It only recently occurred to me that virtually every post I’ve made of late has been focused on comics and/or superheroes. There are a few reasons for this, one of which is, shit man, that’s just what I like. I’m pretty knowledgeable on the subject and those tend to be evergreen posts. That Iron Man primer I wrote a couple years Lost-season1back? Always one of our top searches of the week. And for some reason people are always looking up Ghost Rider. Don’t ask me.

That said, once I realized just how singularly focused my posts had become, I started trying to remember what the hell else I like to write about. The answers, obviously – because I am a man of simple joys – are movies and TV (I am abysmal when it comes to talking about music, unfortunately, usually just variations on “This makes my ears feel happy!!!”).

TV, especially. You may not know this, but before we started up Threat Quality, I was pretty prolific at my old site, I Speak TV. Go check it out, it’s kind of fun to remember that once upon a time, people gave a shit about Heroes.

Anyway, a combination of frustration over the truly shitty Blogger controls, a new job where I was actually writing for a living, and coming up with topics for this site ultimately mothballed ISTV back in ’09, and as sites like Hitfix and AV Club started devoting more time to daily TV discussion, I didn’t think there was a lot more I could add anyway.

So I no longer Speak TV with regularity, except when pilots roll around, or Aaron Sorkin does something dumb, or superheroes make their unfortunate way to television. Still miss you, The Cape, you silly old thing.

Or when Lost did anything. 

It’s been long enough that I can start thinking about the show in terms of what it did right, at least as much as I can recount how fucking terrible it was at other things, like providing satisfying resolutions to all its ridiculous setups (also known as The One Thing It Really Had To Do).

And what it did right was get people invested. Not just in its hundreds of mysteries, but in its characters and their journeys. Hell, even the romance of it all was tailor-made to bring in eyeballs. I know the go-to is “The Constant” for sheer unabashed sweeping capital-R ROMANCE, but honestly, the biggest squeal I ever gave was when Juliet and Sawyer started shacking up.

ANYWAY.

My point being, the obvious downside of serious investment in a television program is that there is a great chance

Remember? Remember caring about this?

Remember? Remember caring about this?

that it will fail to ultimately repay that commitment, and that’s when you end up cursing at each increasingly disappointing final-season episode, and eventually you find yourself, completely unbidden, saying out loud to no one, “Wait, WHY did that flight attendant join the Others and bring those kids along?!”

And then you punch a wall or something. I don’t know. I knew some people who were REALLY ALL ABOUT that show, so it’s possible.

Point being, it’s tough really getting behind a show as more than just a TV show, but as an event, a Thing To Care About. For one thing, it’s rare a show of that type actually stays on that long.

(Think about THAT for a second. Looking back, isn’t it kind of insane that Lost stayed on for full six seasons? THAT show? And we’re not talking 13-episode, split between summer and winter cable-style seasons. Full-on network television 22-episodes like clockwork. There are 121 episodes of Lost. Damn crazy.)

Whether it ultimately fulfilled its expectations is irrelevant (even though SERIOUSLY, that was your grand WALT PLAN? Nevermind) – it’s the level of devotion, to attention paid, even by people who don’t usually do that kind of thing, that is notable.

It’s easier to do for shows that were killed early, mostly because it’s not a huge commitment. What’s it take to really get into Firefly, for example? You watch 13 episodes and a movie a few times (and maaaybe you get around to a comic or two). Pushing Daisies will always be a beautiful 26-episode corpse. You ever see Kings? Fucking rad. You can bust through it in a weekend and that’s that.

But there are really only a handful of long-running shows from the past, say, 15 years, that really can lay claim to that level of devoted focus from its audience. Buffy, Angel, Fringe, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire, Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica….anything else? Is there a deeply devoted NCIS fanbase I haven’t considered?

His name was T-Dog. You loved him very much.

His name was T-Dog. You loved him very much.

