With every week that passes in social isolation, it gets harder to know what to do with myself in the evenings after work. (No, I don’t have kids.) I know I’m not alone in this because of the number of people I see on social media asking for help deciding what movie to watch. In normal times, this is a reckless move: You’re likely to be inundated with all sorts of well-meaning but obvious and boring suggestions that continue long after your movie-viewing window has closed. Now, though, I understand it; at least social-media comments are a kind of social interaction, and it’s never felt less fun to scroll through Netflix.
But last week, my wife had a really good idea that has solved this problem for us, and I will now solve it for you, too: Pick a franchise and watch it all, one movie a night, until you’re finished. Then pick another one.
We started with Harry Potter, which I do recommend, though the final movie is terrible, and when we got to it we ended up putting it off for a night. We did watch it eventually, though, because this is a framework that only works if you’re faithful to it. Most franchises will have a weak point, or several. This is about mindless relaxation more than it is genuine enjoyment. When you watch a franchise’s better installments, it’s an opportunity to recognize a job well done. When you get to the bad ones, you can laugh at them and half-watch while also looking at Instagram or playing your Switch.
Watching a bad movie you were planning to watch all day is, at the moment, superior to watching an okay movie that took you 45 minutes to pick out. I can’t tell you how nice it was, for those eight days, to know what I’d be watching while I ate dinner. By day three, I found myself chanting: “Harry Potter! Harry Potter!” It was like Spirit Week, somehow; my enthusiasm kicked up in response to the mere suggestion of tradition.
It’s okay to be a bit flexible with what “franchise” means, here. Mainly, you just want something with four or more entries. Immediately after finishing the Harry Potters, we moved on to the Spider-Mans. We just finished the Tobey Maguire trio and will next move on to the Andrew Garfields and then the Tom Hollands. That’s seven nights all set! I think you could also pick a particular actor and watch their full catalogue or watch every iteration of a classic like Little Women and critique the differences.
And while I mean what I said about finishing what you’ve started, you can abandon a franchise if you can’t get through the first entry. We were going to do all the Avengers and their subsidiaries, but I called it 10 minutes in. I proposed watching the Step Ups but was vetoed by my wife. You have to keep the peace.