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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

Binge-watching? Two for the weekend

If you're in the mood to binge-watch something in the coming weeks, you might be interested in the following review — which I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

Once upon a time, and not that long ago, those of us who watch television were at the mercy of three major networks. We watched what they produced, when they decided to screen it. And that was it.

The advent of home-recording systems changed all that. Gradually, the broadcasting industry itself fractured, adapting to the demands of Internet users to give us far more choices than ever before. Out of those many choices came the opportunity to do something that is now part of our native language.

We don’t just watch TV. We “binge-watch” TV. Shows such as “Stranger Things” don’t just premiere one at a time. They come fully loaded, a season at once, 10 or more hour-long episodes that you can spend a weekend watching, then share a Monday-morning conversation about with your colleagues.

Consider this my version of that conversation as I suggest two series that my wife and I recently binge-watched and enjoyed immensely.

The first is “The Bridge,” the original Danish-Swedish production from 2011. Starring Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia, the first season pairs the two – playing, respectively, Swedish and Danish police detectives who are charged with solving a murder.

The conceit is that a corpse has been found exactly halfway on the bridge that spans the Oresund Strait between Copenhagen the Swedish city of Malmo. Helin plays Saga Noren, an emotionally stunted but brilliant detective, and Bodnia is her Danish partner who, gradually, becomes her friend.

Three seasons of the show are available, and a fourth is said to be in production. The Danish actor Thure Lindhart joins the series in the third season, but Helin – whose Saga remains talented but increasingly troubled – is always the central focus of what takes place.

“The Bridge,” which was remade as an English-language version in 2013 by the FX network, was a Netflix pickup. In recent years, Netflix has begun to produce material of its own, such as “Stranger Things,” now into its second season. But the series I want to mention is “Mindhunter.”

Based on the nonfiction book “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit,” the series is an imaginative look at how the FBI first began investigating serial killers. Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany and Anna Torv star as fictionalized versions of real people, who for various reasons are intent on delving into the brains of people such as Richard Speck.

Groff’s character, named Holden Ford, is the central figure. Purely buttoned-down as the series begins in 1977, Ford is driven by forces we can’t quite understand. And the first season – a second is said to be in production – ends with it clear that he is beginning to pay a high emotional price.

Groff and Torv (who resembles fellow Australian actress Cate Blanchett) are relative new faces, but McCallany has played secondary roles for years. His character, Bill Tench, lends the series a traditional male edge, resisting Ford’s more provocative, if inspired, methods.

Both the European version of “The Bridge” and “Mindhunter,” then, are worthy views. If nothing else, they should provide some decent diversions when the snow starts to fly.

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