As the month of May was swept away with the last of the network-season's original programming, those of us still in lockdown and quarantining had our own reality to embrace: there was nothing new on network television. Cable became the obvious choice. In particular, "Netflix" and "Prime." Whether it was "Victoria," "The Crown," "Bridgerton," "The Kominsky Method'' or "The Queen's Gambit," many of us left the networks behind and found a new home. However, even that didn't last forever. Soon we were back perusing the all-too-familiar weekly television viewing guide.
And in returning, I discovered a program that has been on for eight years, and never once had I seen any snippet other than a brief – and bland – reference about something or other: The program is called "The Blacklist." I knew that James Spader was the star, but I knew nothing about the storyline or any other actors involved. James Spader I knew from "Boston Legal," a legal drama from the early 2000s which featured among other story lines, a lawyer, Alan Shore (James Spader) offering up impassioned closing arguments for whatever wrong the firm was trying to right. I can't remember much substance, but I can sure remember the feeling and conviction expressed by Spader's character. He was mesmerizing.
And so, having exhausted "Prime and "Netflix" and a few other cable channels, we reverted back to the networks. This time though, to search for a show that we had overlooked during its initial previous network programming life. We discovered, or rather took a chance and selected "The Blacklist" to see what we could see. Not so much my wife, Dina, but ever since I began watching episode one, I have been entranced. To say I've been binge-watching makes light of all those who have previously binge-watched. I have watched approximately 80 episodes, not at one sitting (to be fair, I have watched multiple episodes multiple times) and am presently halfway through season five. They have been renewed for a ninth season starting in the fall of '21, so if I were planning on being current by then, I would need to have watched 22 episodes per year times seven years plus half of season eight: that's about 175 shows, each one running 42 minutes give or take without commercials. That adds up to over 122+ hours of television. That would test any committed viewer's patience and schedule. Presuming I have a life other than my couch and television, the prospect seems a bit daunting and to be honest, perhaps a bit foolish. I mean, life goes on doesn't it? James Spader gets paid whether I watch him or not, doesn't he? As for the networks, I'm pretty sure they're getting paid as well whether I'm in front of the television or not. Now if I were getting paid for my viewership, I would definitely hop on the couch. However, that's not happening – not in my wildest dreams, so I'm afraid I'll have to fend for myself. Still, in spite of calculating the hours necessary to get current with the show and considering the life I would need to live to reach this nirvana, I am not put off by the arithmetic or the challenge. I don't intend to commit every waking hour to fulfilling this goal, especially if one were to consider how the return of the fall shows in September would adversely impact my viewing flexibility. More shows to watch would create less opportunity to focus on any one show.
Nevertheless, there are approximately three months-ish until original programming returns to the networks in the fall. I don't have to have completed my pursuit by then. It's not as if I'm fulfilling some kind of contract. Hardly. All I'm fulfilling is a cockeyed plan to binge-watch more than eight seasons of a show that up until now, I barely knew existed. Now, not only does it exist, it's sort of the focus of my life (cancer notwithstanding). Granted, it's not very exciting, but it sure is predictable. And for a cancer patient recently re-diagnosed, predictable is good. I just hope the show ends before I do.