Do I watch way too much TV? Absolutely not. Do I spend way too much time thinking about watching TV? Maybe. But I’ve tried to compartmentalize my watching and thinking about it to the point where I’m only thinking about things like my blog, and what I can write about TV on it at work, and doing the actual watching of TV at home, while not thinking about writing about it.
I’ve also tried to compartmentalize what channels I watch and when. NBC: Thursdays and Mondays. Fox: Sometimes Tuesdays for “Raising Hope”, but mostly I can catch their shows on Hulu. ABC: Also Monday night because that’s when “Castle” is on, but overall not quite as much since “Lost” finished and I realized I’m a dude and stopped watching “Desperate Housewives.” CBS: Sometimes on Monday night when I watch “How I Met Your Mother”, but I try not to admit in public that I watch that network. And anything else I need to watch can mostly be found on Hulu or Netflix instant streaming.
I’ve been trying to be more selective lately about what it is I watch and why. First reason: hot chicks. Then there come the other things about plot, theme, and dialogue- all those things I went and got that liberal arts education for. But I want to spell out exactly what it is I’m watching for and why.
Concept is the first thing that grabs me about a show. If I like the concept, I’m going to tune in. Heck, Heroes kept me interested for three seasons with its concept plus Hayden Pennetierre. A show can survive with a really good concept, even if it has little else. I was grabbed by the concept of a show like “Firefly”, because the concepts of a Western and a Space Adventure are each so good that there’s no way they can go wrong when put together. Fortunately it also had a little sex, some good dialogue and interesting relationships.
Dialogue is the next thing that grabs me in a show. If it feels forced, there’s no way anyone can be expected to stick around. This new show “The Cape” has dialogue that is just good enough to keep me interested, but the only actor who’s very good is Summer Glau, and so its writers are having to work double-time to make everyone else look good. “Dollhouse”, another cancelled Fox show from the mind of Joss Whedon, is on Netflix (both seasons), and it is staying in my instant queue because of the good dialogue, which is feeding the plot, despite having relationships that feel forced.
Plot itself is a very secondary thing I look for in TV shows, especially in the half-hour variety, because what is more important are the relationships. A really old show called “Gunsmoke” probably had the best relationship in a show ever, that of Sheriff Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty. Are they a couple? No one knows, but the implications are there, and they were able to go over twenty seasons, in large part fueled by those two. But more and more people are digging the bro-love dynamic, as seen on shows like Scrubs, or currently in “Cougartown”. (Oh yea, Wednesdays on ABC- another night I might be watching that network.)
When I roomed with my buddy Ry Ry at college, we would often get movies from the library, with me deferring to his discretion as to what we should watch. (The guy owned 300ish movies.) But he nevertheless asked what I was looking for. I said three things: Plot, Comedy and Boobs. Those things are great for movies, but TV shows need a little something else. Usually that something else is a little Sexual Tension.
Finally, I have to commend NBC for sticking so much comedy on Thursday. At least three of those six shows have reasonable followings, and two could survive on the coattails of another. But you can’t keep it up. At some point The Office is just going to go away and 30Rock is going to take the 9/8c time slot, right?