TV Worth a Gander

I’ve been watching a fair amount of television shows lately. And by lately I mean the past year. It’s strange how fascinating I find TV. I wonder if it’s because it’s episodic, the story spread out between little segments? I do like films and all but they’re usually something I just watch once, and promptly forget about. With television you’re constantly reminded that there’s new content available.

Most of all, you really get to know the characters. Over the many hours you witness their exploits, you tend to feel an endearment towards them, sometimes an even greater emotion. This is often most strongly felt when a regular character on a show is hurt badly, killed, or just going through a hard time.

At present I’m watching a few shows that are currently airing in the States; Lost (Season 6), Breaking Bad (Season 3), and Chuck (Season 3).

By the way, if you’re in fear of spoilers, don’t worry about it because I’m talking about the show in a broader sense, not the season specifically. Though there are a couple things that I’ve mentioned that you would have seen running up to the first episode of the current season.

Lost

Lost is a special show for many reasons. To start with we really had no idea what genre to place it in, because it’s really hard to define. Parts drama, action, and science fiction; the writers did get quite creative with their ideas!

As I mentioned before about endearment towards characters, the opposite can also reign true. For example, I now find myself hating Jack Shepard. He’s almost the hero of the show. He has issues like every other character but I guess without him, things would go to the dogs. You need some sort of leader, even if they are irritating. Plus he’s the only doctor for miles.

Since the start of the show I’ve always enjoyed Hurley and Jin’s company. Hurley always provides the humour, while Jin spoke no English to start with and preferred to take action over talking. Sawyer’s also terrific with sarcasm.

Many people I talk to seem to have stopped watching the show. Their main reason for quitting was usually because it got too crazy, or they didn’t know what was going on etc.

But I find that an appeal for Lost. The mystery and the intrigue, we know as much as the original stranded (out of the ones that are left that is!). To tell the truth, I’m not that interested in finding answers, I like the possibility of having multiple solutions or filling in the gaps yourself. If you’ve come across forums or websites, you can see just how dedicated some of Lost’s audience is; making maps of the island, comparing theories, and drawing from what has happened so far.

The flashbacks provide a refreshing break from the island and let us deeper explore the characters in another time and place. My theory is that these flashbacks are more than just for the viewers, that they have an actual physicality in the world. I know it sounds completely bonkers. But with regards to the current “flash sideways”, it makes a bit more sense. The lead writers, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, have said on their podcast that these events are happening at the same time as the current events on the island, what would happen if the plane never crashed. So in effect there are two dimensions. Lost has messed about with time in different ways, not just the flashbacks. Desmond has gone back in time, as well as the entire island transporting through different time periods! I’m impatiently waiting on seeing how or if the two worlds come into contact.

Breaking Bad

I didn’t start watching Breaking Bad straight away. I thought it was just another comedy, starring Hal (Bryan Cranston) from Malcolm in the Middle, but it turned out to be something quite different altogether. It could almost be called a black comedy, but there are certainly those moments when it’s downright depressing.

We’re presented with Walt, a simple Chemistry teacher who finds out he has Cancer, and he immediately dives off the deep end and starts manufacturing methamphetamine for money. It’s a simple story (no time travel here!), mostly following Walt and his associate Jesse Pinkman. But sometimes letting us explore the daily routines of his wife, and brother-in-law who works for the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency).

Everything appears to be presented in near real-time. Most details are left in, even when they’re mundane, such as eating breakfast. It’s almost like watching an episode of 24 in that sense, but more realistic!

Like Dexter, Walt leads a double life in Breaking Bad. A husband, parent and teacher in one life, and a drug dealer in the next. It’s gritty, sometimes gruesome, but always a gripping watch.

Chuck

Chuck does get a bit repetitive, but its unique style of humour keeps me watching, as well as its unique mix of genres; comedy and the spy flick.

Chuck is a geek working at the Buy More electronics store, when all the secrets of the CIA are downloaded to his brain. He then works with two agents to take down spies and assorted goons.

One of the agents he works with, includes Sarah, who is in an on-and-off relationship with Chuck. And Chuck is always saying that he wants to run away with her. Like that’s ever going to happen, there’s not going to be a show otherwise. Because Chuck is not a serial, the equilibrium must be reinstated at the end. Which does tend to get a bit grating, having the characters think that things will change when we all know they won’t. Though there were surprising twists in this season, the show remains pretty much the same.

I don’t really enjoy Chuck’s nagging sister Ellie and her screen time. Captain Awesome is getting a bit tiresome as well. But Morgan and the characters of the Buy More always put on a good show.

I thought Chuck’s new super powers would take the show in a new direction, and in a way they have, taking him to the brink, from uber nice guy to near-killer. It’s an enjoyable show and I’ll still watch it. It’s a good break from watching the heavy hitting stuff which can’t be too good for this olde soul!

Television offers a lot these days, and it’s a far cry from the “brain going to mush” statement we’ve been hearing since the advent of television. The connection to the characters, emotion, and twisting plots, all make one hell of an evening’s watch.

The medium has advertising to thank for funding the businesses that produce these shows. Although the ads are actually having an impact on the shows themselves. You can see how most series’ lead to an ad break, with a suspenseful moment to get the viewer to carry on watching. With the rise of the Internet, streaming video and our lives becoming more independent, the old mode of television feels very outdated. Nowadays we can watch what we want, when we want. Sure we have tape recorders, and digital recorders now, but in little New Zealand the situation is far from ideal.

All the good shows tend to end up on C4, and eventually just stop showing altogether. And they are shown months after the original airing, which means we miss out on the online conversation with our American pals. The audiences are there for the American Idols, and The Bachelor’s. But when it comes to actual decent, creative television, we’re left with our tails wagging at an empty bowl. Some of my favourite shows were ones that were canned before their time; Firefly, Arrested Development, and most recently Dollhouse.

Hulu is an exciting online service, but alas only available in America. I have tried using an IP blocker but since then they have made it more difficult. And anyway the streaming isn’t the best over here in our part of the world. DVD season collections are ridiculously expensive and of course they come out aaages after air. I wonder if a pay per play model would work well. It’s hard to imagine right now, but with online news sites facing this dilemma, TV studios need to work out some way to get paid for their content, where it be through advertising or online subscription models.

In short, TV is still relevant today. There are some great shows out there, make sure you watch a couple!

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