I’ve often admitted to liking bad television, but not having cable is teaching me something about myself. It’s not that I liked bad TV, it was simply that I was conditioned to it.
I started pondering this while listening to the commentary on “Freaks and Geeks” and hearing one of the writers talking about how after he left “Dawson’s Creek” determined to never work in television again, he saw the “Freaks and Geeks” pilot and was lured back in. The conversation went on to discuss how the network didn’t understand character development, and that they like shows that allow viewers to tune in one week and know what’s happening without needing to have seen the previous show. This reminded me of the commentary on “The Wire” (yes, I’ve gotten in the habit of listening to the commentary, mostly while doing something else that doesn’t hold my full attention) where the creators talk about how they really require viewers to tune in week after week — to pick up a thread from the beginning of the season and tie it in a knot at the end.
“Freaks and Geeks” had the misfortune of being an NBC show and therefore got canceled. Most networks treat viewers like idiots, and like to make money in syndication, so they prefer shows like “Law & Order” — ones where you don’t have to know anything about the show to enjoy an episode. And frankly, I resent being treated like a moron. If I list my favorite shows of all time — “Northern Exposure,” “The Gilmore Girls,” and “Friday Night Lights” — they are all character-driven shows where you’d be lost without the backstory. This may be because I am a reader and need more than a plot to keep me interested; I need characters I care about. I’ve been struggling through The Girl with No Shadow for awhile now, simply because I find all the characters to be some combination of annoying, whiny, and evil. If I liked any one of the characters I would have been done weeks ago.
So, this is my plea to the decision-makers at the major networks: “Please stop making bad TV.” I’m already finding myself looking down my Netflix queue and seeing that I’m running out of good shows to add to it. I’ve started looking across the pond, and have been watching a couple of BBC shows. Help me support the economy and American workers, and start making decent TV that doesn’t involve eating weird things for money, forensics of any kind, or washed-up celebrities doing degrading things. With all that being said, I’m gonna go watch the shortlived “Dead Like Me” on Hulu.