You Need to Watch More TV

Featured, Television, The Idiot Box — By on November 10, 2010 at 10:30 am

“Is it weird that the end of Eastbound and Down‘s second season made me tear up a bit?”

I posted this on Facebook the other night.  It wasn’t exactly true, but I was amazed that the show had grown on me to any extent, seeing as I thought the first season was mediocre and overly dependent on ultra-shock value.  I didn’t think I’d care after season one, but season two pulled me back into rooting for the despicably self-centered Kenny Powers.

Here’s what my friend posted in response:

“Do you ever think that you watch too much TV?”

And I thought about it, and yes I do.  I watch way too much TV.

Here’s a list of shows airing right now that I love and prefer to watch on a weekly basis:

The Office
30 Rock
Community
Modern Family
South Park
Always Sunny in Philadelphia
The League
Friday Night Lights
Eastbound and Down
Bored to Death
Boardwalk Empire
The Walking Dead
In Treatment
Veronica Mars
(season 2 on DVD)

Here’s a list of shows I can’t keep up with right now, but I probably will watch at a later date:

Family Guy
House
The Simpsons

The Cleveland Show (better than Family Guy)
Saturday Night Live
Rubicon (I’m actually not even sure this is still going)
Dexter
The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret

The Soup
The Daily Show
The Colbert Report

Here’s a list of shows on hiatus right now that I also love:

Mad Men
Breaking Bad
Big Love
Archer
Louie
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Justified
Parks and Recreation
Treme

Here’s a list of shows that can bite me:

Glee
Outsourced
American Dad

I mean, that’s a LOT of television.  And that’s not counting shows I’d like to watch, like Battlestar Gallactica and…uh…Lost.  I haven’t decided on that last one.  Years of Facebook posts may have ruined it for me forever.  It’s also not counting the three hours I spend every week watching the Oregon Ducks run all over the Pac-10, or the Blazer games I try and catch at night once the kid is asleep.

So when people make new suggestions, like Betsy Zabel’s recommendation of Parenthood to me a few weeks ago, I have to take stock.  I wasn’t sure I could handle any more a few months ago, and yet I’ve added three hour-long shows since last year.  It’s just way, way too much.  I’m wasting my life, aren’t I?

But then look at those new shows!  Boardwalk Empire is amazing, another contender for the best show on TV right now.  I’m only one episode into The Walking Dead, but I’m in.  I also added Veronica Mars, which is streaming on Netflix, but the wife and I are souring on the second run after an excellent first season.

So yes, I may be wasting my life to some extent.  Perhaps I should be helping homeless teens, or selling healthy smoothies at farmers’ markets instead.  I’m going to do some more soul-searching and get back to you.

In the meantime, here are some thoughts about some of the shows above!

The Office

It was jarring seeing the whole cast at church last week, right?  What an odd episode.  I know a lot of evangelicals have this distrust of how they’re represented in Hollywood, but it’s really more of a question of how they’re not represented at all…”The Christening” depicted Christians as service-oriented and happy people.  Of course, the church had a woman pastor, so I’m sure that liberaled it up too much for some folks.

Modern Family

Is anyone else distracted by the use of Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen and Sarah Hyland (who plays Haley) as “subtle” sex symbols?  The show is like, “Sure, these women are impossibly attractive, and we’re not opposed to showing you wall-to-wall cleavage (even if said cleavage is attached to someone portraying a minor), but this is a wholesome family show, dammit!”

I really like Modern Family, but I always get this vague sense I’m being pandered to because I’m male.  I’m not dumb…I know this is something that happens in television…but I can’t help but notice it doesn’t happen as frequently on NBC, where even the hot characters (Pam and Kelly on The Office, Annie and Britta on Community) are toned down.  Of course, maybe that’s why Modern Family is the number two most watched show in the country, and The Office is #14.

The League

While AMC and HBO do battle over cable’s best network for hour-long drama, FX has taken slow ownership as the best comedy network on cable.

I shouldn’t say that…I don’t know what Comedy Central is doing outside South Park, Colbert/Stewart, and Daniel Tosh (who is very funny, but bizarrely overrated).  But between Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The League, and Louie, FX has pulled in the three of the top five original comedies airing right now.  The League is especially interesting for its depiction of life-long friends and the lives of people in their 30s.  Sorry…that’s about the most boring way I could ever describe a show who’s Halloween episode had my wife and I laughing harder than we’ve laughed all year.  For anyone scared off by the fantasy football aspect, don’t be…it’s a minor part of the show.

