Thursday, January 8, 2015

So, What Have I Been Up To? Television

Since I started blogging in 2003, the TV landscape has changed on an almost yearly basis, whether you want to talk the variety of content or types of access one can have to serialized storytelling in a motion picture form.  Because, in a lot of ways, the definition of what we called "television", back when it was 3-6 channels coming over an aerial antenna that required you be there when the station antenna sent out the signal - is deader than Herbert Hoover.

Still makes more sense than watching TV on your damn iPhone

My cable spectrum is technically infinite, on-demand has become a possibility through a huge number of channels (through my cable or via various internet services), the TV "season" still exists at the networks, but only kinda...  the start of Fall is no longer when new shows air.  Now that's literally every week of the year.  And Netflix proved you could dump whole seasons on people at once and let the audience and God sort it out.  You can now jump into a show in season 3, and just find the prior seasons on Hulu or Netflix... 

The one, great trick I have decided upon is to wait and see if my trusted pals will watch a whole series and tell me if they felt the ending was satisfactory.  Series now have endings and finales.  They no longer limp along, becoming a pale version of their former selves, getting by on the faithful habits of watchers who are just seeking familiarity.  Look, I got burned by both X-Files and Lost, and I'm not doing it again.  

Fortunately for all of us, a year and half isn't all that long in TV terms, so it's not like my TV habits have changed greatly since I went to go get milk and cigarettes in 2013 and never came back.  

I am still watching:

  • Archer - which wasn't super great last season, but remained entertaining.
  • The Americans - which somehow got even better in Season 2 and has completely flipped my 1990's impression of Keri Russell.  I really thought I'd get bored of the concept, but the long game of Season 2 versus the episodic nature of Season 1 really delivered.
  • Mythbusters - undergoing major changes, which we should see come to fruition this week.  No more Build Team, but maybe getting back to the raw nature of Season 1 is a good idea.
  • Parks 'n Rec - a bit of a mess of a a show continuity wise, but that's hardly the point of the program, so I'll just take what I can get, and I'll always appreciate a show that treats government employment in the trenches as something other than a total joke (just a partial joke)
  • The League - although I think we're agreed that the last season was our final season as the joke has run out of steam
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - which was feeling pretty thin last season.  This is the show I watch out of habit.
  • Mad Men - I don't even try to recommend Mad Men anymore.  It's not like anyone has done anything but try and inform me it sucks.  But, it's still the best written show on TV, so there.

Since last we checked in, I am now watching:

  • Black Dynamite - started off with a bang for it's first season by just being a great satire, and with Season 2 has become one of the most subversive shows I've seen on TV.  But with dick jokes
  • The Flash - I'm not watching Gotham because I did Smallville, and I'm pretty sure I know how this show will go.  But Flash has ditched the teen-angst fantasy of Arrow for a show that's as close to a fun superhero show as anything I've seen on TV since... probably the last Flash TV show.  Sure, it's got death and family tragedy, but our hero wants to be a hero, he's not being punished.  It's his idea.  And while it occasionally suffers from the fact it's on the CW and it's just going to be that way, it's been a fun ride.
  • Sleepy Hollow - I tuned in to hate-watch, decided I genuinely liked it's goofy charm, and then turned on it this season.  So I'm done.  Sorry, Jamie, you're on your own.
  • New Girl - Shut up.  I know you thought you were too clever to be tricked into watching this show, but it's really funny if you also believe that nobody really grows up after the age of 11.
  • Breaking Bad - via Netflix.  The problem we've run into is that the show is super depressing.  We could probably finish it pretty quickly, but every time I look at it, I think "well, what horrible thing will happen to the Whites this week?"  It's beautifully written and amazingly well acted, but...  yeah.  I'll wrap it up over the summer, probably.
  • Silicon Valley - which I just read on Gerry's fb page was renewed, so it got moved to this section
  • True Detective - which was really good, but I was a little surprised to see late-night, booze fueled college-years conversation applied to a police case lauded as deep character development.  But the story was good, acting and direction fantastic, and they used Juice Newton on the soundtrack.  And I'll watch Season 2.
  • Axe Cop - Axe Cop got a TV show!

I liked, but these shows have now gone away:

  • History Detectives - canceled just this week
  • Cosmos - dang, that was a really good show
  • The Roosevelts - Of course I watched this Ken Burns documentary.  Phenomenal show.  May be on  You can go look.
  • Wonder Woman - probably counts

New shows I just started but I'm absolutely digging:

  • Peaky Blinders - a 1919, British set crime drama starring Cillian Murphy in a factory town.  It's so nice when everyone involved feels like they're actually trying.
  • Agent Carter - obviously

I plan to watch:

  • iZombie
  • Black Mirror
  • Marco Polo
  • The Wire

I am also watching or have watched some of these things that are TV-ish:

  • Sports, like UT and other college football and some San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Cubs
  • Elvira has put her various shows up on Hulu
  • Our weird local 24 Hour news network, TimeWarner Cable News

There's probably also lots of other stuff I've watched and liked, but this post has gone on long enough and I don't really care about it that much, now that I think about it.  I'm certainly not going to spend any time worrying about shows I watched and didn't like or complain about any particular shows, because all of our lives are too short for that nonsense.


