Sometimes, I really hate following Alex. She’s so sharp when it comes to story analysis, that I feel inadequate. And while I’ve seen most of the popular movies, truly, I’m a television addict.
It’s true. I love TV. So when I gave it up for three years to write (because I was working full-time, had five kids, and the only time I had to write was in the late evenings) it was a huge sacrifice.
But ultimately, it was a sacrifice that not only showed me how much I love television, but made me cognizant of what I watch and appreciate the good shows.
My television time is still limited, because writing and the kids come first, and now I will not tolerate commercials, so all TV is viewed either on DVD or my AppleTV. Most shows are 40-45 minutes, so at the end of the evening, when everyone is asleep, after I’ve put in my writing time, I watch an episode of whatever series I’m on.
Maybe I don’t write the high-concept big books because I think in terms of episodic television and not two-hour movies. And high-concept movies are, ultimately, about plot. That’s what sells them. The “big idea”, the fear, the universal understanding. Television is about character. Sure, there’s a general structure to the storyline, but television that works (at least for me) is about the characters who tell that story.
It’s the same way with books. I like a good, twisty plot, but if the character isn’t there–if I don’t care what happens to them, if I don’t really know them, if they’re not three-dimensional and complex–then I don’t really like the book. I might appreciate the plot or writing, but I won’t love the book.
Some of my favorite television shows of late aren’t the popular shows. I don’t watch reality TV, or the singing and dancing shows. I hear about them, I know what’s going on, but I can’t sit and watch them, and I don’t want to DVR them or buy them. I’m just not interested. Few of the shows I watch are on network television. I always thought I had very popular-and populist-taste in modern culture, but maybe I’m just a bit off. After all, after only two seasons network television cancelled one of my all-time favorite shows LIFE, a brilliant story about an LA cop who’s wrongfully convicted of murdering his partner and spends 12 years in prison before his sentence is over-turned and he’s paid $50 million in restitution . . . and given back his old job, which he uses to find out who framed him. Though cancelled, the network let the creators wrap up the show, so it’s worth watching the two seasons. The character study of Detective Charlie Crews is amazing. Hmm, I might need to watch the show again.
(Another show that should never have been cancelled was VERONICA MARS, which I believe was on the WB, but I’ve blogged about that before. It’s essentially a modern day, edgy Nancy Drew and was amazing on all levels. It, too, was largely character driven but had the added ingredient of contemporary problems for teens.)
So what am I watching now or looking forward to?
The best show of the year. It seemed to be ignored by the awards circuit, but I’ve watched the first season twice. (And I rarely watch re-runs, just like I rarely re-read books.) This fact should tell you that JUSTIFIED is a must-see show. (And not just because Timothy Olyphant stars, though that’s a big plus!)
Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, and from the credits he appears to be involved in production as well, JUSTIFIED tells the story of a US Marshall who, after killing a fugitive in public, is forced to take a position in the US Marshall’s office in his hometown in eastern Kentucky. His ex-wife is there, his criminal father, and his old friends-and enemies.
JUSTIFIED would be just another cop show if not for the characters. Raylan Givens, the tortured hero with a lot of skeletons in his closet; his ex-wife Winona who had an affair with a realtor and divorced Raylan (OKAY-I just need to state for the record that I don’t like Winona, and not just because she was an idiot who cheated on her husband-not only her husband, but her sexy cop heroic husband, with a paunchy realtor!-but because she’s a siren, and when she thinks Raylan is falling for someone else, she takes off her wedding ring and . . . well, ’nuff said, you gotta see the show yourself.) Then there’s Ava Crowder, Raylan’s love-interest, who you think at first is a pretty white trash bimbo who killed her abusive husband, but who has more spine and courage than most women and really, she came into her own about halfway through the season until the finale where she really shined. And Boyd Crowder, arguably my favorite character, Raylan’s one-time friend and now a fugitive bank robber, who had an about-face after nearly dying-or did he?
The secondary characters are good, primarily in the US Marshall’s office, but they need to be fleshed out more in season two, particularly Jacob Pitts character Tim Gutterson, a veteran sniper who served in Afghanistan. He has a lot of potential. But the show is about Raylan and his past and present colliding.
This series has is courage and character and it’s my number one favorite show.
WHITE COLLAR (USA Network)
Essentially, this is CATCH ME IF YOU CAN if Frank Abagnale, Jr. was a cultured art thief and forger who worked in the field for the FBI after he was convicted. This show was on the skids for me at the beginning, and I’d never have watched the entire first season because the plots were a bit predictable and I didn’t see potential, except I loved the characters. This is a buddy show, with a smart FBI agent Peter Burke (played by Tim DeKay) and a smart con artist/forger Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer.) The stories are hit or miss, but the relationship between this unlikely partnership is terrific. I don’t see this show sticking around more than three seasons (I may be wrong; we’re in the middle of season two) because the conflict isn’t sustainable over time (IMO) but for now, it’s a great character study.
THE GLADES (A&E)
I didn’t expect to like this show, and honestly, it’s not fantastic, but I find myself compelled to watch it every week when it downloads to my AppleTV. Why? Because of the main character, homicide detective Jim Longworth. Exiled from Chicago after being wrongfully accused of sleeping with his captain’s wife, he thinks he has the easy life in a small Florida town in the Everglades. But of course, murder can happen anywhere! He’s smart, resourceful, sarcastic, and cutting. And he is falling in love with the wife of a convicted felon . . . and she hasn’t filed for divorce.
Why is it not fantastic? I don’t know . . . maybe it’s because it’s just five shows. It’s getting more comfortable, and I can’t NOT watch it, I love the character and his quirks and mannerisms. It’s truly a show that works for me because of the actor more than the storylines, because he fits the character so well. So . . . I’ll continuing watching it. I bought the first season, after all!
I’ll admit, these aren’t the only television shows I’m watching . . . there’s SUPERNATURAL and THE GATES and LAW & ORDER SVU and RIZZOLI & ISLES and CASTLE (yes, I watch CASTLE, so sue me. Again, character people! Put the bad police procedure aside, because it’s all about the characters. And Nathan Fillion . . . )
But these three shows are “off” season, they started mid-season or over the summer, and so they stand out to me.
I have BREAKING BAD on my AppleTV and MAD MEN season one on DVD and those will be up next. But when you only watch one episode a night, it takes awhile to get through the backlog. And then there’s BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, which I’m watching with my daughters and we’ve just started season five . . .
What television shows are you enjoying? What shows do you wish were never cancelled? What are you looking forward to the season premiere? (For me, it’s JUSTIFIED . . . can not WAIT until season two . . . )