Good shows, bad shows, when do you stop watching?
What makes a good TV show? Why do we watch the ones we do? More importantly how long do you give a new show a chance to make an impression?
This is a question I’ve been asking myself after becoming bored with a few shows I’ve had on my watch list and deciding not to continue with. After tweeting that one show had become very slow and tedious, a friend quite rightly said “stop watching it then”. I’d got so far with it but really started to ask myself why I was still watching. Was it the investment in time I’d already made making me carry on just to see if it improved?
Should a show make an immediate strong impression? or if it just grabs you as interesting, do you give it two or three episodes? what about a full season to see how it develops? am I wrong to give up on a show I was previously enjoying?
I’m talking here primarily about sci-fi or fantasy genre shows, the latest vogue of superhero or comic books being turned into TV shows and not the well established mainstream things like soap operas or the mass of, in my view, trivial and banal so-called “reality tv” shows. We’d be here for months covering my thoughts on all of those. I appreciate everyone likes different things, I’m just questioning my own thoughts here, not criticising others for what they watch.
I’m also not going to talk about things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Stargate, two of my most favourite shows ever. They have huge fan bases still and more than enough has been written about them and why they lasted so long.
It’s a lot to expect any show to be excellent from the start, they need time to develop the characters and story, the actors need to find what works, the writers need to figure out how best to make use of them. Yet it seems if the first episode isn’t an instant hit, people won’t give a show a chance. Some don’t even get through the first episode, surely that’s not a fair way to judge?
The particular show that lead me to think about this is Helix (above). Some of you may know it, some not. I’m not going to do a summary of what it’s about, my point is that we’re just five episodes in to Season 2 and I’ve lost interest. Season 1 was overall quite good and I still sort of want to know what’s going on but Season 2 has just been slow, unimaginative, with little story development, a confusing switch between present, past and future and just bad writing. So I’ve decided to cut it.
But is five episodes a fair chance? Could it suddenly get better? Well yes, of course it could. But it’s already lost my interest so I guess I won’t find out. Is that wrong?
A very few shows have been great from the start, don’t ask me why, something about them just works. For me, this includes Firefly and Person of Interest. The former was cancelled after one short season but retains a huge following and for me it worked from the start. The writing, the idea, the characters. It all just clicked.
Person of Interest was intriguing from the start but has just got better and better, especially since Amy Acker and Sarah Shahi became regular cast members. From the outset it was an interesting, intelligent and believable idea, well implemented and with lots of interesting subplots along the way. This has become one of my favourite shows ever. Notice I said “become”. It was interesting from the start but took time to really develop yet it was good enough that I stuck with it.
Game of Thrones was similar, caught on to it a little late but after watching the start, loved it straight away.
Then there was the Battlestar Galactica remake/reboot. I recall watching bits of it when first on and not getting it and didn’t see all of it. Then after meeting Aaron Douglas at an event I did a complete rewatch, a few episodes each night and loved it. Suddenly I got it.
Same went for Spartacus. I’d seen odd bits but thought nothing of it, then a friend loaned me the blu-ray and I just got lost in it and loved every moment.
And then there’s Defiance, a SyFy channel show which wasn’t outstanding at first but seriously took off in Season 2 with great character development and interaction all of which was made more enjoyable by the engagement of the fanbase and cast through live tweeting sessions. There’s now even organised rewatch sessions each week which are great fun. It’s turned it into something quite different and special.
So does it come down to what mood we’re in, what our motivation for watching is that decides whether we will stick with something and what effect it has on us? Very possibly. Catch a show when you’re in the right frame of mind and you might like it better than if you feel you’re just watching for the sake of it or because everyone else is.
For BSG my enthusiasm was aroused by talking to one of the actors about it. For Spartacus, my friend explained that it wasn’t what I thought it was and I got it.
In my experience sometimes you know straight away if a show holds any interest but it seems to take me around three to five episodes to get a general feel for whether it’s something I want to stay with. I don’t know if that’s giving a new show a fair try, I mean the first season of Star Trek:TNG wasn’t great by any means yet it turned into a good show.
Maybe I’m even being too generous and should stop after the first episode if it’s not grabbed me. But then there’s the chance of missing out on a real grower, a show that just needs to develop. But with so many things to watch on so many channels these days I guess you have to be picky. The good ones will stand out even if they’re not always given a chance by the studios.
So I’m learning to be more selective and my list of shows to keep watching has been cut. After all there’s the next season of Game of Thrones to make room for.