Help Me Pick My Next TV Show
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 back? 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.
My point being, the obvious downside of serious investment in a television program is that there is a great chance
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?
(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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And then tell me in the comments if there’s like an easy jump-on/jump-off point for these things, if need be.