Things I’ve given up on watching recently

We live in a content-saturated world. It took me a long while to get used to the idea that books are now easy enough to source that I can start one, decide I don’t like it, and just give up. I don’t owe the book anything. The same of course goes for TV shows and films. Here are some that I have started, but given up on in the last few months.

The Americans

This is the one that I sort of regret giving up on, and might return to. It’s a TV series about a married couple of Russian spies who have been deep undercover as a typical all-American couple in the 1980s, with two teenage children and conventional careers as well as their clandestine duties. It’s superbly made and acted, very compelling, and Fiona and I watched a season and a half before finding the whole thing just too bleak. The constant trail of deceit, destruction and murder became too much for watching it to be enjoyable.

Fleabag

Everyone says how brilliant Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s show about an aimless man-hungry single woman is, but I just can’t find anything to like about it. The protagonist seems contemptible to me, and that’s a killer.

Tales from the Loop

Fiona and I watched the first two episodes of this slow, atmospheric sci-fi series, and admired how it takes its time to let its ideas take root … while at the same time being a bit frustrated that everything takes so long. She gave up; I watched the third episode without her and gave up, too.

I’m not 100% sure I won’t come back to this one, too. There is a lot to like and admire about it, and I especially enjoy the sort of Aperture Sciencey feel to the various devices. But honestly, I feel like the whole sit-back-and-relax thing is overdone, and that the 52-minute episodes could really benefit from a good hard cutting back to 30 minutes.

Stargirl

We tried this because it was free on Amazon Prime (which I already have for the free delivery) and because it looked like lighthearted fun in the Buffy vein. We watched the first episode and more or less enjoyed it, but it just didn’t grab us. A big part of it is that Brec Bassinger is just not a good enough actor to sell the lead role: seeing her come close and fall short has given me new appreciation of just how central Sarah-Michelle Gellar’s performances were to making the equally kooky Buffy soar where Stargirl falls flat.

I admit giving up on this after just one episode feels harsh, and I might come back and give it another go. But so much stands and falls by the lead actor that I can’t see it taking wings.

Good Omens

I read this novel that this was adaped from years ago: co-written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, it tells the story of the unlikely friendship between the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphael during an Armageddon that they would both rather prefer not to happen. Seeing the adaptation for free seemed too good an opportunity to miss, but to my surprise I found myself consistently bored and irritated by it. I may need to re-read the book to see if this is true, but I don’t remember it having the same frivolous quality. Watching this, I am reminded of C. S. Lewis’s analysis, put in the mouth of his demon Screwtape, of different kinds of humour:

… But flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk AS IF virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it.

And that’s what the TV version of Good Omens seems to consist entirely of. It puts an angel on the screen, makes him a bit ineffectual, and expects you to go “Ha ha, how funny and perceptive”.

On top of that, I think I have really had enough of David Tennant now. I very much liked his take on the Doctor back in the day, where the assumed arrogance with a touch of humour seemed perfect. Then when he was the main antogonist in Jessica Jones, he was notably playing The Doctor But Evil. Now he’s just doing the same shtick again. I am beginning to think it’s all he has.

I got some way into the third episode of Good Omens, not really enjoying myself, before confronting how much I wasn’t having fun. I’d wanted to enjoy it, because it’s by two authors who I like and starring an actor who I thought I still liked. But I don’t.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

I watched this, or at least started to, because it’s so culturally ubiquitous and I felt I ought to — and because our next-door neighbours love it. I just don’t get it.I know it’s meant to be a comedy, but where are the jokes? Is it just that a man is wearing women’s clothes? Is that it? I mean, what is this, The Twelfth Night?

I pushed through to the bit with Meat Loaf in because I like him. But it disappointed, and I couldn’t be bothered ploughing through to the end.


Well, writing this has been cathartic for me, but I don’t know if it’ll be of any use to anyone else — except perhaps in giving people permission not to like things they don’t like. There’s so much great stuff out there (Community, The Expanse, This Is Us) that it just isn’t worth ploughing through things that are too bleak (The Americans), too unlikeable (Fleabag), too slow (Tales from the Loop), too lightweight (Stargirl), too flippant (Good Omens) or just plain dull (The Rocky Horror Picture Show).

Move on.

13 responses to “Things I’ve given up on watching recently

  1. I think if you weren’t enjoying Rocky Horror, you quit at the right spot. I like the movie, but in my opinion, the songs and events after Meat Loaf are a lot less fun than the first half of the film.

    A lot of the fun in Rocky Horror comes from audience participation at midnight showings (https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/oct/19/rocky-horror-picture-show-fan-rituals-fox-remake). I assume more appeal comes from the film’s subversiveness (at least at the time of it’s release).

