Saturday, March 9, 2013

Previously On [Insert TV Title]...

I was catching up on Supernatural earlier today (the day I started this post, at least), and it got me wondering why I watch certain shows. Not watch, keep up with. And this thought, being a thought about television, of course made its way into the "I want to blog!" corner of my brain.

So here it is. All the shows I currently keep up with. Shows currently on season break are fair game, but shows that I watch all at once when the season has ended are not. And who knows. Maybe writing my thoughts down like this will allow me to break away from shows I watch out of habit.

As always, these are in no particular order.

1. Parks and Rec

I'll admit, I wasn't on board with this when it first aired. I wanted it to be great, but it wasn't. Neither was the next episode. In fact, those first two episodes were so unimpressive, I didn't start watching it again until the middle of season two. At that point I'm pretty sure I was won over by the first episode I watched and immediately went home and caught up (I still didn't watch the first season then. Every now and then I'll give it another try, but I just can't do it). I've been caught up ever since.

This show has it all: it's consistently funny, it has (it seems) the perfect amount of absolutely hilarious moments (especially the last couple of seasons), it's got heart without cheese, and it has some of the best characters on television right now. Or at least network television. Actually, if we're going with network television, I'd say the best characters right now. Seriously, there is no one in this cast I don't like or who I feel like is wasted space. They all serve a purpose, they're all layered (except maybe Jerry), and they all just make me so freaking happy.

Case and point. This scene demonstrates the qualities of two great characters: Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) and Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman). Ben is one of my favorites because I want to marry him (although I'm still happy for him and Leslie, and yes, I do realize I'm talking about them like they're real people) and Ron is one of my favorites because he is simply one of the best characters in a sitcom that I have had the pleasure of watching.

I'm also including this because it's one of my favorite quotes of all time. 

And of course, Leslie Knope is my favorite woman on TV these days. A large part of that is probably the fact that Amy Poehler is my favorite don't-know-her-in-real-life woman these days. 

2. Community

Yes, I'm still keeping current with Community. However, if things don't change soon (and there's no reason they will - also, notice my lack of chang usage in that sentence), I won't. One critic described it well when they said Community had lost its soul (its soul being creator Dan Harmon). It looks the same, it tries to act the same, but it's not. Granted, Community wasn't perfect before, it had a lot of ups and downs episode to episode, but at least when they were down, they were still creative. This new Community feels like a mainstream comedy like Two and a Half Men or Big Bang Theory just without the laugh track or the ratings. I know I sound like a snob right now, but I kind of am one when it comes to television. And other things.

The Community of yore is gone. Not only was it innovative, it made fun of its poor rankings while keeping the spirit of giving the finger to television executives alive. Although, in hind sight, its soul is gone probably because said soul gave television executives (and Chevy Chase, but he probably deserved it) the literal finger too many times. 

Point being, scenes that would bring out my old man laugh were fairly common on Community. So far I've chuckled a handful of times. I'll never get to see things like these again: 

Later in the episode the previous scene comes from, we see Troy huddled in a corner of the bathroom singing the Reading Rainbow song and crying. It's a gem of a moment.

Instead, all we've got so far is this (the clip is from Ellen, hence the hesitant laughter):  


3. Doctor Who

Need I explain? 

I think not. Mostly because I've dedicated a lot more than a few paragraphs to this show. The second half of series seven starts at the end of this month and I'm pretty freaking excited. 

4. Downton Abbey

I wish I simply enjoyed this show. But no. Actors decide they want to leave and torture the show's viewers. Yes, not one, but two characters above are dead with one more not returning for season 4. At least Maggie Smith decided to sign on...

This show started out strong. I'd go so far as to say very strong indeed (what, I'm not a thesaurus). The second season started feeling a bit lazy, and the third continued down that spiral and has a lot of just plain bad storytelling. Yet still I'm riveted. While the third season was airing I was glued to my TV every Sunday evening despite the lackluster writing. But it got pretty ridiculous to be honest. Oh! The estate's in trouble but, oh! Matthew randomly inherited enough money to keep it forever. Oh! Matthew might not keep the money but, oh! Matthew will keep the money. Oh! Matthew and Mary aren't pregnant yet and, oh! Maybe it's some leftover baby making failures from Matthew's fake paralysis but, oh! It's Mary and she's got it covered. 

There are more of those types of story lines in both seasons two and three and they're all resolved within a single episode. While there's not much of a story arc anymore, I still can't help it. I was sucked in and I will stay there against my will until Jullian Fellowes gets too busy writing his knockoff for NBC (which will either be amazing and get canceled after a few episodes, or it will be terrible and long outlive its welcome). 

