I watch a surprising amount of TV in among all the more productive things I also do. I watch virtually nothing as it’s broadcast (other than Match of the Day), but rather I consume mostly complete seasons of shows that have been recommended to me.
Among the great discoveries over the years have been Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, Firefly, The West Wing, House, Arrested Development, Elementary and Rick & Morty. But there are some other shows that I’ve made a start on, but never found a reason to complete. Here are some of them.
The Wire. For a while, everyone was saying this crime drama was the absolute best thing on TV. I tried it. Got only a few minutes into the first episode before giving up because I basically couldn’t see or hear anything. The screen was so darned dark, and the speech so slurred and accented that it felt more like work than fun. Toss in the fact that almost every word I did hear was a curse, and I lost interest pretty quick.
Of all the series that I mention here, this is the one that I most feel I should perhaps try again, that I didn’t give it a fair go. I guess its reputation has earned it more than the ten or fifteen minute audition I gave it. On the other hand: will it be fun? Based on what little I saw, maybe not. With the possible exception of The West Wing, all my favourite shows are fun.
Farscape. I watched one episode, found it OK, but didn’t feel a need to watch more. I think this was a case of mis-selling, though. The person who recommended it to me led me think it was Sort Of Like Firefly, which in retrospect set an unfairly high bar. It’s not like Firefly. But maybe it’s worth returning to on its own terms.
Ally McBeal. This is an odd one. I watched the first season, and enjoyed it in an uncomplicated Friends-like way, without ever really finding that I was starting to care about, or like, any of the characters (which come to think of it is a big difference from Friends). A year or so later I thought I might as well watch the second season, but I lost interest half way through and I’ve never felt the need to go back.
I guess this is the opposite of The Wire. I criticised that for not being fun, but now I am criticising Ally McBeall for not mattering. Looking again at the list of shows that I love, up at the top of this post, I see that all of them except Arrested Development have things to say about life, the universe and everything. I guess with so much TV available these days, I have become picky. I want laughs and profundity.
Daredevil. I’ve enjoyed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in a fairly minor way, so I thought I’d try something else from the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s TV spin-offs. Someone had mentioned liking Daredevil (I don’t remember who) so that’s the one I tried. One and a half episodes in, I realised I was basically waiting for the episode to end. Again, I wasn’t finding the fun. A lot of violence, some of it quite unpleasant, and in among it nothing that felt magical.
The Flash. And then I went in the exact opposite direction. I got maybe ten episodes into The Flash, sort of enjoying it, but waiting for it to step up and start mattering. It never happened: I never bought into the family backstory, and I never started caring about or even believing in the characters. So many of the plots were driven by stupidity: easily-resolved misunderstandings that the characters contrived to avoid resolving, simple facts that they inexplicably didn’t tell each other, and so on. The Flash is a dumb show about a dumb character with dumb friends.
The Expanse. Another one that got recommended to me as sharing some of the qualities of Firefly. Once more, that was probably a misleading flag to fly. I’ve seen the first two episodes and found them OK without being really gripped. I like that it’s pretty darned hard sci-fi, and the whole thing is very convincingly put together. Where it doesn’t come close to Firefly is of course in the characters. It took about ten minutes minutes for me to love Mal, Zoe, Wash and Kaylee. I can’t even remember the name of any of the Expanse characters.
That said, I’ve not exactly given up on this one. I may return to it, hopefully having recalibrated my expectations.
Gravity Falls. My fifteen-year-old son loves this, and he usually has excellent taste in TV shows, so I thought I’d give it a go. Three episodes in, I’ve yet to see anything that says more to me than “kids’ cartoon”.
My So-Called Life. Another show that’s been hyped to the skies. The immediate point of comparison is Freaks and Geeks, which is also a fairly straight drama about teenage life in general and high-school in particular. But F&G scores over MSCL in two important respects. First, it follows two separate groups of kids, in two different age-groups: the freaks and the geeks of the title — and seeing the same situation from multiple viewpoints gives it more depth. And second, it’s very easy to like Linda Cardellini’s lead character Lindsay Weir, but much harder to like Claire Danes’s Angela, who mostly comes across as whiny and entitled. I’ve watched the first episode: it’s currently 50-50 whether I’ll go on to the second.
So, folks, what do you all think? Which of these shows have I been unfair to? Which should I give another go? And what else am I missing?