I Want my FYMTV, Pt 2

So I’ve been bashing a lot of shows lately, and I feel like I should switch gears a bit to talk about why I do it. Refocusing on the FYMPlanet mission is probably in order here: the goal is not just to slam mediocre shows or to try to shame people into not watching their favorite guilty pleasure. Far from it. You’ll notice that I personally watch all of the shows that I criticize for their lack of impact. I’m not against the shows I trash here, I simply don’t think they work and I do my best to outline why.

At the end of the day, what I really want is for the mediocre and bad shows that people watch to be a backup option rather than the go-to.  I also want people to be able to recognize the flaws in the shows they watch. That’s not to say this will cause them not to watch it anymore; it won’t. But it will dissipate the shared delusion that popularity and profundity are the same things.

I think that understanding the fundamentals of storytelling and the elements that go into good TV is important.

Not for some arbitrary aesthetic reason, but because the more people recognize mediocrity in all its various forms, the more they will seek out things that are better. In the long run, this may lead to better programming overall as studios realize that the drivel that has been successful in the past is no longer making the cut. We’re not there yet, but TV is definitely producing more worthwhile content than ever before. Is that simply because it’s producing more content period, and that percentage-wise the number of “good” shows is staying the same? I don’t know, but what if all of the mediocre shows could be tweaked so they were BETTER?

Wouldn’t it be great if someone made a show like Dexter with dynamic characters and good acting? What if The Walking Dead featured an engaging storyline and quit treating its characters like cardboard cutouts.

I want to watch THOSE shows. I want to watch shows like AMC’s The Killing which pulls no punches as it draws you in and breaks your heart. Or shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer that took a campy comedic premise and turned it into something amazing and unexpected.

Years from now, you’ll remember that Dexter was a show about a serial killer killing serial killers and that The Walking Dead was about zombies, but you’ll remember the details of Tony Sopranos dreams. You’ll remember Stringer Bell’s hubris and Omar Little’s code. You’ll remember every step of Walter White’s descent. You’ll remember the minutiae of those characters because they lived for you in a way that the one dimensional Dexter Morgan or Rick Grimes never will.

It can’t be a bad thing to want all of your TV to be that good, can it?

So yeah, I trash mediocre shows from time to time, but only in the service of the idea that there’s better out there and availing yourself of it will not only please your palate but evolve it. If our tastes continue to develop then our media will follow suit. I admit that it would be a dangerous world were all shows good. I doubt I’d get much done. But good or bad, I don’t want to settle for less.

I don’t know about you, but I want my FYMTV.

I Want my FYMTV

I won’t say that TV is getting better.

Thanks to the spew of reality TV programming that dominates much of the airwaves these days, TV is more likely, on average, getting worse. However, the number of very good shows, while not quite balancing out all the crap, IS growing at an unprecedented rate. A discerning viewer today has FAR more options than they did a decade ago, and that trend is likely to continue as new networks and outlets begin vying for the audiences that have flocked to quality TV.

Unfortunately, viewership of mediocre, traditional-style shows like Law & Order, The Big bang Theory, and CSI: Poughkeepsie (or whatever), is also still high. And, also unfortunately, in many cases the viewing of new, good TV doesn’t stop viewers from continuing to watch sub-par TV as well.

Through my own personal mixture of narcissism and benevolence, it always seems like a pitiable travesty when I watch otherwise reasonable people subject themselves to middling televisions shows. One reason for this is exposure; most people don’t watch all that much television. And when they do, they do it on an actual television set where they have limited channels, options, and inclination to explore. They see the latest episode of Bones on and say “why not.” I always think to myself: “Someone should do something to help those poor people!”

I understand that most people don’t take their fiction as seriously as I do, but I still ask: why does an end-of –day diversion have to be mundane and formulaic when it could be stimulating and enriching? Many of us watch TV as an escape from our daily routines; why not make that escape memorable.

To that end, and to give a head start to those of us that want to pull ourselves up out of the mire of daytime drama, I’ve listed below some of the best shows made in recent years in no particular order. If you haven’t watched these shows, there’s no reason to be watching anything inferior to them. In addition, while these shows may be the 5 star top of the heap, there are tons of 4 and 3 star shows that should still take precedence over NCIS, Burn Notice, or whatever other nonsense you’re watching because your finger got tired of changing channels.

Work your way down to the crap TV, not up to the excellent.

1)      Louie

2)      Firefly

3)      The Wire

4)      Breaking Bad

5)      Extras

6)      Battlestar Galactica (new series)

7)      Avatar: The Last Airbender

8)      Deadwood

9)      Survivorman

10)   The Office (British version)

11)   Misfits

12)   Generation Kill

Public Service Announcement

 

These random popular things are mediocre; you should not like them as much as you do.

1. The Big Bang Theory (the show… not the actual theory)
2. Tom Clancy books (yes, all of them)
3. Shameless
4. Taken
5. Sons of Anarchy
6. Dan Brown books (yes, all of them)
7. The Dark Knight Rises
8. Dexter
9. The Walking Dead (TV show)
10. Anything from Mark Millar

Here at FYM Planet, we don’t go after the low hanging fruit. For a list of some truly BAD things, just find anything popular with high schoolers. We stick to maligning the not-that-good, the could-be-better; the …meh.

This list is in no particular order, and it is far from exhaustive, but it’s a good start. If you get really excited about anything listed above…

…don’t.