To TV Binge or Not to TV Binge: ‘Hemlock Grove’ Edition

This is Netflix’s newest model: binge watching, based on the notion that fans of a TV show will eat up an entire season at once like a food addict with a big old chocolate cake in front of them. There is no way they are just eating the once slice.

I’ve certainly done this before – as much as anyone who has kids and husband and a job can do. For me, it was Lost. It was the ONLY thing I watched when I had any free time. It still took a while. I also experienced Friday Night Lights in this way (and if you haven’t seen it, you should, right now). Right up until the last season, that is, which began airing just as I finished the four seasons before. I had become gluttonous for FNL; the waiting every week was annoying.

I binged a little (two episodes max a day) on Netflix’s first foray into this type of media delivery, House of Cards.  It was gorgeous, dark, tightly directed (and created by) Fight Club‘s David Fincher with a stellar performances by the mesmerizing Kevin Spacey and the incredible Robin Wright. I loved it.

Netflix’s second entree into original content is Hemlock Grove. Now, I’m a gal who loves werewolves and vampires and witches. Can’t say the same about zombies, I don’t like the zombies. Anyhow, this should have been right up my alley.

Here’s the general plot line for the show: Hemlock Grove is a small sinister town in Pennsylvania. We are first introduced to Peter, a gypsy (we know this because he says he’s a gypsy straight off and he and his mom shoplift a lot – nice). Peter and his mom move into a trailer that’s just across the forest from the scions of Hemlock Grove, The Godfreys, headed up by the widowed and totally creepo Famke Janssen and her two children, spoiled brat Roman Godfrey and his disfigured seven foot tall sister Shelly (Frankenstein, anyone?), a gentle giant who sadly, has a squid eye.

Rumor has it that Peter is a werewolf. Well, actually we know he is one because they’ve released the clip of his gruesome turn on YouTube. Roman, meanwhile, has a fascination with blood and can make people do things by looking them in the eye and squinting. Is he a vampire? Not sure. When girls start to be mauled apart by a wild animal on each full moon, the two of them buddy up and decide to find the killer. I should say that it’s not all Turner and Hooch. There’s also the biotech company owned by the Godfrey family where strange experiments that hint at raising the dead might be going on. Did I also mention the cousin? who was impregnated by an angel?.

Here’s what I want to say about Hemlock Grove: It is horrible. I mean, it is cheeseball, gory, shlock with dialogue that could have been written by a 13-year-old boy who is hyper-excited about boobs and girl-on-girl action. Eli Roth is the creator and director of the show and he’s no amateur when it comes to horror, or so I’ve heard. I don’t actually watch movies like Hostel or Cabin in The Woods because I’m a scaredy cat.

It is hard to get past the writing. It’s hard to get past the swiss cheese of plot lines. Famke Janssen is…. tall and affects a strange British accent. Roman, played by Bill Skarsgard, is in fact Vampire Eric’s brother in real life. But sadly he has none of the swaggy sexiness of his big bro. Also, HIS Swedish accent is quite pronounced, with no explanation as to why that might be. (Writer’s note: since Famke is Dutch and Bill Swedish, couldn’t they have spent some formative years somewhere in Scandinavia to explain this?) Peter is labeled from the get-go as a werewolf because his index and middle finger are the same size. Yep, that’s all it takes, apparently. But sorry ladies, he’s no Alcide. They call him hirsute on the show, but apart from a little 5 o’clock shadow, he didn’t look all that hairy to me.

The show is silly (notVampire Diaries silly, which makes both Twilight and Hemlock Grove seem like Shakespeare.)And yet…and yet… I HAD TO WATCH ALL 13 EPISODES. I had to know who was who and who killed who and what the Order of The Dragon was. I certainly enjoyed last four episodes more than I did the first 4. However, there was never a time when I completely bought everything the show was selling. And yet.. Again, I watched it all. Had the show been on regular TV, I’m not sure I would have bothered. The weird continuities of the story development might have annoyed me too much between weeks and I may have given up.

So in this respect, the Netflix model certainly does work. It makes me wonder if perhaps this is the way of the future. I wonder how I feel about this future. I do like to binge once in a while. Binge might be too strong a word here; indulge might be better. I do like to indulge in Toll House cookies right out of the oven, super hot shoes, crazy expensive handbags, vodka and the entire season of a TV show. Sometimes, however, I like a slow jam. I like a meal that goes on for hours, a knitting project that takes me months to finish, a big huge book that makes my arm hurt when I hold it for too long. Sometimes it’s the anticipation that makes the thing itself so satisfying. I would certainly say that’s the case for me and Game of Thrones this season. Is TV binging yet another way we are indoctrinating our culture into the cult of entitlement? Or is it giving viewers the opportunity to see a show as its creators see it – as one long, long, movie – and thereby giving us a weird sort of patience to see it through to the end? Not sure yet. What do you think?

We are talking about having confidence this week at the Heatley Cliff. Something the creators of Hemlock Grove have in spades, I think.

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