(I hesitate to throw The Walking Dead on the list not just because there’s still not that many episodes, but mostly because, honestly, there’s not a lot TO it. It’s not really about anything in particular, beyond the cost of survival. The characters are pretty thinly drawn. I’m not saying it’s bad at all – this season is a marked improvement from last – but there’s just not a lot to pick through, which makes the existence of The Talking Dead even more baffling to me.)

All this is to say, I think I’m ready to FEEL about a show again. I’d like to watch a series that has a lot of episodes behind it, that’s generally well-regarded, that I can have real thoughts about, to dissect, have favorite characters, etc.

I mean, I have Adventure Time, but look, those episodes are 10 minutes long, and once Netflix starts running Cartoon Network shows I will breeze through the ones I haven’t seen in no time. (Guys, everyone needs to watch Adventure Time, it is the fucking best.)

So I’m putting it to you, internet. Which show should I watch? My options are:

Farscape

Farscape
PRO: I watched like half the first season and really enjoyed it.
CON: …Lotta funny-looking puppets on that thing? I dunno, this is kind of the frontrunner here. My wife likes it too, which usually speeds things along, so.

BSG

Battlestar Galactica
PRO: Outside of the initial miniseries, I’ve only seen one or two episodes, and – being that it was running at the same time as Lost – is one of the few shows I’ve seen with that same level of fervor. Plus, as a cultural artifact of storytelling during the Bush years, I think it might be interesting.
CON: I am aware of its ending, and look, that sounds stupid as all hell when it’s not the end of a Douglas Adams book. Also, the whole thing just seems so oppressively bleak.

"Hello. I'm Patrick Stewart, and this picture of me has just made your day slightly more pleasant. You're welcome."

“Hello. I’m Patrick Stewart, and this picture of me has just made your day slightly more pleasant. You’re welcome.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation
PRO: I’ve seen a handful of episodes, but was never really a devotee. But I’m up for it.
CON: There’s 178 episodes. That’s not just commitment, that’s like…joining a convent. Also, as I understand it and APOLOGIES TO WIL WHEATON WHO WE ALL THINK IS GREAT, but I am under the impression that the first couple seasons are pretty rough.

"Hi, I'm Avery Brooks. That picture of Patrick Stewart did make me feel a little better, truthfully."

“Hi, I’m Avery Brooks. That picture of Patrick Stewart did make me feel a little better, truthfully.”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
PRO AND CON: Pretty much the exact same as above. Plus I’m wondering if I’d have to follow TNG as well just to be sure I don’t get lost on any plotlines.

Fashion Emmy Nominees

Mad Men
PRO: I mean, it’s gorgeous, and you don’t have to do much to convince me to watch Jon Hamm do things.
CON: I actually pretty much hated the first three episodes. Like, I found them to be kind of punishing. I did not like a single person on the show (and yes, part of that is the fact that Pete is Connor from Angel and that kid needs to goddamn die), and that’s a pretty huge barrier to get over. I won’t lie, you’d really have to sell me on this one.

Nobody's ever just sitting up like normal people in CW promos.

Nobody’s ever just sitting up like normal people in CW promos.

The Vampire Diaries
PRO: I’m halfway through the first season and am pretty impressed with the way it kind of rockets through plotlines that other shows would dawdle with forever, and also that none of these characters has so far done anything aggressively stupid just to carry the idiot ball for a while. There is also Braak’s sensitivity to the show’s ethical hinkiness, and while I am generally made of sterner stuff – Oliver Queen, Righteous Killer is something I’m tentatively managing over on CW sister show Arrow, for instance – at some point that might put me off.
CON: Look, I watch Supernatural and Arrow happily, but I’ll still readily admit they are both cheap-looking as hell, and that ultimately makes it a little hard to take this network’s output too seriously.

Obviously, part of the point here is to watch them so I can write about them, season-by-season, to see what I liked, what they mean, etc. But also I just really like watching TV.

VOTE!

And then tell me in the comments if there’s like an easy jump-on/jump-off point for these things, if need be.

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Comments
  1. Josh says:

    I could get behind Farscape. Battlestar Galactica is The Worst. Just one more example of why “The Emperor’s New Clothes” needs to be part of our national curriculum at all levels of education.

