In the TV business, summer traditionally has been considered an off-season. Primarily because the broadcast networks' prime series go on a 4-month hiatus after completing their 20+ episode seasons. Nowadays, of course, it's not all that relevant for TV viewers, because... Well, for multiple reasons, really, but to name a few:
First of all, if you prefer edgier premium cable series, your TV viewing patterns are driven by 2-3 month seasons scheduled at different times throughout the year: Shameless airs January through March, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley - April -June, Masters of Sex - July-September, Homeland - October-December, etc. Even if you are into blending your TV cocktail out of cable and broadcast ingredients, you most likely use on-demand and DVR options to accommodate your personal schedules and to fill the airing gaps. Plus, some broadcast networks now have "summer shows" - short-seasoned and "limited" series aired specifically to cover the off-season void: Hannibal, Wayward Pines, Under the Dome, Aquarius, etc.
The most important factor, however, is that we've stopped being restricted by conventional TV ever since Netflix came along. First, they made the idea of going to video stores and looking for something to watch unnecessary. We were so grateful for digital searching, online ordering, and USPS drop-ins and drop-offs. But then even walking to the mailbox became unnecessary, because they made a tremendous volume of content available for IP streaming, including rare and obscure movies, shows, documentaries, anime, etc. from all over the world!
They didn't stop there either - they got into creating their own original programming. And then Amazon followed suit! As a result, we got access to gems that make me feel as if I am living through some sort of an indie renaissance via the Internet: House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, Peaky Blinders, Grace and Frankie, Sense8 (Netflix originals), Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon's originals). It's fucking incredible!
Moreover, not only that streaming content is available everywhere you can go online, it's available in whole seasons. There is no waiting for weeks at a time until the next episode; no mid-season separation anxiety; no loss of vital details from previous weeks. Technically you can watch a 12-episode season in one day. It is my understanding that some people actually do that.
Netflix had at their hands the best market-testing sample imaginable - their entire subscription base. They must've noticed early on that a large percentage of the viewing population doesn't restrict itself to one episode at a time. They even installed a special probe at the start of the third consecutively watched episode to test whether you are actually binging or have simply fallen asleep on your couch. Brilliant!
Yes, binging - as in excessive indulgence, as in manifestation of addictive personality traits. Not a new thing, really. TV networks (USA especially) have been scheduling rebroadcasting marathons since the 80s. By offering this opportunity to audiences with pretty much any kind of preferences, Netflix forever altered the cultural lives of millions of people.
The phenomenon itself became a marketing tool for Netflix's competitors, who want you to know that you can replicate this experience with them as well: This summer, Amazon actually used the phrase "binge on your favorite shows for free" in its promotional messages for Premium subscriptions. HBO, still holding onto their highbrow status, softens it by offering you to "feast" on your past and present favorite shows on HBO GO.
Poor David Foster Wallace warned, way before streaming had become a household concept, that Television is the one and only true American addiction. He predicted that catering to user demand for content of their choice whenever and wherever they wanted it (remember the "direct dissemination"?) may irrevocably alter us and potentially result in the crumbling of human will.
But who am I to judge? Yes, my life is too busy for hardcore binging and I refuse to watch an episode of anything on my goddamned iPhone, but I've been taking advantage of on-demand entertainment ever since it was first introduced by American cable providers 15 years ago. Then came iTunes 6.0 (2005). Today - Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Showtime Anytime - I've got them all, including a Fire Stick to carry them with me wherever I go.
But that was not the topic of this post, was it? (Too bad you cannot hear me laughing at myself.) This was meant to be a brief introduction to the shocking fact that, even with all that variety of quality entertainment on hand, at some point in July I found myself with my personal TV time-slot empty. And let me tell you, that made it hard to ignore the binging and feasting callings of the content pushers.
I browsed the variety of offerings and ended up with The Good Wife on Amazon Prime. It used to be one of the shows I watched during its active seasons - all the way through the middle of Season 4. But then, 2013 announced its arrival to Netflix with their first two major originals, plus Top of the Lake, plus The Fall, the first season of Broadchurch, etc., etc. I'm a busy woman - something had to go. Now I picked up where I left off.
I have to admit, assuming you manage not to paralyze your life or degrade your mental and motoric agility, watching multi-season, multi-episode shows without gaps measured in weeks and months has its undeniable benefits. Complex and intricate storytelling loses some of its power when it's broken up into weekly installments and then gets shelved away for 4 or more months. Reducing these gaps not only allows for a more detail-oriented viewing, it also gives you an opportunity to assess the show's merits and values in a more coherent way.
Aside from the most obvious and well acknowledged attributes of The Good Wife - strive for realism; acute attention to the impact of technology on our lives; honest depiction of shifting morality; head-on tackling of race, class, gender, sex, and all other divides - what I like the most about the show is its refusal to label itself as a single genre. We can definitely identify it as a Drama, but the range of applicable modifiers is quite long - family, political, crime, legal, courtroom.
