Welcome back to AVQ&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences, and to ponder how our diverse lives all led us to convene here together. Got a question you’d like us and the readers to answer? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s question was prompted by coverage of and discussion about Netflix’s “Viewing activity” function:
What was your first Netflix binge?
The IT Crowd
Start date: 5/29/11
I opened my account during Memorial Day weekend, so when I grouse about Netflix clumping its big releases around major holidays, I only have myself to blame. I think my wife and I tried out The IT Crowd because people had been telling us for years “If you love Spaced, you’ll love The IT Crowd.” (P.S. Laura B.: Are you done with my Spaced DVDs?) Those people were correct, though I couldn’t help but get overeager about the vault of vintage TV I’d just cracked open: The second thing I ever watched on Netflix was the 1990 episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Kyle MacLachlan, although I’d already seen the monologue and the Twin Peaks sketch on DVD. (P.S. Laura B.: Are you done with my Twin Peaks DVDs?)
Start date: 11/17/09
If memory serves, the first season of Party Down generated a lot of buzz in our office, but like pretty much everyone else, I didn’t have Starz. Luckily it popped up on Netflix within a few months, so I was all caught up ahead of the second season, which premiered the following spring.
Start date: 9/2/14
I’ve had a Netflix account since its humble, DVD-only beginnings, but I’ve had to change accounts for various reasons (all perfectly legal). But since that data is lost to time, I’ll stick with what my account info currently says: I rewatched all of Undeclared in 2014. And it wouldn’t be the last time, because I get such a kick out of watching Steven Karp (Jay Baruchel) and friends fumble their way through freshman year in this Judd Apatow one-season wonder. There’s a murderer’s row of guest stars, too, including Amy Poehler, Jason Segel, Will Ferrell, Felicia Day, Ben Stiller, and Martin Starr. (PS Before sending this, I took a quick look at the activity since 2014, and it turns out I had another Undeclared binge-watch during my brief unemployment period in 2015.)
Friday Night Lights
Start date: 11/19/09
While history reveals that the actual first thing I ever streamed on Netflix was, inexplicably, the series finale of The Shield—a program I have never watched a single other episode of—my first real prolonged engagement with a streaming show was Friday Night Lights. This was about midway through the show’s run, and, at least as far as I knew things at the time, while its reputation was still building. I was always more of a Varsity Blues guy, myself, but I liked Explosions In The Sky and teen dramas and football and thought what the hell, let’s mix’em all up and see what happens. The fact that I did not like it did not stop me from watching every single episode of the show over the ensuing years, mostly so I could be better informed when arguing with people about it. Texas whatever.
Start date: 5/29/09
Well, Kyle, I guess you and I were among the lucky few to catch Party Down at the time it aired. I wasn’t working at The A.V. Club then, but I did read the site, and I imagine some glowing review or another inspired me to check it out on Netflix. Credit should also be given to my live-in boyfriend at the time, who, although we aren’t together anymore, continues to have excellent taste in comedy. We shared this particular Netflix account, and still do, now with separate profiles so my late-night viewings of Occult Crimes or Weird Or What? or whatever trash I put on after coming home from a night out no longer clog up his perfectly curated feed. And that, friends, is what amicable divorce looks like in the streaming age.
30-Second Bunnies Theater
Start date: 11/13/09
It’s maybe hard to remember what a Wild West frontier town Netflix was back in ol’ aught-nine, but I remember randomly scrolling through various offerings and thinking, “the fuck is that?” And so it was with 30-Second Bunnies Theater, a program that featured little animated bunnies recreating the entire plot of a movie in half a minute. I’m not sure why I decided I need to watch every episode of this series in one sitting, or even what it looked like, beyond a vague memory of giggling at stupid high-pitched rabbit voices doing scenes from The Godfather. Was I intoxicated at the time? Almost certainly. Was it worth it? In the moment, it probably felt like the best possible use of my day.
Laura M. Browning
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Start date: 2/1/11
I’d watched the first three seasons of Buffy with a friend I was visiting, and it was clear I couldn’t wait to visit her again before I binged the rest. I was freelancing at the time and had a flexible schedule, so my downstairs neighbor-friend and I would watch half a season at a time, ending at 3 or 4 in the morning. (The first time my neighbor-friend watched Buffy, she took two weeks’ PTO to do it, so staying up all night doesn’t even feel particularly indulgent in comparison.) Other fun things I learned from my Netflix account activity this morning: The first thing I ever streamed was Yes, Minister, back in 2008, and I didn’t stream anything again until the documentary Helvetica in 2010.
Start date: 7/4/10
Clayton, you didn’t like Friday Night Lights? Are you just dead inside? Anyway, it turns out that Kyle, Katie, and I, although separated by geography and time, were all looking up at the same Party Downstream. [Cue “Somewhere Out There.”] Mine didn’t start until 2010, though, likely because I wasn’t streaming much of anything for a while. I’ve always been a few years behind on technology—I didn’t have a cell phone until about 2006—so while I’d been getting Netflix DVDs in the mail for years, I was probably kind of ambivalent about turning over viewing to my shitty cable internet. I remember the rest of The A.V. Club staff was always raving about and referencing Party Down, so I finally burned through the entire season over Fourth of July. Not the weekend. I marathoned the whole thing on July 4, which, now that I have kids, seems like a distant dream.. I then binged the second season over New Year’s weekend to ring in 2011. Party Down is what finally got me into Netflix, it appears; before that, it seems I’d only streamed a handful of movies in all of 2009. The very first? Ishtar (which I’m pretty sure—or I hope—I watched for an Inventory). No wonder I didn’t come back for a while.
Start date: 6/1/13
Well, this sure is curious: On May 15, 2013 (a few months before I started freelancing here here), The A.V. Club ran a TV roundtable about the hangout comedy My Boys. I started bingeing it on Netflix the following month. Like many of those roundtable participants, I also found it woefully underrated: a bright, witty hangout comedy with the advantage (to me) of being set in Chicago. I enjoyed it so much I didn’t even mind the frequent sports references. The other early binges on my account seemed to encompass a lot of Phineas & Ferb: not me, honest! (Okay, some of that was me.)