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    I think Galactica probably shot itself early on with the whole “The Cylons have a plan” opening crawl. Why would they need a plan? They just nuked the shit out of a planet and killed the vast majority of their enemy population. I mean, that was a pretty good plan, well-executed.

    The rest is just cleanup, really.

  3. Josh says:

    Well, yeah. That and “We’re incredibly devious but all of us look like one of twelve people.” Why? I mean, unless their reasoning was “This will make for some shocking plot twists.” Maybe the Cylons were actually watching us the whole time.

    And don’t get me started on “We have all the benefits of being robots, but there’s no way to tell that we’re robots.”

  4. braak says:

    The hits on those Ghost Rider articles are 100% image searches, which I think ends up becoming a sort of self-reinforcing event: the more people who look for pictures of Ghost Rider and land on one of our pages, the more likely people are to get one of our pages when they look for Ghost Rider. So, hooray, I guess?

  5. jmascisforpresident says:

    Planning on blasting through some of those older shows myself later in the year. One other contender you haven’t mentioned (that I haven’t seen myself, but hear a lot about) is Twin Peaks. Though it’s definitely on the shorter side. Two seasons and a movie, I think.

    Coming off the “post-Lost TV” discussion, I was wondering what your thoughts are on Person of Interest?

    I saw the pilot and thought it was cool, but not exactly great. Though I hear it’s really picked up a lot of steam recently. Love Michael Emerson and Jonathan Nolan, so will probably have to give it a go sooner or later!

  6. Jeff Holland says:

    As a matter of fact, I followed the first, I guess, quarter-season and found it to not really be living up to its potential, at which point I wrote:

    http://threatquality.com/2011/10/28/how-to-fix-person-of-interest

    Then, I started hearing it was actually getting pretty good, so I grabbed the DVD set from the library. And sure enough, it did improve, becoming a little more comfortable in its storytelling – but I had to return it before I could get to the final disc.

    So yeah, at some point I’ll probably poke my head in on that one again, but it’s not a super-high priority.

    And yes, completely forgot Twin Peaks was also in the running for shows I never checked out.

  7. braak says:

    What I like about Person of Interest is how clearly someone watched Lost and said, “Remember that part when Ben and Sayyid were going around assassinating the hell out of people? Wouldn’t it have been awesome if that had been the whole TV show?” And then they made that TV show.

  8. braak says:

    Anyway, there are also a bunch of good episodes in the first couple seasons of Star Trek: TNG, but the thing that will be the hardest part to deal with is that it is wholly episodic, in a way that none of these other shows are. (Even Farscape has a bunch of long running-plotlines.)

    There are some great ones, though, I especially like Season 3′s “The Defector” (written by Ron Moore!).

  9. Josh Wimmer says:

    But there are a few season-long or even longer arcs in TNG, and even though you hardly need to watch the episodes chronologically to figure them out, that is kind of the fun about it — that you’ll have a string of total stand-alones broken up by Q or Lore or the Borg coming back, or a whole episode devoted to Geordi meeting the real-life version of the physicist whose holodeck replication he fell in love with.

  10. braak says:

    I don’t know, I’d say that there are recurrences of plot elements in TNG, maybe, because it’s deifnitely not the same thing as the episode-to-episode of plot “arcs” the way Battlestar and Mad Men have.

    Maybe except for some of the Borg stuff that happens later (I guess Ron D. Moore’s dry-run for Battlestar) — I think the Locutus episodes are the longest arc (three parts, technically), and the rest of it is, “Oh, here’s a new episode, remember when that thing happened last time? Yeah, well, so do we.”

  11. Dexter is pretty amazing, if you are looking for something current

  12. Josh Wimmer says:

    Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it.

  13. scottfack says:

    If you go for TNG, there are only a few good episodes (in my opinion) in the first two seasons, but it’s interesting to see how the show develops over time. I think the show starts to hit its stride in season 3 and is pretty good through until the end of season 5. Seasons 6 and 7 have some good episodes but I’m not sure if it was because I was in college at that time or what, but it doesn’t seem to be as good as 3 through 5… They seemed to do a good job of wrapping up some plot threads at the end of season 7 though.

