Mike Faille/National Post
This week, we’ll be taking a look at the best movies, music, television and food to get you through the summer, because if the holidays mean anything, it’s keeping it light and lazy.
In the summer of 2008, I had finally graduated high school. It was mid-June. The heat was brutal, buffeted by a swelling humidity made all the worse by a broken air conditioner and being trapped at home in the suburbs with my parents. So I did what most do. I laid in bed, windows open, fans swirling, sun shining and channel-surfed – way back when that was an actual thing.
I landed on AMC, a network I hadn’t really heard of. The first thing I saw was a scene from the first episode of a series: a handsome man walking down a Manhattan street in 1960s New York, wearing his morose state as well as his finely cut suit.
I kept watching. The show’s mix of passion and despair complemented my ennui and craving for excitement. The next thing I knew, it was dark outside. I pressed on, regardless. By the next morning, I had binged the first 13-episode season of what, it turns out, was Mad Men, an award-winning series that quietly premiered the previous year and would go on to be considered one of the greatest television shows of all time (and my personal favourite).
That fateful night happened long before the word “binge” would become synonymous with TV viewing and just as Netflix was making its entrance into the world. But for me, it all started with Don Draper cheating on his wife with Midge Daniels, who tells him the morning after, “You know the rules: I don’t make plans and I don’t make breakfast.” I hear those words now – and Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good,” which was used in promos for the series that entire summer – and I remember June 2008 and how it suddenly became full of hope and creative energy, brought to me by “the greatest ad man ever.” Sometimes, there is truth in advertising.
In the second episode, “Ladies Room,” when Don yet again drops by to see Midge, he mocks her for getting a new television set when, up until then, she didn’t understand the point. When she implies another man gifted it to her and Don gets ever so slightly angsty, she settles him by casually throwing it out the window just as I, from that moment on, would essentially dispose of mine.
Creatively inspired and newly hungry, my summers from then on would become defined by my binges of choice, downloaded, streamed online and via box sets borrowed from the library. From a repeat viewing of Lost, to discovering Veronica Mars late in the game, to a dreary few months spent ugly-sobbing my way through the incomparable Six Feet Under, I had submitted myself to the summer binge and there was no turning back.
Sure, we all have a little bit more time in the warmer months, but there is also no other season that bursts with potential quite like the summer. It serves as the perfect mirror for self-analysis and introspection, painting lives and moments to inspire your own at a time when anything feels possible. This is the place where good TV fits; where it belongs. Consider it a transitional period, best bookended with a premiere and finale.