As we wrap up the year, I will be sharing some of my “Best of” and “Worst Of” selections for the arbitrary designated year end, as well as a few things for the decade. First of all, I will be doing television. Tomorrow is my “Best Television Experience of the Year,” while today is the “Worst Television Experience of the Year.”
Unlike critics I am not paid to watch crappy television. Unlike many people I am too busy to veg in front of the television watching whatever drivel is passing for reality TV at this moment. So, while I am sure I would be begging for hours of my life back if I watched Jersey Shore or Real Housewives of Lancaster County, PA, I must be more discerning. Because of this, I have very few television experiences this year that are truly miserable (besides the conspiracy to give the Steelers another championship last January).
I have a restricted television diet, consisting of the 4 comedies on Thursday night’s NBC, Modern Family on Wednesday (yes, life is serious enough that I like funny shows that make me laugh to relax) and Dexter. We also watched the seven episodes of the first season of HBO’s Bored To Death. It is a great show, very funny.
We don’t do Mad Men because we missed the first season. It is on our to watch queue along with Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights and Battlestar Galactica. We don’t do Heroes or Lost (went down the rabbit hole with X Files and don’t want to return to the law of diminishing TV returns- I plan on marathoning LOST once it is over and I can watch it all on DVD) and decided against Glee because, even if it has an edge, I really don’t like musicals. I always forget Curb Your Enthusiasm, even though I think it is the funniest thing on television (it is a bit too cringe worthy to watch regularly).
Needless to say, my Television diet is not very caloric, so I am have huge holes in it and don't know the best and worst beyond my little telescope. When I veg out, I like sports, Comedy Central’s late night staples and No Reservations. Kristi likes to veg to What Not to Wear reruns and Project Runway, two of the more tolerable reality shows. I get the appeal of Top Chef and anything cooking related, but just don’t get around to very much Appointment Television.
That said, the worst television experience of the year happened last night on my (and Kristi’s) favorite show, Dexter. The season 4 finale was so disturbing and without precedent that Kristi declared she was done with the show, unfollowed Dexter on twitter and did not want to speak of the show ever again (It is Dead to Me). Of course, she needed to process it quite a bit. I was that "OMG" or "WTF."
For me, I could not believe the show went “there.” I cannot tell you where “there” is, but I can tell you that I am sorry if you are one of the masses I have gotten into the show. I can tell you to stop at Season 3 and act like the happy endings after the wrap up are the show's ending. Now, does this say Season 4 wasn’t good? No. It was truly masterful with twists and turns unlike any I have seen in television. It is one of the better seasons of television ever made, superior to anything the Sopranos ever threw at us (I will never watch harry and the Hendersons again thanks to John Lithgow's performance as the Trinity Killer). But, it was too dark, too visually disturbing, too unrelenting and without the pay off a show like this demands. In fact, while I think the writers are brilliant, they do not understand that an audience has needs beyond being messed with because the story arc demands something new.
Also, this is television. It is not a novel. Because of the image that gets seared into the brain of the viewer, there are some rules that need not be broken. You can describe something on the written page that furthers the story and damages the reader, but to show it is quite another thing. Dexter does and Dexter did. Because of it, I could not sleep last night. I was disturbed, pissed, totally impressed while playing every possible scenario in my brain realizing that “going there” demanded me to make leaps I am not interested in making and damaging the all important plausibility of the show (note: plausibility which is needed in all fiction, not possibility). Just like with The Wire, I become frustrated when the show becomes lazy, easy or a character acts in a way that seems contrived for plot furtherance more than development of the character in a psychologically realistic manner (within the rules of the show). Of course, this is the mark of a great show, when it causes such a visceral reaction from its audience.
Plus, whether it is season 2 of The Wire or the season 4 finale of Dexter, timeline is important folks!!!! You cannot stretch the coincidences beyond recognition to further a plot, so every twist and tangle is justified by a timeline that demands 346 things to happen in sequence, most of which are coincidental, for the ending to be accomplished (see episode 11, season 2 of the Wire and the death of Frank Sobotka).
Why am I angry? Because shows of this caliber are few. I trust them and I trust their writers, so make sure the timeline works and there are no obvious contrivances. While I will not notice a contrivance on most drivel that is on the tube, these shows are better than that…
Or so I hope.
Tomorrow, we will reflect on the best TV experiences of the year, many of which were not fun from a show mentioned on this post.