Glad You Asked Department 6/17/13
Today’s question comes from Lydia, who wants to know:
When you’re sitting back and chilling, what TV shows do you watch? Are you a fan of shows that are critical darlings, or do you secretly love the kind of genre stuff that most people won’t admit to getting into? For that matter, are you secretly a reality show fan? You can trust me with your secrets. I won’t be judgmental. Or not too much anyway.
I get asked questions like Lydia’s quite a bit – mostly when hanging out at my favorite coffee house (hey, it’s the Seattle area – everyone here’s got a favorite coffee house), so even though I know every reader is going to have a judgment about this (because every reader is, after all, human) here’s my reply:
The deep, dark truth about what yours truly, Larry Brody, likes to watch is that there’s nothing very deep or dark about it.
I know what shows are critical successes because I hear from others in the biz that they are, but I make it a point to never read reviews. Mostly because I don’t want to be influenced about how to spend my chilling in front of the tube time, but also because when I did read them I very seldom agreed with even the most respected television critics.
Which means, I’m afraid, that no one reading this should take my word as anything resembling gospel. My mind doesn’t work like most people’s, so it’s quite likely that your
mileageopinion may vary.
With that out of the way I can safely say that the show I’ve enjoyed the most over the past several months has been ORPHAN BLACK.
I love its quirky take on everything, the way it combines street life, bourgois suburbanism (is “suburbanism” a word? It should be), and high tech thriller riding.
For me, it’s the ultimate package deal: Science fiction and scum. With a sensational actress named Tatiana Maslany as identical clones who really aren’t identical at all. ORPHAN BLACK is on hiatus now, but it’s at the top of my Must See When It Returns List.
Also high on that list is PERSON OF INTEREST, not only because a former Spec Scriptacular Grand Prize Winner, Erik Mountain, is on the staff, but because it is just so damn cool. The creator of the show, Jonathan Nolan, has described the series as BATMAN if Batman were in the real, here-and-now world, and that feeling pervades every frame of the show. And the super-computer-as-God stuff ain’t too hard for me to take either.
Other LB Must See shows include NCIS, CHICAGO FIRE (with another Spec Scriptacular winner, Ryan Harris, on staff), and THE WALKING DEAD (yeah, producer Curtis Gwinn’s another TVWriter™ alum). I’m into WALKING DEAD because, oh hell, because these are the best zombies anywhere, dammit, and while I’m honestly not sure what it is about NCIS and CHICAGO FIRE that’s hooked me, hooked I am.
Wait, I take that back. I do know what it is about those last two. NCIS has Mark Harmon, a great guy with some age to him. And, having spent much of my childhood in Chicago, I see CHICAGO FIRE as probably the best depiction of the way blue collar Chicagoans think and behave ever presented anywhere other than James T. Farrell’s novel, STUDS LONIGAN.
I’m also a huge fan of British cop shows. LUTHER. MIDSOMER MURDERS. DCI BANKS. VERA. WALLANDER. GEORGE GENTLY. INSPECTOR LEWIS. I recommend them all, especially if you like cranky heroes. (Which I do because I can identify with them so easily.)
Yes, I’m seeing some conspicuous absences here. One upon a time BONES would’ve been on this list. Also CASTLE. And COMMUNITY as well as ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. And then there’s the former love of my TV viewing life, DOCTOR WHO. I can still enjoy these shows, but I’m no longer compelled to see every damn episode as soon as soon as I possibly can.
BONES and CASTLE, in fact, have become kind of scary to me. They make what I think is a terrible mistake: They keep putting their lead characters in situations where their emotional lives are on the line. This gets me all tense, and I don’t watch shows like this to get all stressed out about the leads. I watch them because I love the way the characters interact. It’s the closeness of the regular “families” that means the most to me, along with cool crimes and solutions.
As for COMMUNITY and ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, you know how it is. COMMUNITY’s still on and A.D. is back – but they’re not the way they used to be. They’re like old lovers who’ve let themselves go. I haven’t given up on them entirely, though. I’m still rooting for them to get back into shape and regain their insane comedic perfection. But till they’ve proven themselves again they’ll be at the end of my DVR and Netflix queues.
And, as long as I’m at it, a few words about DOCTOR WHO. I think Matt Smith is stupendous. Love everything about him as the Doctor. But I loathe everything the show’s scripts force him to do. To me, the Doctor is a guy who’s addicted to what he does. Who loves every minute of danger and sees everything as a challenge. He shouldn’t be angry or fearful or sullen, he should always be eager as hell, laughing at danger the way Errol Flynn (and all the great former Doctors – especially Chris Eccleston) did.
I blame the current boss of the series, Steven Moffat, who seems to be in constant competition with his actors and the very concept of the show, trying to prove that he’s the real star. Well, Steve dood, sorry, but you ain’t. You’re just another writer. A one-trick pony puzzle-maker. Forget one-upping your own Doctor and concentrate on what you’re really supposed to be doing: Entertaining your audience and filling us with joy.
That’s it for now. More than enough shows to fill my available viewing time. And not a reality series in sight. Although, just between us, I do have an affinity for COUNTING CARS. Danny and his gang remind me of some crazy bikers I used to know way back in the day, and whenever I see Count’s Kustoms I smile because it’s kind of like going home.
My purpose here is to help as many undiscovered creative geniuses as possible. But I can’t answer if you don’t ask. So send your questions and make everyone’s day!