On Reviews (and Lack Thereof)

I really anticipated that I would be doing a lot of television reviews this fall. Some old favourites were returning, along with some new shows which held interest and promise.

Yet, the flood of reviews I thought I would be doing hasn’t really materialized. In part, this is because I’ve gotten intensely busy; I’m trying to manage this ain’t livin’ while also contributing at FWD/Forward and preparing pieces for publications which actually, you know, pay me (which is really exciting, I am glad to finally be able to write about things I am passionate about for publications which want to run my pieces, and I’m hoping that this will comprise more and more of my work in the future). In addition to doing regular writing work. This eats up an astounding amount of time, which means that I have less free time to watch television and even less free time to write about it.

But there’s more to it than that. I’m good at making time for things I want to do, and I am increasingly finding that watching television is not something I want to do. This is because a lot of television seems to be well, rather bad at the moment. I often find myself getting distracted while watching something, rambling off to do something else entirely and realizing half an hour later that I didn’t pay attention and will need to rewatch if I want to write up a review or follow the story.

I just weeded a bunch of shows out of my Hulu subscriptions because they aren’t gripping me at all. Is this a shift in me, or a shift in television? It’s probably a bit of both, honestly. I’m having a tougher time these days sitting still to watch television or movies, unless they are really good. I’ve been making fun of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice for years for being soapy and formulaic, but it appears to be an epidemic.

Bones, for example, has been a real disappointment to me this season. Procedurals often fall into the trap of getting boring because they focus on a crime a week, but Bones had been interesting to me in past seasons. There were interesting character development things going on, some of the cases themselves were interesting, and I was enjoying myself. This season, it’s kind of a slog to get through an episode. There’s the extremely irritating love plot between Booth and Brennan but the other characters seem flattened, somehow, and the show has had rather dull cases and a poor handling of the issues it touches upon (like, say, dwarfism and vegetarians).

I’m not watching Numb3rs and NCIS at all any more, House is boring me, and Lie to Me is probably the most compelling returning show I’m watching, and even it doesn’t really keep me riveted to my seat. I watch Dollhouse more out of a sense of compulsion than anything else, because I want to be able to critique the show, but at this point, I’m not holding out much hope for the show to redeem itself or develop.

Especially since it’s been canceled, so after Fox blows through the remaining episodes, this is it. And, honestly, I’m not sad about that at all. I did want to see the show go through a second season to see if it improved, but it’s clear that the show is founded on a bad and poorly executed premise. There’s nowhere to go with this other than deeper into a very bad place. I think Fox made the right decision when they canceled, and I’d really like to know more about the thought processes behind some of the events in this show. Behind the show itself.

Was it really this poorly thought out? Did Joss and the creative team  really not think, at all, about how the show would be perceived and read? Did they not consider the implications of the things they were portraying? My gut tells me that the answer to these questions is, astoundingly, “no.” Dollhouse is so intensely problematic that there’s no way it could be a deliberate creative decision, the problematicness, I mean.

The show might have had a chance to redeem itself, to get better, to start really biting into some issues, but it got canceled. So, even as I say that I’m not sad about the cancellation, I am, to a certain extent, because it might have been one of those slow-developing shows that was going to turn into something amazing, but never got a chance. And now we will never know which way it was going to go.

A few new shows started this fall; Glee, for example, which I am following and reviewing in part because the show seems to  be a big hit, and I want to explore why that is when the show feels like a troped and hackneyed rehashing of everything bad about the depiction of minorities on television. People are hailing this show as some kind of innovative breakthrough which is challenging stereotypes and social beliefs, but it feels like the same old shit to me. Examining the problematic nature of the show and exploring why people aren’t recognizing it or why people are reading it very differently than I am is interesting, even if watching the show every week makes me want to scream.

I also watched a few episodes of Mercy and Trauma, NBC’s attempt to break into the prime time medical drama demographic, and I haven’t been much impressed by either. Sure, it’s interesting to see nurses and paramedics instead of doctors, except that Trauma features an appalling and annoying plot in which a paramedic is being pressured to go to medical school and be a doctor (as though being a paramedic is not being a “real” care provider), and both shows are extraordinarily sexist and irritating. They’re night time soaps, basically, and that’s fine, but it’s not for me. I have enough on my plate with Grey’s Anatomy, which I feel compelled to watch even as it infuriates me.

V is a debuting show which I was actually looking forward to. I haven’t seen the original series, but it seemed like an intriguing premise. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Mitchell, but I figured I should give her and the series a shot. By the second episode, I was already so bored watching that I was dusting the bookshelves (which is something I hate doing) in lieu of paying attention to what was on screen.

Likewise with FlashForward, again, a really interesting premise, but I am loathing the execution. I think it’s ABC’s attempt at a Lost replacement, but…yeah. It’s not even close to replacing Lost. It’s just kind of boring and while they are trying to construct a complex mythology, it’s not enough to keep me following the show. Because the mythology is complex, I’m quickly getting lost because I lose focus, and I don’t have the energy or the inclination to go back and catch up.

When I get into things, I tend to get into them intensely, to squeeze every last drop out of them, and then to drop them. I appear to be reaching this place with television.

One Reply to “On Reviews (and Lack Thereof)”

  1. Your thoughts on television echo my own and likewise I can’t say whether it’s a personal shift or a shift in television culture. I was sure I’d have a full fall tv season and, while we watch completely different shows, I’ve felt disappointment like what I hear in your post. Too formulaic? Shadows of television greats? Changing personal priorities? I’ve been examining it myself but have no theory to offer – just company.

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