But what I realized while watching seasons 4 through 6 now, was that in it's wardrobe full of genres, The Good Wife's favorite outfit was the Workplace Drama. One law firm, another law firm, State's Attorney's office, governor's office, clients' businesses (including a drug-distribution organization), you name it - all of them are depicted as places of employment. And the human relationships inside these businesses play essential roles in the show's storytelling. The office politics, alliances, squabbles, hiring, firing, promotion, compensation, peers' competition, subordination, fraternizing, partnerships, resignations, harassment, even telecommuting - all of them have been used as plot points.
Once I started noticing, I've found so many typical and easily recognizable Human Resources issues, it was hard to pick the following ten:
- Any employee, no matter how highly positioned and compensated, is always a disgruntled employee. It's remarkable how much pent-up gall towards Lockhart & Gardner started spilling out of Alicia and Cary as soon as they left to set up their own firm. They were never that rude to any other opponents as they were to their former bosses. What was it that Cary said to Will and Diane? That watching them squirm gives him an immense pleasure? It's the nature of a subservient position - no matter what, we don't like it.
- Why don't we like it? Because there is no such a thing as a fair boss. Every boss believes that you belong to him, yet he doesn't really need you and will do just fine without you. That's why bosses never bother acknowledging, even to themselves, your full contribution and think that you should be grateful for what you've got. Aside from always high-in-demand Kalinda, all other major and minor characters have experienced that.
- Recruitment is the most depressing of all managerial responsibilities. Will and Diane need to hire more attorneys. They sit down with their headhunter to look at the resumes she already preselected for them. Barely glancing at them, Will goes, "No, no, no..." And let me tell you, whether you are an asshole or a saint, this is what you do. And I know that not everyone sees a life story behind every resume, still it's an incredibly unpleasant exercise for all.
- An easy interview is rarely a successful one. Will is interviewed by Geneva Pine and her colleagues in his bid for an outsourcing contract with the State Attorney's office. It goes great - quick and short; no follow-up questions, no drilling into specifics. Why? Because it's just a formality - Lockhart & Gardner were never even seriously considered. Whether you are pitching yourself for employment or your company's services for a contract, the interviewing principles are exactly the same. A short, formal, and overly polite interview means that you are not getting the job.
- Only full-time employment comes with benefits coverage. This one is important because many people are still confused. Kalinda, who has been working for Will for years, is appalled that newly hired Robin has medical coverage. Except Kalinda cannot possibly qualify for benefits because she is a 1099 contractor with other billable businesses. This allows her not only to delay paying social security taxes, but also makes a lot of her expenses tax deductible. In order to receive company benefits one must be a full-time payroll employee with a minimum of a 30-hour workweek. You cannot have it both ways.
- All computing and communication devices provided by employers belong to the said employers. I know that many viewers may feel dismayed when they hear various bosses on the show proposing to hack into their employees' emails. The truth is, however, that the employers are absolutely within their rights. All devices paid for by the employer and everything inside of them are the company's property. Not only is it implicit, but it is explicitly outlined in every single Employee's Handbook. Yet, so many people treat the company's equipment as their own. Hillary's personal email debacle is one recent memorable example. People, don't be cheap and lazy, buy yourself a personal phone, external hard drives, and whatever else you need to keep your private contacts, communications, and files separately.
- The impervious pregnancy shield. Governor Florrick's Ethics Czar Marilyn Garbanza is pregnant and the father is 76-year-old! Can you trust a person like that with any type of government responsibility, let alone the one that requires clarity of reasoning? Yet, nobody reassigns her (of course, she cannot be fired - that's a lawsuit right there), because her condition blocks everyone's common sense. In fact, her looks merited more suitability discussions than the fact that she made a decision to have a child with a septuagenarian.
- Workplace honesty is a relevant thing. There is an information leak from Florrick/Agos. Three key people (two lawyers and one investigator) privy to the information are being questioned. All three deny any involvement. Alicia says, "These are the most honest people I know." Mind you, at different points in time we've seen these characters mislead their clients, lie to their opposition, trap witnesses, steal information and evidence, even betray one another! Yet, that was all done in the "normal course of business;" to get the job done, i.e. to perform your professional duties. Nowadays, nobody considers dishonesty on behalf of one's employer amoral. I've done it and you've done it; everyone does it. Are we absolved and untainted because we presume there is no direct personal gain? That's the question.
- How do you know when someone in the office is sleeping with the boss? Look for the telling signs. People cannot help themselves - they get emboldened by the perceived closeness to "power." The person in question will stand too close, laugh too loud, dress inappropriately, pick fights with peers, become insufferable for subordinates and less diligent with their duties.
- One should always be aware of the temporary and unstable nature of any HR structure. People die, get arrested on obscure charges, move on for higher salaries, or decide to be homemakers. Companies go through mergers, buy-outs, and hostile takeovers. And nobody, literally nobody, has a good life - everyone is fucked up and thoroughly unhappy, no matter how hard they try to hide it. So, there is always a good chance that they may check out - out of job or out of life. Or do something completely insane, like trying to shift from Law into politics.
But the most valuable life lesson one should take away from The Good Wife is that you should never ever burn all the bridges and cut all the ties, because you never know with whom you may need to partner next.