Football, spaceships, and the devil – Bringing down the ax on great television

As I perused through my dvd collection the other night looking for a new show to introduce my wife to, I couldn’t help but notice that several of my favorite shows have only lasted a handful of seasons.  Max.  And then I started thinking about the junk that airs weekly on a yearly basis.

I have recently turned my wife onto the greatness that is Friday Night Lights (the television series, not the book or movie).  We have ripped through the first four seasons on dvd, anxiously waiting for the fifth, and final, season to begin on NBC, since we don’t have DirecTV.  As much as I get jacked up to see Smash Williams, Tim Riggins, and Matt Seracen tear suckers up on the gridiron, as the end credits roll I can’t help but contemplate the dumbfounding realization that a show this superb doesn’t get the ratings needed to make it a successful series.  Through a writer’s strike that cut the second season very short (by half), ever-changing air days/times making it difficult to keep up with new season premieres (why air FRIDAY Night Lights on Wednesday?), and miserable ratings, the show has surprisingly gotten much support from critics to keep it on the air for this long.  Critics have finally gotten one right.  This show deserves many more accolades than it has received, but it’s not for lack of effort on the professional’s part.  This show has survived several near-cancellations solely based on reviews from typically harsh writers that can ruin a show with the stroke of a few keys.  Through their grace and mercy, my man-crush on Taylor Kitsch has managed to survive intact since discovering the awesomeness of one Tim Riggins…and I don’t care who knows it!

I have since decided that Firefly will be the next foray into television greatness that my wife failed to notice for the few weeks it was on the air.  I excitedly approached her and declared that I already knew the next series we would waste several hours of our lives watching next.  When she asked what is was and what it was about, I had to try to answer it without instantly losing her interest.  If you’ve ever seen the show, you can already imagine what kind of difficult task that could be.  I gave it my best shot though, telling her it was a bit of a Western, only it was set on spaceships – ala Star Wars meets Tombstone.  I then had to assure her that it wasn’t as outlandish as it seemed; that the writing was amazing and following that up with the explanation of how Fox even went as far as to make a full-length feature film to conclude the series that they had cancelled based on dvd sales and fan outrage alone. 

I already have an idea of what will follow Firefly and Serenity, but it might not be much easier to sell.  Reaper was a show that lasted 2 measly seasons on the WB/CW.  I already tried to plant a bit of a teaser to gauge her interest, and it wasn’t what I was hoping for.  I tried explaining the premise of the show to her – this kid’s parents who are believed to be infertile make a deal with the devil to become pregnant and birth a child, only once said child turns 18 years old his soul will belong to the devil.  The parents sign on the dotted line expecting that they will be able to find a loophole in the contract sometime in the ensuing 18 years.  No dice, the first episode begins on the kid’s 18th birthday and he is very soon face-to-face with the fallen angel himself.  The main character is locked into a deal to hunt down and return escaped souls back to Hell.  He ropes his two best friends into assisting him, and naturally, hilarity ensues.  She wasn’t buying into the plot, and then when I mentioned it was a comedy, her interest waned even more than I thought possible.  I can only hope she’ll get unbelievably bored some lazy weekend and ask me if there’s anything good on tv, to which I’ll reply, “You bet your sweet ass there is!”

Now moving on to the NOT so great shows polluting our airwaves and minds on a seemingly endless cycle.  Let me begin with Survivor.  Yeah, that’s where we’re starting with this.  I blame this show for the rise of “reality” television and the fall of human creativity.  I already know what you’re thinking, “Why blame Survivor for what The Real World started?”  And I’ll tell you why.  The Real World has been relegated to MTV for its entire existence, whereas Survivor has been front and center on primetime network television.  The Real World draws in the crowd of tweenage girls – no harm, no foul.  Survivor gave America the idea that we can all be stars and get our 15 minutes of fame.

With so many mindless zombies craving publicity more than brains, “reality” shows sprang up left and right.  Survivor gave birth to The Amazing Race, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Temptation Island (remember that little gem?), and least of all…American Idol.  That’s right, I said it!  Know what drives me nuts about American Idol?  The fact that I can see people who are just as talented at singing karaoke songs in the choir every Sunday at church.  I’ll tell you another thing – there never has been and never will be a “rocker” on American Idol.  Real rockers front a little thing called a “band.”  They don’t take the stage singing along to a jukebox, getting critiqued by Paula Abdul!  American Idol showcases choir singers and wanna-be posers.  Period, and you’ll never convince me otherwise.  Chris Daughtry is a sellout.  Wanna make it big with your band?  Earn it.  Don’t abandon them to win some cheesy, gimmick of a talent show, then try telling me how hard it is to make it.

“Reality” shows are just as scripted as any sitcom you can think of.  Fact.  Producers manipulate the storylines so much through camera angles, editing, and blatant interference that I refuse to call them “reality” shows without including the quotations in which to imply that they are, in fact, not reality at all.

My rant doesn’t end there.  I’ll even throw in some of the most beloved series in recent memory.  24 was based on the premise that the shows occurred in real-time, and each season spanned the timeframe of a single day.  I’ll admit, I never allowed myself to watch this show.  I refused to watch a show that followed characters through several days and no one ever needed to go to the bathroom.  And until there were at least 5-6 shows of blackness during which time they slept, I just wasn’t interested. 

Next up: Lost.  I enjoyed that show so much the first few seasons, and I was elated when they decided to bring it back.  I just couldn’t figure out for the life of me though why they changed the name from Gilligan’s Island to Lost.  The second go ’round just wasn’t the same.  There were still plenty of silly shenanigans (polar bear in the tropic), but it just wasn’t the same.  I couldn’t have been happier once the finale finally aired.

Of course these are only a few examples, but I don’t have the time or desire to keep wasting my time on why America is getting dumber by the day.  Anytime I get involved in a new show on tv, I fully anticipate it to be cancelled within 6-8 weeks.  However, if there’s something that I’m completely repulsed by, you can count on it running for 10 years…and I blame you, America.  Stop getting roped into the absurdity of watching someone elses life, and get out and make one of your own.  Consider the soapbox dismounted now.

Offended?  Make your case in the comments section below.  Good luck trying to change my mind!

Thank you, that is all.


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