Open Thread: Television

(by chris the cynic)

Continuing in the media themed open threads, what have you been watching on television?  What stuff from TV do you recommend?  What do you want to see more of on Television; what would you like to see less of?


(And it’s posted on the proper day and everything.)

[As a reminder, open thread prompts are meant to inspire conversation, not stifle it. Have no fear of going off topic for there is no off topic here.]


11 thoughts on “Open Thread: Television

  1. alexseanchai March 31, 2015 at 8:39 am

    I keep meaning to watch (or rewatch and then finish watching, in some cases, or just plain finish watching, in one case) Buffy, Community, Legend of Korra, Leverage, Lost Girl, Madoka, Sailor Moon Classic, Sailor Moon Crystal, and Yu-Gi-Oh! Classic. List is alphabetical rather than in any sort of priority order. The Korra re/watch should probably be preceded by an Avatar: the Last Airbender rewatch.

    Who has got the time. I should anyway, though. I keep hearing it’s important for creative people to pay attention to other people’s creativity.

  2. depizan March 31, 2015 at 11:30 am

    I’m afraid most of the TV shows I like have been off the air for ages. I may try Leverage some day, and I’ve heard some good things about The Flash. For the most part, modern television just is not my thing. Not because I’m some kind of anti-TV snob, but because the kind of stories I like went out of style twenty years ago.

    Things are too dark, with too much emphasis on angst and main characters having horrible backstories that hang over the whole show in a cloud of gloom. I think the last just pure fun TV show to air was Relic Hunter. (If I’m wrong and there are things I should know about, please tell me.)

    Some of it may simply be my not trusting modern TV after trying a few shows people claimed were fun that struck me as anything but. (Alias comes to mind there.) So, like, I watched the first season of White Collar and liked parts of it (especially the handling of the relationship between the FBI agent and his wife and how it avoided tropes I hate), but I didn’t trust it to keep doing so, so I didn’t watch any more. Because I didn’t trust it not to shit on everything I’d liked about it.

    But there’s also the fact that things that used to be backstory became overarching plots, and while I don’t mind them as backstory, I do mind them as an overarching plot. Way back when, there was a show called The Rockford Files, about a perpetually down-on-his-luck PI who’d once gone to prison for something he didn’t do and been pardoned. That he was an ex-con came up occasionally. It was backstory. (And gave him an obnoxious “friend” who periodically got him in trouble.) But the show was meant to be fun.

    Rockford wasn’t out for revenge on someone because of his prison time, and while he occasionally bemoaned his lack of money and the fact that his clients always lied to him, the show made it very clear that he was doing something he wanted to do. (Helped by his dad constantly trying to get him to give it up and become a truck driver. (His dad’s old profession.)) While it was a “drama,” it had a fair amount of humor and the upbeat theme music and intro answering machine messages told you that, hey, this is supposed to be fun.

    Modern television would have him be all brooding and grumpy and a thousand times more violent and out for revenge or at least to investigate his wrongful imprisonment. No thanks.

    And that kind of turned into a rant. Whoops.

    But it does cover both what I’d like to see more of – fun adventure type shows with characters doing what they want to do – and what I’d like to see less of – brooding, gloomy, depressing everything.

  3. Firedrake March 31, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    depizan, most of the grim and brooding I come across these days is in superhero or vampire shows, of which I’m not a great fan anyway. But so much TV is on DVD now that there’s nothing stopping you from catching up with older shows that you didn’t watch at the time – and you can know roughly how they end, so you can be sure going in that they won’t turn to crap.

    I think that TV is where the smart video storytelling is going these days, rather than film. You get longer to do stuff. (Sometimes too long. The first season of Sarah Connor Chronicles was much less padded than the later ones, and more fun.)

    Watched recently and enjoyed: Agent Carter (even though I hate superhero stuff), Sleepy Hollow, Lost Girl, and surprisingly 12 Monkeys.

    I do still watch some procedurals, but I get very fed up with the CSI style: that being a woman in a relationship which is any of non-cis, non-het, non-vanilla or non-monogamous is a sure way to end up either a killer or a victim.

  4. froborr March 31, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    depizan: What you want is happening, it’s just happening in children’s television. Avatar the Last Airbender, Adventure Time, and ESPECIALLY Steven Universe all match what you’re talking about, I think. Though, my calibration for darkness may be slightly off from others’–I regard Madoka Magica and Neon Genesis Evangelion (series, not movies) as being generally optimistic, for instance. But I think Steven Universe is probably a good fit for you.

    What am I watching? I’ve been rewatching a LOT of stuff this month, specifically all 104 episodes of The Slayers and six episodes of Gunbuster, for panels. In terms of new stuff, it’s the same new stuff I’ve been watching at one or two episodes a week for months: Sailor Moon Crystal, Steven Universe, and Vision of Escaflowne (which is 20 years old, but I never got around to watching it before, so).

    I want to get around to watching the last season of Parks and Rec–that’s another joyously optimistic show, I absolutely adore it, basically The West Wing with lower stakes and better jokes–but time crunch, y’know? I also really want to watch Yurikuma Arashi, about which literally all I know is that it’s an Ikuhara series and the title can be translated as “Lesbian Bear Storm.” Because it’s an Ikuhara series called “Lesbian Bear Storm,” how could that be anything but amazing? (For those who don’t know the name, he directed the later seasons of Sailor Moon and created/directed Revolutionary Girl Utena.)