    With DS9… I think you appreciate DS9 more if you see TNG first. There is a little bit of crossover between the two in the later TNG / early DS9 seasons.

  14. braak says:

    I would agree with those assessments. Especially because by season 3, TNG had wisely decided to ditch the “people are interested in Wesley Crusher” idea.

  15. braak says:

    The good part about DS9 is how Avery Brooks looks more and more like Hawk, from Spenser for Hire as the series goes on.

  16. John Jackson says:

    If you enjoyed the first half of Farscape’s first season, you will most likely enjoy the whole series. Most people who like it don’t think it gets really good until the end of the first season. I’ve encountered far too many people with otherwise decent taste who dislike Farscape, and I’ll never understand it. I guess part of it is that I don’t find the puppets silly. Some of the early alien backstory is silly, but they get their backstory straightened out by the middle of the first season and do a couple of highly useful retcons later. (That arguably were never properly retcons, just people lying to each other.) Anyway, it’s a great show, so watch it.

    BSG I watched as it aired, but it never had me on the edge of my seat, but it did have me waiting. The best episode I can think of is 2×15 ‘Scar’ and that’s probably because I have a bias for military sci-fi, like Space: Above and Beyond.

    As for current shows: Continuum is probably the best science fiction to air on television since Farscape, and Farscape is far more space opera than Continuum seems to be. So far there are only 13 episodes. Ripper Street is what Copper should have been, and its acting talent alone should carry it through the mediocre scripts. I’ve seen three episodes so far and it’s rather good.

    There is an NCIS fanbase, and they do watch all the shows. The more I catch up on it, the more I like it. It takes our modern mentality of noir-ish anti-heroes as the standard (think Mal, not Marlowe) and returns us back the Gary Cooper days. There is a certain appreciation for that, as well, that’s one of the things Farscape does exceptionally well.
    Most sci-fi stories are cowboys and indians in space (I’m breaking down everything from Buck Rodgers to Star Wars to Aliens in this). Farscape takes the cowboy and throws him into space. Alone. Alien.

  17. John Jackson says:

    Oh, another short-lived show that I never seem to hear anyone ever talk about, but I really enjoyed was Defying Gravity. It came out back in 2009 with a couple of other BSG wannabes and ABC didn’t bother airing the back 5 of the 13 episodes. Only Space in Canada aired them. There is a stupidly long mystery arc that is the whole basis of the show, and maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad had they gotten it off the ground. Overall, I just love the non-chronological way they tell the characters’ story arcs.

    You could argue it stole from Lost and Grey’s Anatomy, but I liked it for what it was, and the mandlebrot set opening sequence was nice.

  18. Jeff Holland says:

    I think it might be Continuum that got me thinking about this in the first place. I watched the first couple episodes, heard it gets pretty good closer to the end and figured I’d just catch up to it when it comes on Netflix (since SyFy stuff tends to pop up on there pretty quickly).

    And that got me thinking of what else I’d done that to, and then the list started forming.

    So yes, looks like I’m gonna hit BSG and Farscape simultaneously, then maybe next time I do this I’ll poke around the Star Treks.

  19. John Jackson says:

    The Scarlett Pimpernel is on Netflix! It’s Withnail and the Countess of Grantham romping around revolutionary France saving noblemen from the Guillotine! And a rather amazing list of guest stars in the episodes.

  20. Sarah says:

    You should give ‘Doctor Who’ a try. It’s a british show about to celebrate it’s 50th year about a time-travelling alien who rights wrongs, saves people and is also a little bit nuts. I haven’t seen much of old WHO but new WHO started back up in 2005 and you can find the episodes on Netflix. I will admit that some of the episodes are terrible, but when it’s good it’s fantastic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7li5eZ3JZbA&feature=share&list=PL422048FB221E5C88

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