Friday Night Lights

Mindy and I started the final season last night (brought to you by Whataburger!), and it may or may not have been a little misty in our house.  The scene where Julie left for college was a trademark moment, one of those times where FNL depicts the relationship between parents and children perfectly and poignantly.  It was clear Julie understood her leaving for college was a big deal, but she was incapable of knowing it fully.  “I don’t want that to happen,” I told Mindy after the scene.  I mean, I want my daughter to go to college, but I don’t want to tell her goodbye.

And it has to be just a million times worse since the Taylors are now alone with Baby Gracie, who may just be Satan’s spawn.  Seriously, she has the hairline of a 50 year old man.  Thankfully, I’m not the only one on to her.

I’m sad this is the end of Friday Night Lights, a show that has survived against all odds, but I’m not that sad.  Part of the reason we’re in the Golden Age of Television right now is shows are not pushed past their expiration date.  FNL could go on, and I’d bet the writers have 1-2 good seasons left in them, but I think they’re bowing out at the right time.  Any longer, and drastic changes would’ve been needed.  The show handled transitioning from Dillon High to East Dillon, but a show can only change out all its high school-aged players so many times.

Eastbound and Down

I’m not telling you to watch this show, because sweet Moses is it foul.  But it’s also really, really funny.

Boardwalk Empire

…is terrific.

The Walking Dead

Typically, I avoid scary things.  I’m a pansy.  The other day, Burnsider Steve Simpson mentioned he loved Paranormal Activity, a movie that intrigues me which I will never, ever see, because I will have nightmares for weeks.  Zombies are different.  I don’t really get the whole zombie craze right now, but I’m okay with scary things that you can fight back against.

I digress.  The Walking Dead, through two episodes, has been amazing.  The first episode was a clinic in tension building and was shot gorgeously.  The second episode had some hiccups (most notably the lack of any redeeming or realistic behavior from the racist character), but I think I’m hooked.

This is getting long.  One more:

House

I really can’t put into words how little I care about House’s relationship with Cuddy.  I realize how much this goes against everything I love about television right now, but when I watch House, I want formula.  I want a mystery of a case, and I want House delivering great lines, conflicting with everyone around him, and eventually finding the fix through some abstract dot connection.  I don’t care about anyone else on that show.  There’s nothing wrong with formula if it’s done well and if you’ve got someone as charismatic as Hugh Laurie heading things up.

Instead, I fear the proverbial shark, as it were, has been jumped.  At least that’s one hour of my life back that I can now spend playing QRank and WarLight.

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    30 Comments

  • John Pattison says:

    I think the reason I watch “Glee” is because I never thought of trying several shows on your lists, including “Modern Family,” “House,” “The League,” and “The Walking Dead.” “Treme” and “Boardwalk Empire” are on my list of shows to watch, of course, but I haven’t started them yet. I watched the first season of “Eastbound & Down,” but I haven’t started the second season yet.

    Here are the shows I watch every week:

    30 Rock
    The Office
    Community
    The Simpsons
    Glee
    Chuck*
    Friday Night Lights

    These are the shows I watch that aren’t on the air right now, but will be again:

    Mad Men (I’m already two seasons behind)
    Bored to Death (I loved Season Two)
    Entourage

    These are the shows I want to watch but haven’t started yet:

    Breaking Bad
    Treme
    Boardwalk Empire
    In Treatment

    *”Chuck” is a frustrating show to be committed to, mainly because it’s not any good. It never lives up to its potential. Most of the characters are caricatures, and the writing just seems so…vague. The show as a whole lacks the kind of attention to detail that seems critical to the success of a spy show. Ironically, the show “Chuck” makes me want to be a TV writer more than any other show on TV – I keep expecting them to do things with the characters and the premise that they just don’t do.

  • Emily Timbol says:

    This made me tired and stressed out. I can barely manage to keep up with The Office and I’m two seasons behind on The Big Bang Theory, my other favorite show. Goodness. I admire your fortitude.

    • Jordan Green says:

      When you don’t have any friends who aren’t parents, and you can’t really leave the house from 8pm on because of children, this is an easy to way to fill the time.

  • Finally, somebody has the guts to take a swing at Glee. I tried it for a couple of episodes because I thought it was something my wife and I could watch together. Unless Janet Lynch was on the screen, I spent the whole suppressing my gag reflex.

  • James says:

    I really like the fact Kenny Power’s name shows up more in this article than an other character.

