A Few Thoughts on TV

I enjoy reading Lee Goldberg’s blog, though I don’t always agree with him. He had an interesting post up recently called “People Stop Watching Shows that Suck” in which he responded to an EW query about why SF movies are doing so well in the box office, while SF TV shows seems to be failing left and right.

First of all, I don’t know if SF TV shows are failing in any greater proportion than sitcoms, etc., but Lee makes some really good points about how SF shows have to bring in a greater audience because they are significantly costlier to produce than one of those “this is our living room, this is our coffee shop/bar/diner” sitcoms that have no special effects.

And of course, the comment thread turns into one of those “Firefly was the best show ever produced yadda-yadda-yadda, all shows before or since have sucked compared to its scintillating brilliance” mud pits. This is basically what happens at every TV show post where people are trying to have an honest discussion about the state of TV and show cancellation and whatnot.People bring out their Firefly bongo drums and beat the hell out of them.

Guys, Firefly was canceled seven years ago. Isn’t it time to move on? I get that you loved the show.

I’ve never seen The Sarah Connor Chronicles, though Justine tells me I’d love it and it’s totally going on my Netflix queue. But it is possible there were some quality issues and even the fans lost interest. I never saw it, and The Terminator is one of my very favorite movies of all time, and I totally loved Queen Gorgo in The 300. And yet, I still never saw it. I was still pretty angry over the horror that was the third Terminator movie and thought my husband wants to see Salvation this weekend, I’ve put my foot down about it.

(And all the reasons I’ve given — the movies are about time travel, and SARAH, not John, Connor and blah blah blah — are all reasons hat Justine has been thumping me over the head for not watching Chronicles, but I digress.)

As I’ve said before, it is rare for me to watch first-run television. In fact, in the past five years, the only shows I’ve seen first run are The Dollhouse (all on Hulu), Heroes (1st and second season), Veronica Mars (after falling in love with the first season on DVD), and How I Met Your Mother (ditto).

But I also really, REALLY love television. however, if there were some kind of Netflix “if you liked this, try this” matrix out there trying to figure out my television tastes from my favorite television shows, I have no idea what they’d come up with. Behold:

Diana’s Favorite Television Shows of All Time (not in order):

  • The X-Files
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • The West Wing
  • Arrested Development
  • Veronica Mars
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Wire
  • Avatar

And you know what? I didn’t even like or even SEE every season of those shows. The X-Files should have quit while it was ahead, somewhere around 1999 or 2000. I pretty much only like Buffy up until the end of season 5 (the musical episode was good, though). The third season of Veronica Mars blows, except for the part where Logan smashes the police car. Arrested Development started getting a little weak at the end, I didn’t even like The Wire untile the second season, and The West Wing I actually haven’t watched after the first season after Aaron Sorkin left the show.

Other shows I’ve liked recently include:

  • The first season of Heroes (1st season ONLY)
  • Dexter
  • The Gilmore Girls (first two or three seasons ONLY)
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation

And though I’m brand-loyal, in the sense that I will try a new show by a creator/star of a show I’ve loved previously, I’m not going to just sit around and wait it out in hopes that it will someday become the thing that I previously loved. After having seen The West Wing, I watched Sports Night. I liked Sports Night. I could see the West Wing DNA and I think the West Wing was a much better venue for Sorkin to say those things in. Then I tried to watch the truly execrable Studio 60. It wasn’t funny. It was trying to be The West Wing, and though I could buy how important it was for the people running the country and saving lives and creating jobs to be all up themselves and whatnot, I have a hard time when I’m supposed to be watchign the makers of a comedy sketch show giving us a Very Special Episode about McCarthyism. Click.

I loved Buffy, but I never really liked Angel, probably because I actually never liked the character of Angel on Buffy and the character I did like, Cordelia, they changed completely until she was no longer fun. Firefly was okay, but certainly not the second coming its die-hard fans want me to think it is. The movie was very cool in some places, and utterly sucked in others. My Buffy goodwill, I have to admit, is wearing thin. Dollhouse has both Whedon and Eliza Dushku, but very little else to recommend it. I don’t like the characters, a lot of the acting, and most of the episodes I’ve seen. Is he making a statement about human trafficking? Is he trying to horrify us with our inexpected sympathy for the temptation the human traffickers/victims/investigators face? It’s manipulative and glossy, and I am not buying it.

This is why I think my hypothetical “what show will Diana like next” matrix is in for a hard time. For instance, I like genre, I like epic, I like interesting characters, I like science fiction, I like strong females… but I hated Battlestar Galactica. I liked Buffy, but I didn’t care for Alias. I was utterly unconvinced by Mad Men, and even my well-documented adoration for Jason Dohring and the general vampire genre could not make me suffer through another episode of Moonlight. I feel like I’ve tried a lot of the obvious, “Oh, I should like this,” shows only to find the next great show to love (most recently, it was Avatar) in the most unlikely of places (kids cartoons) in the most unlikely of ways (I read about the race issues surrounding the casting of the upcoming live-action movie).

I’m nearing the end of my Netflix queue of tv shows to watch, and I’m starting to get worried. Will there ever be another show to discover on Netflix that I love as much as The Wire or Avatar? (Okay, Avatar is my favorite television show of all time. At least, it has been that way for the past few months. Veronica Mars, season 1 is still my favorite season of television, and Buffy episodes comprise most of my list of top ten episodes of television.) Are there any other shows that good? Has the bar been inexorably raised by the sprawling, modern, Dickensinian The Wire or the expertly crafted fantasy epic Avatar?

Is the reason I think How I Met Your Mother is so much better than Friends because it really is funnier and more realistic, or just because it’s about people my age who are much more like me than the inexplicably affluent high-rise dwelling 20 somethings of the early-90s Friends? Pretty much every episode of HIMYM includes something that has either happened to someone in my group of friends, or they say something that has been spoken by someone in my gorup of friends. It’s eerie and hilarious, and I’m glued to the screen.

And, most importantly, with only two seasons of ST:TNG to work through left, what in the world should I watch next?

Posted in diversions, television, TV

52 Responses to A Few Thoughts on TV

  1. PurpleRanger says:

    I don’t even know if this is out on DVD, but I would suggest THE GREEN HORNET. Yes, the series that introduced us to Bruce Lee. (If it isn’t on DVD, it should be.)

  2. Juliet says:

    Yes Diana Party Down is the new show with Adam scott aired in Starz. It has also Lizzie Caplan (just as talented as Kbell) and Martin Starr (the fabulous Bill Haverchuck from Freaks and Geeks)
    The first episodes are quite good (the pilot not so much but it has Enrico colantoni) but from the third episode or maybe even the second it is awesome. Try it !
    Oh and one more thing : Ken Marino is phenomenal with his quirky character.