I’ve discovered this strange side effect of binging HBO’s so-called “prestige dramas” recently, after years of having little-to-no access to this stuff: I get obsessed with a show during its first season, and then rapidly lose interest after that first season finale.
I don’t know what it is, or what’s to blame. Have I had too much of a good thing in too short a time, perhaps? Even when the season finale ends in a cliffhanger that has me on the edge of my seat — hello, Westworld — I get maybe an episode or two into the second season and just… don’t want to watch it anymore.
It’s not that I lose interest in the show entirely; I know I’ll go back to Westworld just as I know I’ll go back to Succession. It’s just that the idea of going back to either right now feels not just unappealing, but exhausting. I need something else, another flavor, for now.
(I’m writing this and suddenly just thought of Chernobyl, a show I appreciated but found emotionally exhausting to watch episode-to-episode; the prospect of there somehow being a second season of that — this time with even more real-life dystopia and human frailty! — is something that would make me think about taking a long cruise towards the horizon with no plans to turn back.)
Am I merely worn out by the top-quality acting from people I half-recognize from movies I might have watched ten years ago? Perhaps that’s it. Is it that I can sense the end of one chapter and need a breather before continuing onwards? I’m not sure that’s true; I went immediately from season 2 to season 3 of No Offence as if my life depended on it. (I should write about that show soon, I think.) Are seasons of these shows structured as complete — or, at least, nearly complete — set pieces that require a break upon completion, to mediate upon and get some emotional distance?
Closer to the truth, perhaps, is the fact that, sometimes, it’s just more relaxing to watch The Great British Bake-Off and Top Chef after a day of thinking too hard. Never underestimate the value of well-made comfort food.