Monday Morning Critic: Five Suggestions to Help You Enjoy More TV in 2015
Welcome back to another installment of the Monday Morning Critic. In this space each week, I’ll be looking at the week that was in addition to the week ahead in television. The format will shift each week, as the world of TV will dictate the form and content of each piece.
In this week’s installment: a holiday poem, a preview of ‘Justified,’ and five suggestions to help you enjoy TV more in 2015.
There are just too many Spring shows to cover in a single installment of the ‘Monday Morning Critic.’ In many ways, the winter is busier than the fall in terms of sheer releases, with all manner of networks and distribution channels inundating the cold, huddled masses with more content than their eyeballs can possibly consume. But as a way to start thinking about those shows, I thought I’d use a little holiday-themed inspiration to try and get your mind geared towards the onslaught of new programming that will start in January.
‘Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the dials
I looked for some TV to give me some smiles
At the myriad of channels I did solemnly stare,
In hopes that St. Television soon would be there
The DVR brimming with episodes old
While dreaming of new shows about to unfold
And mamma with her wine, and I with my beer,
Had just settled down for a hatewatching dear
When out on the lawn there arose such a tremor
I feared that my cable connection might be severed
Away to the router I flew like a bird
Calling support now would be quite absurd
The lights on the router continued to glow
I knew I could go on with watching my show
When what to my dumbfounded eyes could be seen
But a tiny old man waving hi on my screen
With dozens of shows stuffed into his sack
I knew that Saint TV had a 2015 plan of attack
More rapid than eagles the new shows did come
And he whistled, and shouted, and called out each one:
“Now, ‘Empire’! Now, ‘Roadies’! Now, ‘Walking Dead’ offshoot!
On, ‘Daredevil’! On, ‘Preacher’! ‘Better Call Saul,’ en route!
To the top of the list! To the bingewatching thrall!
Now launch away, launch away, launch away, all!”
One show not mentioned in that poetic masterpiece (ahem) is FX’s ‘Justified,’ which returns for its sixth and final season on January 20. It’s possibly the show I’m most looking forward to returning in the early third of 2015, even though I didn’t particularly like the fifth season at all. It was the weakest link in an otherwise semi-brilliant run, an example of how far too many shows (even, or especially, great ones) go on longer than the true expiration date of its story. The fifth season accomplished very little in the grand scheme of things, and even though I was insanely excited about the prospects laid out in that season’s finale, very little of what preceded it felt like anything remotely vital.
But now, we have the promise of the long-gestating Raylan/Boyd/Ava triangle finally coming to some sort of conclusion, and there’s every chance this will end badly for all three. These characters have worked on borrowed time, outdated concepts, and false illusions for nearly the entirety of the show’s run. Even though Raylan is nominally the show’s hero, he’s really just one of the show’s three protagonists. Depending on your perspective, you could make any of one of those three individuals the center of the story, and ‘Justified’ works best when pointing out the positive AND negative qualities of them. At its best, this show is one of the most purely entertaining programs on any network. But it also has real stakes, and the final season allows ‘Justified’ to finally take its narrative drive off neutral and barrel full speed ahead towards its bloody conclusion.
There’s no one way to enjoy TV, obviously. But I still think there are some ways in which one can maximize one’s exposure to the medium, and maximize one’s happiness engaging with it. Here are guidelines for fully enjoying TV in 2015:
1) Start watching at least one show you currently don’t consume based on a year-end list written by a critic you respect.
Look, hopefully that critic is me! But if not, take a chance on something that you’ve been putting off or simply didn’t know about. The best feedback I’ve ever gotten is, “Thank you for introducing me to [Insert Show Here]!” It’s just the best. Reinforcing pre-existing notions isn’t a particularly rewarding thing for me. But getting someone to try a show like ‘Jane The Virgin’ or ‘Spartacus’? That makes everything worth it for me, and offers up the chance for surprise for those that start watching something on blind faith.
2) If you see at least five episodes piled up on your DVR, it’s time to jump ship.
Look, you don’t have to stop watching forever! But I find a pile-up that large stressful, and it makes me feel guilty. (I have issues, I know.) I tend to write down shows like this and keep them around in case it’s a slow month and I need something to watch. A good example of this: ‘The Knick,’ a show I will absolutely finish but always passed over in favor of something else on my DVR. In August, I’ll knock this out. Until then, I won’t have it judging my silently at the bottom of my queue.
3) Rule #2 doesn’t apply if it’s a show like “House Hunters International,” obviously.
4) Livetweet at least one show a week.
Even though I’m introverted by nature, I still love sharing thoughts with strangers online in real time as often as possible. Livetweeting everything probably isn’t possible, feasible, or desirable. (I love ‘Mad Men,’ but I find I can’t take my eyes off the screen for a second, even if my mind is constantly racing with thoughts I want to share.) The act of livetweeting is an act of love, one that’s helped me connect with tons of fans that normally wouldn’t read my reviews or even know I exist. Livetweeting shows like ‘Scandal’ and the aforementioned ‘Jane The Virgin’ helps keep the creative side of my brain flowing, and is the best way I know to feel like I’m actually sharing a living room with likeminded people. Sure, “having friends” achieves the same thing, but no one on Twitter has the ability to steal a beer from my fridge when I’m not looking. So, Advantage: Internet.
5) Watch at least one show you love even if you are worried that it’s going to be cancelled.
Actually, let me amend that: “Watch at least one show you love even if you know it’s going to be cancelled.” I have little tolerance for people who say, “I don’t want to watch a show, since it might get cancelled anyways, so what’s the point?” It’s a defeatist attitude that also turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy: Couple that sentiment with daily data that reinforces bad instincts, and you have certain shows that literally have no chance to succeed. But while I’ve often wished I had more episodes of shows like ‘Enlisted,’ ‘Drive,’ and ‘Enlightened,’ I have never, ever regretted the time I spent watching those shows. Networks aren’t supposed to cater to our selfish whims: There are times in which personal tastes won’t line up with mass sentiment, just as there will be times in which timeslots or promotion will put programs behind the 8 ball before they even begin. But watching doomed shows isn’t about moving the ratings needle so much as appreciating something that aligns with your own sensibilities, even if that alignment is brief. Even with all the great TV currently being produced, shows that TRULY connect with you are few and far between. Why not spend every second you can with them?