  • tim brackett says:

    Wow. That is a lot of television. I’m currently working part-time and I don’t even have the time to watch that much TV.
    I do enjoy:
    The Office
    30 Rock
    The League
    It’s always sunny…
    The Daily Show
    Colbert Report
    Morning Joe (Huge crush on Mika)
    Throwdown with Bobby Flay

  • Jordan Green says:

    I blame this column (and, by proxy, you the reader) for my TV habits. “It’s research,” I tell myself.

  • We were guessing the Office’s church was Methodist, but couldn’t even tell which hymn they were singing. It was nice to see church people depicted as both more honorable than the regular characters, and as petty food-grubbers.

  • Very sorry to say this, but you really ought to add the Masterpiece Mystery Sherlock Holmes to the must watch list.

    Sorry.

    Also crazy addicted to Fringe these days. It’s like House with melting brains and aliens. And a cow.

  • I smell a book: “Beside the Gospel Hour of Power: 100 TV shows Christians need to watch…”

    Or not.

  • James says:

    Kenny Powers.
    Just wanted to get the name up there one more time.

  • Tyler says:

    I think I keep up with 3 shows. The Office, Survivor, and StormChasers. I can’t imagine trying to keep up with more.

  • Tyler says:

    Oh and obviously FNL, but I don’t have DirecTV so I wait till spring to watch the final season. Best show on tv by far.

  • Joseph says:

    These are the shows I’ve been watching:

    The Office
    Weeds
    South Park
    True Blood
    Entourage

    There are also two BBC shows that I’ve been watching that have become some of my all time favorites:

    All Creatures Great and Small (adapted from the beloved books by veterinarian James Herriot). -Some really great, down to earth programing that aired from 78-90.

    Doc Martin – A great show about a general practitioner working in a small oceanside village in Cornwall; a great story with that subtle english humor.

    Every now and again I’ll watch some of The Colbert Report and even more rarely The Daily show.

  • Robert Ham says:

    The only thing I take umbrage with in your writeup is the comment that the racist character in The Walking Dead was unbelievable. Having spent a fair amount of time with my relatives from Alabama, I would be quick to disagree with you on that. I saw a great deal of my Uncle Calvin in that cesspool of a man.

  • Jesse D says:

    Stick with Veronica Mars. The second season starts slow, as does the third, but both finish strong. Veronica Mars has to be the best TV drama ever made.

    And Glee can’t die soon enough for my liking.

  • Alex says:

    Veronica Mars was good the first season, but the 2nd and 3rd were a bit of a let down. My wife and I just finished it a few months ago.

    We recently started watching Psych, which is a USA original show. Love it! Good mystery/comedy. The humor is a bit sarcastic and subtle at times, but it’s a terrific show. The only thing I have against it is it seems the writers don’t know what a “cliffhanger” is, especially at a season’s end.

  • John Pattison says:

    Can we be real? How great was Gwyneth Paltrow on “Glee”? I know everyone here watched it.

    • Josh says:

      “Hoarders and red wine… I’m BUUUUUZZED!”

      That’s the first episode I’ve seen this season and my wife kept apologizing for it, but it seemed pretty good to me. The Cee-Lo song was sort of stiff, but the final “Umbrella/Singin’ in the Rain” was good enough that I didn’t mind the teachers hogging all their choir’s stage time.

  • diane nienhuis says:

    I try to watch the news every morning. That’s about it for me.

  • Susan Isaacs says:

    I’ve given up on Glee making any kind of story sense. The first six episodes of Season one were great. “Mattress” was when it took a bad turn. They invent a big life-changing issue at the beginning of an episode, then destroy it by the end. All to justify a song or a theme. It’s bad writing. The writing is just so terrible. I can’t believe I’m still watching. But I am. I guess because I invested so much.

    On the other hand, Mad Men has only gotten better over time. And it started off so well, so that is saying a lot. By the middle of season three I began to feel annoyed by the emotional stagnation, not to mention the seeming lack of consequences for Don’s actions in particular. But creator Matthew Wiener has said, “actions have consequences,” and finally in Season Four, the chickens came home to roost. It’s the only show I’ve actually bought on iTunes and never regretted the investment.

  • Tim McGeary says:

    I can’t believe you don’t want “How I Met Your Mother”. Google Robin Sparkles, Slap Bet, and Barney Stinson’s Suit Song to watch video clips, and then start watching from Season 1. There’s even an episode of Jim Nantz doing an interview with of the “perfect week”. I’ll just say it’s not about Tiger winning the Master’s by 15 strokes. 30 minutes more of TV – that’s it.

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