The weekend is upon us and like many people trying to wind down from a week of stress (which for me is pretty much all the time), we like to hunker down for some therapeutic binge-watching, catching up on all those recordings piling up on our DVRs or finally getting around to seeing what the fuss is all about and setting sucked into an entire season of some hot new series on Netflix or Amazon. Laura is preparing for the highly-anticipated Gilmore Girls reboot by binge-watching the original series. Rina and I are still waiting for her to get through the entire Buffy the Vampire series so we can finally do a post about it! With two kids running around, this could take awhile. Recently, Rina and I both tried to get into the latest BBC adaptation of that behemoth tome of Russian literature War and Peace. I lost interest after episode 4…or whenever Prince Andre and Natasha got gushy with each other at some royal ball. Rina persevered a while longer and would now like those 12 hours back! I think I tried to like War and Peace simply because I really liked the cast of actors, many of whom I’ve enjoyed watching in other productions, like Lily James (Downton Abbey), James Norton (Granchester), Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, The Fall), and Jim Broadbent (Bridget Jones). But even the grandeur and “epic” drama couldn’t keep me watching, because (who am I kidding) it was torture enough wading through that book in college…and I was a LIT major!
What makes a series binge-worthy, you make ask? I say, if it doesn’t hook you in from the first episode, even in the first 10 minutes, then chances are it won’t sustain your interest for the long haul. Here are a few of my favorites and why I think they’re are worthy of binge-watching, in no particular order:
Orphan Black (BBC America)
This brilliantly conceived, thought-provoking sci-fi fantasy drama (BBC America) about human clones showcases a fantastic cast of actors, including Jordan Gavaris (the irrepressible Felix), Maria Doyle Kennedy (fierce Mrs. S.) and Dylan Bruce (delicious man-candy Paul). Most importantly it shines a spotlight on the mind-blowing talent of its star Tatiana Maslany, who at last count has played about a dozen distinctive characters over three seasons, and often three in a single scene. Why she hasn’t garnered more acting awards is beyond me. The series deftly weaves a complex web of twisty plot lines involving multi-layered characters that surprises you at every turn. You’ll find yourself impatiently clambering for the next season to start!
Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon)
While I can’t say I’m a huge fan of classical music, I am a fan of the sexy Gael Garcia Bernal, who stars as the irresistibly eccentric, passionate “rock star” maestro Rodrigo who takes over as conductor of the New York Symphony from his more stately predecessor played by Malcolm McDowell (Thomas). It’s a humorous, sexy, refreshing and sometimes harsh behind the scenes look at the world of classical musicians, with wonderful performances by Bernal, McDowell, the ageless Bernadette Peters, Saffron Burrows and newcomer Lola Kirk, who plays aspiring oboist Hailey. If you have Amazon Prime, be prepared. You might find yourself streaming both seasons in one weekend.
Jessica Jones (Netflix)
Unlike Rina, who practically lives and breathes comics, I’m a late comer to the genre. I have in the recent years, however, become a fan of the Marvel universe and in particular of the cadre of bad ass Marvel women, from Agent Carter to Black Widow. When Netflix came out with their own female-centric Marvel series Jessica Jones (starring Kristen Ritter as the title character) I was intrigued–mainly because one of my British obsessions David Tennant (the 9th Doctor Who) would be playing her nemesis Kilgrave. Tennant as Kilgrave, who by the way is seductively sinister, was the hook but Ritter’s emotionally raw and physically commanding performance as Jessica is what got me glued to the screen. She’s not your typical heroine and Jessica Jones is not your typical action series.
The Fall (BBC/Netflix)
Jamie Dornan’s chilling portrayal of Paul Spector in this gripping, intense British psychological thriller will make you forget about his performance in Fifty Shades of Grey. He’s at once a loving father and a cold, calculating, sadistic serial killer preying on young women in Belfast, who is in turn being hunted down by the very determined Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson played by Gillian Anderson, brought in from London to head the task force. The two engage in a riveting game of cat and mouse in which it is not always clear who is chasing whom.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (Netflix)
This import from the land down under is an engaging mix of good old-fashioned detective drama, romance, intrigue, and a dash of humor set in 1920’s Melbourne. The title character Miss (Phryne) Fisher, played by the incandescent Essie Davis, is a sharp-witted, sexy, glamorous, free-thinking female private detective of independent means who effortlessly navigates her way through various social circles and cultures in pursuit of justice and adventure–armed with a pearl-handled pistol and an enviable wardrobe. As a thoroughly modern woman Phryne has her fair share of dalliances but its her “will they or won’t they” romance with Detective Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page) that keeps everyone guessing…and captivated.
Whatever you choose to binge-watch this weekend, there is one essential thing you’ll need (besides a comfortable couch)–a binge-worthy snack to help power you through hours of viewing. Popcorn is my snack of choice…but not just any popcorn. Oh no. I’m talking about my “crack” Miso Soy Caramel Popcorn–an unbelievably addictive sweet and salty concoction that combines the airy crunch of popcorn with the umami of Japanese rice crackers. Yes, you can thank me later after you’ve inhaled a giant bowl full of this!
Miso Soy Caramel Popcorn with Furikake
- 12 cups Popped Popcorn (preferably air-popped)
- 1 cup Brown Sugar, packed
- 1/4 cup Light Corn Syrup
- 1/2 cup Water
- 5 oz. or 10 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
- 3 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
- 1/4 cup Miso Paste
- 3 Tbsp. Furikake (seasoned seaweed topping)*
- 1 Tbsp. Toasted Sesame Seeds
*You can find the furikake in most Asian markets. Just be aware that some varieties contain bonito (fish) flakes, so read the ingredient label.
Place the popcorn in a large heat proof bowl. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
In a medium saucepan (at least 6 qt capacity), combine the sugar, corn syrup and water, then bring to a boil. Add the butter and continue cooking until the mixture reaches 260°F. Turn off the heat, then stir in the soy sauce and miso paste to combine, then the baking soda. The baking soda will cause the mixture to foam up a bit. Quickly pour the caramel evenly over the popcorn. With a heat-proof rubber spatula coated with non-stick spray, toss the popcorn around to thoroughly coat the kernels with the caramel. Spread the caramel corn out onto two sheet pans coated with non-stick spray. Bake for about 25 mins., turning the mixture a couple of times during the process. Remove the caramel corn from the oven and immediately toss in the furikake and sesame seeds, scraping the bottom of the sheet pan to loosen the caramel corn. Allow the mixture to cool completely.