Sound Affects said...

"I got burned by both X-Files and Lost, and I'm not doing it again."

That sentence. I still get angry if I think about any of it.

I think Mad Men's undoing in the public perception is the breaking up of this last season. I'm thinking it will play much better as a binge show on Netflix at this point, but I agree with you. It just loses momentum.

How far are you into Breaking Bad? I'm considering a third run through at this point. I'm in the second season of my Wire rewatch, and I still can't decide which of the two would be my number one show if I had to pick.

The League said...

We should be starting Season 4: Episode 7 of Breaking Bad, but we haven't. We started watching The Wire years ago, and had audio problems from the DVDs we were using, so I want to just do it on HBO Go and hope for the best on audio.

The breaking up of the final Mad Men season was kind of crazy. I can see a 4- 6 week hiatus or something, but amonths-long break is not going to build numbers for the show. It's just made the small, loyal following wait around. Maybe they're working on all the FX for Peggy's epic Mecha battle with a drunk Duck Phillips. I have no idea.

the blip Breaking Bad experienced came from a trend that was already occurring - that word of mouth/ catch it on Netflix build of the audience. That's not going to happen here. But AMC has jerked around Mad Men for years with bad ideas, so this is kind of the final network mishap.

Sound Affects said...

The final scene is Mecha-Peggy lighting a cigarette over the dying embers of Duckzilla's corpse.

RHPT said...

The first episode of Season 1 of Black Mirror scarred me (it's a good episode, but man ...) I couldn't watch any other episodes

The League said...

there has to be a paying audience for Mecha-Peggy.

My co-worker was all about Black Mirror. I could go for some scary stuff.

Sound Affects said...

Black Mirror is great. We just watched it all over the holidays, because we're sick in the head, apparently. But really it's great.

JAL said...

I'll be the Black Mirror naysayer. It's ridiculously obtuse in its storytelling and messages. I just don't get all the love. If you want spooky, "Hannibal" is the show.

The League said...

Ah. I shall play the role of wise TV viewer and perhaps try both and render judgment. One shall win. One shall lose. I shall have watched much TV.

JAL said...

I could just be missing the boat on Black Mirror. As wildly popular as it is, it's worth checking out.

I'll just put it out there that Hannibal features Scott Thompson in a recurring role. That alone is worth the price of admission.

The League said...

Wait wait wait... The Scott Thompson?


I can't believe I'd never heard this before. I'll see if it's on Hulu.

JAL said...

Season one is on Amazon Prime

Jake Shore said...

As you've already said elsewhere, TV is a lot more interesting these days than feature films.

Since Netflix and other services, I cannot stomach commercials, so outside of sports, I watch almost nothing on live TV.

My wife and I are stumbled upon an interesting show, a BBC series called "Ripper Street." It's basically a police/crime drama set in Whitechapel after the ripper killings. Despite little teases, the show has virtually nothing to do with the ripper case. We're in the second season, and its pretty solid. The show is immersed in 1890s London, and is infused with the relevant cultural issues of the time (technology, women's rights, police power, ascendance of science, etc.) The characters are interesting and develop in surprising directions, and not always happy.

One of the main characters is an American who combines every American stereotype held by the British of that era into a single person. He's clever, but also an impulsive, irreverent, whoremonging drunk and gambler. So far, I'm not sick of it.

Can't say the same for "The Blacklist." Started out with lots of promise, but has become formulaic, and just drags ongoing plot points for too long. James Spader is fantastic, however.

The one current show we have kept up with since the beginning is Brooklyn nine-nine. Very funny, I think.

And finally, I've been watching "Star Wars: Rebels" with my boys. So far it's excellent. Light years better than the boring, joyless Clone Wars. Someone over there gets it. Much more of an original trilogy feel. Plus, the bulk of the art design is based on Ralph McQuarrie's concept art, including the stuff that never made it to the big screen.

The League said...

Ripper Street I also started on my elliptical, but my workout wasn't as long as an episode, so I'd always have to hang out to watch the end of an episode. I kind of fell off after a while because I was picking shorter shows. But it was pretty good!

We bailed on The Blacklist two or three episodes in. I just couldn't find anything aside from Spader that I liked, and we watch LOTS of TV shows already.

Rebels is pretty great, when I've caught it, but I'm not at all up to speed. It does feel like part of a Star Wars renaissance. The dissatisfied fans of the original trilogy coming in to make stuff they feel is more in line with what they'd hoped to get before Lucas delivered the prequels.