a Visual Display Unit (VDU) operator with Standard Life to head up to the Dominion 3 on my own to watch the Scorsese classic.
I bought my box – it has to be a box of fruit gums – and sat through two hours 28 minutes of sheer unadulterated psychopathic joy.
Just me and one other person in that tiny art deco theatre, watching Joe Pesci ask menacingly: “I’m funny how, I mean funny like a clown?”
At the last count I’ve watched it 43 times ... it was on TCM again last week – and I’ve now added it to my TV planner.
Oh, and just in case, Netflix Anxiety Disorder is not a real illness.