  2. Richard G. Whitbread

    Ah yes, David Tennant. Of whom it can perhaps fairly be said, to adapt slightly the words of Dorothy Parker, ‘His acting runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.’

  3. If and when you’re inclined to give Tales from the Loop another chance, let me highly recommend watching episodes 4 and 8, which (unlike 3 and the others) build on the characters and stories of 1 and 2, and give Jonathan Pryce and Rebecca Hall well-crafted moving stories to shine in.

  4. Thanks, Randy, that’s an incentive to give it a go. I was beginning to feel a little frustrated at unrelated the stories all seemed to be.

  5. I agree with you about Fleabag. I have not seen the other series and agree that Rocky Horror is odd but it does make a great theme for a house party. Many of the box sets just never seem to get to the point and as for Game of Thrones; just an appalling excuse for soft pornography between very one dimensional characters. While I’m having a rant how about modern films that use music that overwhelms the dialogue and are used as a crutch for otherwise unremarkable scenes. I’ve had to stop watching quite a few films because I can’t hear what the characters are saying. Phew I feel better now! Stay safe.

  6. I think Rocky Horror is very much a thing of its time; we miss a lot of the context because what it was celebrating is now pretty culturally normal rather than insightful. And in these days of Pornhub, it’s not even taboo-breaking. But as someone who came from a pretty sheltered upbringing, I can still vividly recall the first time I saw it at college decades ago and realised that the world was a bigger place than I had appreciated. (And I still think the songs are fantastically good.)

    I can’t agree with you about Good Omens, but hey, you can’t be right about everything. {joke}

  7. One mistake I sometimes make is starting at the beginning. There’s usually so much exposition that it is easy to lose interest. I tend to do better starting around episode 4 or 8. I was a big fan of Buffy when, several seasons in, I decided to watch to initial episodes. They seemed to be from another show with the same actors, and it was a rather repetitive show at that. It was only knowing that the show got much better that let me get through them.

    Horribly enough, I am sometimes that way with books. When I was younger, I could never stand wading through the first few chapters, so I’d jump about 1/4 or 1/3 of the way in. When I got to the end, I’d go back and read the beginning to find out how the story started. Now, I try starting with the first chapter and only skip forward if the book was highly recommended but still seems sluggish.

    I’m not sure how this happened, though I remember that my parents never considered things like movie start times, so we’d always come in at some random point and watch the double feature until it wrapped back to where we first came in.

    P.S. I was hoping COVID would give me more time to watch streaming video, but I’d have to cut back on my hobbies and puttering around. I had hoped the same thing when II retired, but I’ll probably go to my grave with a huge to be watched list.

  8. Some of these are fair, but I also cannot agree about Good Omens. I thought the humour in the show (but especially the book) was very clever, lampooning American (and British) evangelical christianity, while also managing to be faithful to the book of revelation, though in very unexpected ways.

    I also must provide my opinion on Game of Thrones. Though I agree that the show did capitalize on its “Boobs and blood” aesthetic, calling the characters “One-dimensional” is simply not at all fair.

  9. Ethan: “calling the characters “One-dimensional” is simply not at all fair.” Well my comment was based on only watching the first one and half episodes so perhaps I should give the adaptation another try starting with series two or three. After all the first series of BlackAdder was not as good as the later ones. My wife has started reading the Game of Thrones books and can’t put them down.
    best wishes
    S

  10. It is absolutely true that the books are more detailed than the series, I new the basic plot of the first season before beginning, so when the first episodes appeared formulaic, I powered through, knowing that they were not what they seemed.

  11. Game of Thrones is not on the table for me — I just don’t want the porn. In fact, looking up various modern TV series in IMDB’s parents’ guide section, it’s surprisingly difficult to find anything that is not riddled with sex, violence, and often sexual violence. As a society we have a strange ideas about what constitutes entertainment.

    But deep down, every new TV series I watch disappoints me by being Not As Good As Firefly. I know it’s not fair, but that’s how it is :-)

    Some time soon, I should do a post on TV shows that I have watched and thoroughly enjoyed in the last few years. There are quite a few!

  12. Pingback: Films I’ve watched recently | The Reinvigorated Programmer

  13. Tales From The Loop is definitely slow; but worth sticking with: the overall effect is cumulative, as minor and background characters from one episode become major characters in another.

    Good Omens seems to brilliantly synthesise everything which I find irritating about Neil Gaiman and everything which I find irritating about Terry Pratchett in a single story; while leaving out everything I like about both authors.

    I am not sure that “characters sometimes take their clothes off” and “this is porn” are necessarily the same thing.

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