I am perpetually behind on the TV shows I watch because I almost never begin watching one until people whose opinions I trust tell me that a show is truly worth my time.
Television, more than any other medium, provides iron-clad proof of Sturgeon’s Law: “90% of everything is crap.” My wife is so resistant to falling for the 90% trap that she lunges for the off button whenever a new show threatens to sneak past our barriers and suck us in with promises of “But my characters are sooo interesting” and “Baby, I promise I’ll be here for you forever.”
(You know how networks start their shows immediately on the heels of the previous program, without commercials, in order to get you hooked on the plot barb of some new episodic series? Yeah, my wife is like a media sniper for that trick. She keeps her finger on the trigger; immediately after the “scenes from next week’s show” and before the first word of the following program, she’s picked off the TV and silenced its siren song.)
I often rely on my former colleague Kat Achenbach to let me know the skinny on good TV. For this autumn, she clued me in to this constantly updating Entertainment Weekly scout report of the fate of current shows. More than just a useful dead-or-alive guide, it’s an interesting (and sometimes depressing) study of what networks and, in turn, we value. It ain’t always flattering.
“Kings” and “The Unusuals” already have one foot in the meat grinder? Really? The pretty, pretty “Dollhouse” not attractive enough? Ugh. I wish I had stuck with this Joss Whedon show and championed it more, because it was certainly smart enough, and God knows TV could use more smarts strutting across its stage.
Kat is particularly despondent over the loss of “Life,” a smart cop show about a flatfoot who returns to the force after doing time in the joint for a deed he didn’t do. (As always, turn to Hulu to beat the networks at their own game, and find out for yourself what a good show “Life” is. Er, was.)
Segue, of course, to the lukewarm gruel that gets a pass: pseudo gameshows such as “Idol” and “Top Model” and “Bachelor”; law and crime procedurals as dry as cracked leather (“Law & Order” is still on the air? And “CSI: Wherever”?); teen soaps such as “Gossip Girls,” “90201” and “One Tree Hill”; noisome comedies like “Two and a Half Men” and “Family Guy.”
All this leaves me with a sort of jaded sigh about the things we reward with our love, and the things we kill with our neglect. And how my tastes almost never line up with everyone else’s. “Lost” is the only show at the moment that is both wildly innovative and wildly successful. Normally that kind of risk-taking, which excites me oh-so, is a one-way ticket to the ashcan.
I’ll leave you with this reflection from Kat, who loves TV more than I, and is still counting up the broken hearts she’s collected from shows that have wooed her before slipping off in the dead of night.
Stopping by Tivo on Pretty Much Any Evening
— Kat “Frost (Robert, not David)” Achenbach