  5. Firedrake March 31, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    froborr, if you ever have time I’d recommend Mawaru Penguindrum. Ikuhara doing what Ikuhara does, but rather well.

  6. christhecynic April 4, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    I want more stuff where people who aren’t evil or angsty, generally have their shit together, and work as a team well do whatever it is they do. Rob from the rich, fight monsters, fight evil government agencies that don’t think monsters deserve basic rights, pull off heists in space, whatever.

    Even on shows where that is the premise, there always seems to be an urge to throw in “This time it’s different because [character X] has a [dark secret/ulterior motive/random other thing that fucks up the teamwork].”

    I want to see things with a lack of scale creep. If you saved the world last week it does not mean that you have to save the galaxy this week. Rescuing a single kidnapped child with no significance in the grand scheme of things will always have decent stakes if you tell the story right. Or helping an old friend prove that they didn’t in fact plagiarize that article/steal that thing/stab someone in the back/lie to the reporters/whatever.

    This idea that you have to do more every time to keep the audience engaged is bullshit. Raising the scale of the conflict is something that poor storytellers do as a substitute for actually keeping their work fresh and engaging.

    I want a lot more shows that are fun. I get that darker and edgier things that we call realistic in spite of the fact that they’re as far from realistic as light and fluffy (just in the opposite direction) are in style right now, and the idea that real art is depressing seems to have set in, but “fun and explosions with Chiwetel Ejiofor” isn’t just a movie I would watch, it’s a series I would follow.

    I also have an inordinate fondness for things where Inigo Montoya Logic works.

    “He bested you with strength, your greatness, he bested me with steel, he must have out-thought Vizzini,” No. That does not follow. Maybe he stabbed Vizzini. Maybe he overpowered him. “And a man who can do that can plan my castle onslaught any day.” There is really no way this should work.

    And yet…

    Inigo Montoya: Do you hear that, Fezzik? That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when Rugen slaughtered my father. The man in black makes it now.
    Fezzik: The man in black?
    Inigo Montoya: His true love is marrying another tonight, so who else has the cause for ultimate suffering?

    Lots of people, all kinds of people. Other people could, even now, be watching someone (possibly even Rugen) slaughter their father as we speak.

    However, it works.

    The movie Sahara did a similar thing, but not the same.

    The characters never had a plan. They never even had 12% of a plan. The most they could do was think one move ahead and seldom did that move actually, when reasonably considered, seem like it would actually help them. At times they had to lie to themselves to go on believing they had a chance of survival (leading to their response to their eventual victory being, “There’s no way that that should have worked.”)

    In the absence of strategy, or even good ideas, they just kept scrambling as fast as they could. Since they didn’t let their seemingly inevitable failure get them down, the scrambling was fun, as was seeing how this total lack of an overall strategy would lead to a positive outcome.

    Those examples are both movies, but there’s no reason that an ongoing series couldn’t use one or both of those dynamics.


    Actually, one last thing. Returning to “fun”. You know how Carl Sagan and Neil Degrasse Tyson have this infectious enthusiasm that makes you interested in whatever they’re talking about? (As I recall Michio Kaku has a similar thing going on.)

    I’d really, really like to see more characters like that in fiction.

    It may be the case that you have a tragic life story and the government is trying to vivisect you, but if you find your superpower (however not-very-super it may be) to be awesome and are able to view it and the world you interact with via it with unfettered joy, it’s probably going to make me have a much easier time enjoying your story.

  7. alexseanchai April 5, 2015 at 7:09 am

    *reads chris’s comment, takes notes*

  8. depizan April 5, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    *cosigns all of chris’s wants*

  9. lonespark42 April 6, 2015 at 10:06 am

    Legend of Korra used to be on for free, but it seems to not be anymore. I do want to buy the DVDs, but there are ever so many things I need to buy first…

  10. lonespark42 April 6, 2015 at 10:13 am

    And yes, co sign all the things chris said.

    I could also stand to see TV that’s more like movies, and we seem to be moving in that direction at least as far as pay cable goes…

    I think I’ll work on a DS9 rewatch with the kids whenever we get the disc player un-messed-up. I watched the whole series with DS when he was a toddler, but he doesn’t remember.

    I might consider B5, too. I really like stuff about people being people in space but not distant galaxies. Especially since that lends itself well to “We only have a budget for slightly modified humanoids.” Although I hope that changes too, with the help of computer animation.

  11. Firedrake April 8, 2015 at 4:18 am

    Sign me up for Cynic-TV too. I think many screenwriters like to have a story of transformation (whether it’s the tired old hero’s journey or something else, maybe even just the team coming together), and that’s not always necessary: what Robin Laws calls the “iconic hero”, who effects change in the world but is not necessarily changed by it, can also work and is probably a better match to serial TV. (Your Doc Savage, James Bond, Captain Kirk, and so on.)

    That ties into the scale creep thing too. The Doctor Who revival suffers from this a lot: oh no, the entire universe is going to be destroyed! Again! And where do you go after that?

    Someone here may remember the writer talking about “realistic” fiction in the 1970s, who asked something along the lines of “why is it that the gasworks is considered realistic, but the daffodil is not”.

    And yes, fun. Or at least diversity. Sometimes I want CSI New York season 1, sometimes I want Tales of the Gold Monkey. The problem with TV (all right, one of the very many problems with TV) is that once a show becomes successful it spawns lots of imitators, and they generally imitate the things that are easy to do (e.g. a generally grim tone) rather than the hard things like character interplay.

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