5. New Girl

This is one show I didn't even give a chance when it started. I'm always wary of watching anything on Fox (that network has burned me too many times!) and I've had Deschanel fatigue for a while now, mainly because all I've ever seen her play are Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Not a trope I enjoy, and I assumed she'd be the same character in this show. Boy was I wrong! And not only is Zooey (I always say her name with a long O when I see it spelled out) hilarious, every character is. Mostly Schmidt and Nick, but also everyone. 

Really, with the comedic goldmine that is this show, how can you not love it? And don't you want to find out what this picture is? 

6. Once Upon a Time

I feel like I've written about this before, so I'll be brief. It's sometimes cheesy, more often than not you have to get past the over-acting, and one can only wonder why all the bad CGI in the Enchanted Forest (is that what the fairy tale land is called?) is necessary. But it's still kept my interest with new revelations, new characters, and as always, it's still a show centered around women and there are too few of those. 

7. Supernatural

Speaking of too few shows centered around women (or shows with women for that matter)...

This is the show that prompted this post in the first place. I watched three mediocre episodes last night and I wondered if it was worth keeping up with. I started this show last year and flew through the first five seasons. Well, the first two were a slow start, but there was one episode in season three that made me fall in love with the show, so then I flew through seasons three through five. 

Watching the season finale was a little disappointing because it was a fantastic ending, but I knew there were still one more season completed, and another on the way. Honestly, it should have ended at season five. There is one phenomenal episode in season six, but the season on the whole is meh and probably the worst up to that point. 

Then I watched season seven. If I had been watching it while it was on TV I would have quit. I might have gone back for the one episode with Felicia Day, but just for that episode. However, with the season being complete, I was able to blaze through the painfully dull season and watch it at 1.5 speed while I did other things so I kept going. 

The outcome of season eight will tell me whether that was worth it or not. So far it is leaps and bounds better than seven, but for the most part it's still meh. A couple of gems, but the last few episodes have been lackluster despite moving the plot along. I'll probably last out the season, but if it keeps up like this, I'll probably quit. Sorry, boys. 

8. Breaking Bad

This might be cheating a little because it took me a very long time to watch the last few episodes of the most recent half season. But other than that I've kept up with it for a couple of years. 

Walter White. His face should be in the dictionary under antihero. Cause good grief the man is a dick. I watched the first couple of episodes because it was fascinating watching him nose dive into dickishness and now I can't look away because he is such a dick. He's the protagonist I'm rooting against either by death or prison. And I love rooting against him. 

9. Spy

I wouldn't be me if I wasn't into at least one British comedy at any given time. Right now, that British comedy is Spy. 

Quick synopsis for those who haven't seen it: Tim is a single dad fighting for custody of his son who is both a pompous ass and a genius (I suppose those two generally go hand in hand). He went in to apply for what he thought was a data entry job with the government and ended up taking a test for MI5. He passes (mostly because he's great at sudoku) and gets a job in the Secret Service. That's the first episode minus all the funny. The subsequent episodes are all about the shenanigans and hilarity that ensue. I highly recommend checking it out on Hulu or anywhere you can find it. You won't regret it. That is, until they make the US version (it's in the works now) and it sucks (five camera sitcom...) and you wish American TV execs had never seen this show and you realize it's because of the appeal it has here that suits decided to ruin it for you. 

10. Mad Men

Sorry, I couldn't find a picture without the dead character (piqued your interest, have I? I should watch Star Wars soon). 

I got into this I think in season two or three. It had to have been 2009, so whatever season that was. And for some reason every new season seems like it's been more than a year since the last. I know it was that one time, but every other time it's been pretty close to a normal break. It begins next month and I swear it was more than a year since I last saw this show. Maybe because the last two years were the worst of my life (that was only partly a joke). 

I'll tell you a huge reason I love this show so much. Peggy and Joan. I would have quit watching the first half of the first season without them. I can only take so much Don Draper mystery and clandestine affair making. They did eventually go easy on that score as well, so I've been happy with the show for some time now. Sure, it's a soap opera disguised with a big budget, but so is Downton and a lot of dramas if you look not that closely at them. 

Sometimes I feel conflicted liking this show because I identify as a feminist. Retro sexism is still sexism and it's pretty painful to watch sometimes. However, I also identify as a realist. Society had (and has) a certain way of running. That's probably why I love Peggy and Joan so much is because they are real women. They are both products of their time and trying to navigate their roles in a male-centric world. They ultimately both choose roughly the same basic goal, but pick starkly different paths to get there. I won't go further since I'm sure there are numerous academic articles written on that subject (I think I found my weekend activity). 

So there you go. The ten shows I keep up with. I would include two more if I didn't do the "watch it all at once" thing with The Walking Dead and if the last season of Dexter didn't suck SO much (not the most recent season, the one before. Nothing about that season made me want to watch this season. Not even the last moment in the last episode). 

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