Television

 By Shamus Nov 15, 2007 57 comments

In my snarky post on the writer’s strike lots of people stuck up for some of their favorite TV shows, which really surprised me. I never had any sort of allegiance to the thing when I watched, and was sort of taken aback by the fondness some people expressed for various shows. I thought TV was, if not a dying medium, then perhaps a medium inhabiting an iron lung while relatives sat outside and whispered to each other about who should get the good china someday.

Last time I saw television it was a wasteland of “Reality television” shows. “Reality” in this case means “contrived situations designed to maximize conflict, which are then carefully edited for dramatic effect”. I always thought of the shows as social cockfighting. What few hours of prime time weren’t given over to this sort of gossipy angst were spent on dreadful sitcoms where the laugh track would jump in on every third unfunny remark to let you know where you might laugh if you were currently mildly retarded and high on nitrous oxide. I gave up on television and never looked back.

Some TV fans pointed out that in many cases shows have moved from telling interchangeable episodic stories to tackling more complex story arcs. It sounds like this trend was just about to take off about the last time I watched television, back in 2000. I’m a big believer in story arcs and tire quickly of static-state shows, so this is good news for people who’s jibs are of a cut not dissimilar to my own.

(And yes, I consider shows like ST: Voyager to be static-state. While there was an overall plot that lurched forward every once in a blue moon, you could still mostly watch the show in any given order and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. It’s like reading a book where you get a first chapter introducing the premise, then twenty chapters of frantic activity while the plot spins its wheels, then everything is abruptly resolved in the final chapter. I realize it was a limitation of the medium (since the writers wanted their show to be able to go into syndication) but it made the shows unsatisfying for me. Frustrating, even.)

(And yes I know you’re not supposed to put a whole paragraph in parentheses, and you’re not supposed to nest parentheses. Who makes these rules, anyway? If it were up to me you could nest sub-thoughts as deep as you like. Using curly brackets! And indentation!)

Still, I’m not about to return to TV anytime soon, although it is nice to hear the medium is evolving. I’m not signed up for cable TV, so it would be impossible for me to watch even if I suddenly got the urge. But now I know that someday these shows might end and retire to DVD – perhaps even after a satisfying conclusion – and that gives me something to look forward to.

The other thing that keeps me away from TV is the commercials. I’ve heard other non-TV watchers comment on this as well. Once you get away from TV for a couple of months, it sort of hurts to go back.

Television ads are loud, obnoxious, heavy-handed, obvious, grating, patronizing, demeaning, mean-spirited, predictable and (worst of all) mood shattering. I hate getting immersed in a story only to be yanked out, distracted, insulted, annoyed, and then thrown back into the narrative. It’s like being mugged in the middle of a conversation, and the other person simply wants to pick up where you left off once the assailant has departed.

Blocking out or ignoring commercials seems to be an ability that you develop over time. You get acclimated to them and learn to ignore them. Advertisers know this, which is why they are always trying to make them more intense and distracting. They all want your attention, and have to drown out all the other stuff in your brain to get it. Their goal is to more or less get you to stop thinking about the show you were enjoying so you can think about the crap they’re selling. People get desensitized to the current level of half-naked girls, screaming salesmen, and pestilent jingles, and so they have to intensify their efforts to overcome the viewers’ heightened immunity to audio and visual pollution. This is fine as long as you keep up, but if you leave television for months or years you’ll lose that filtering ability. Without it, the potency of modern advertising quickly reaches toxic levels. Once every other year I’ll end up in front of someone else’s television. I find that by the time a commercial break ends I’ll have forgotten what show I’m watching entirely. It’s disorienting and aggravating.

If I’m ever going to watch television shows again, it will probably have to be on DVD. It’s nice to know they are making shows I might enjoy. I remember the late nineties as a wasteland of unwatchable dreck, and I really didn’t think anything had changed until I saw the comments last week. Nice to know the stuff is there if the urge for that sort of thing ever returns.

Although I still maintain that there are upsides to the strike. It gives me no small pleasure to see these two on a picket line instead of “writing” or performing.

20201757 comments. It's getting crowded in here.


  1. scum18 says:

    Digital Video Recorders… I watch way more TV than I should now, mostly because I can record shows I want to watch and then skip the commercials. Also, downloading from the internet… People usually cut commercials when they upload to the internet.

  2. Axcalibar says:

    I caught two episodes of Angel this morning before work. There’s a show that keeps the plot ball rolling. Once you’re in season 3, you’re committed for the long haul. Seasons 3-4 were tense. Fortunately season 5 made up for the tension with awesomeness. I’d have to buy the whole collection, but it’s a toss up between that or the 2 years of Knights of the Dinner table I need to catch up on.

  3. Downtym says:

    My favorite TV shows are

    Law and Order (The original series. SAM WATERSON, YOU ARE MY HERO!)
    House
    Heroes
    Family Guy
    Sopranos
    Deadwood
    Penn and Teller’s: Bullshit
    Robot Chicken
    Southpark
    The Daily Show
    The Colbert Report
    The Simpsons
    Firefly

    Now, I’m one of those freaks that has a television without a cable connection, so everything I see is a season off (at least). Which means I go months listening to everyone tell me how awesome such-and-such show is and how cool the last episode was, etc., etc. Then when the season comes out on DVD, I find myself wandering the shelves of “Insert Random Store Here” in search of last season’s episodes.

    Personally, I find this very satisfying. I’m not a very patient person and if I see a show that sometimes predicates its story on cliffhangers (I’m shaking my fist at you, House and Heroes), I will get…annoyed that I have to wait a week or two for the next episode. Instead, by buying the entire season, I can watch the shows at my own pace – sometimes staying up until “Oh my God” O’Clock – and enjoy each season as a package. Even though this is much more expensive ($40-$60 for a season of episodes across multiple shows means I fork out like $300 for DVD’s of the shows I love) than just getting cable, it means that

    1) I can watch the shows when I want, how I want without fear of missing something.
    2) I can rewatch the shows when I get bored when I want, how I want.
    3) No commercials! (YAY!) Which can be a blessing and a curse because you actually have to pause the scene to go pee. =(
    4) I can take the DVD’s to my friends’ houses and demand that they like them or die a brutal death.

    I find a great value in this proposition, at least enough for me to shell out my money for the DVD’s versus just paying for cable and using that money for more useful ventures (Video games, roleplaying games, and strippers).

  4. Zippy says:

    Your comments on advertising and filtering remind me of an old Frederick Pohl story (“The Merchant’s War”).

  5. Burning says:

    Shamus’s approach of refusing to watch if you don’t want to see the commercials is really better than the edit out/download option at least in the long term. And I’m leaving aside any moral questions about watching illegally uploaded/downloaded shows.

    Commercials pay for the shows. I hate commercials, you hate commercials, everyone who isn’t in advertising, under 10, or insane hates commercials. They still pay for the shows.

    If enough people stop watching the commercials one of two things will happen. The sponsers will stop funding shows, or they will move the commercials into the shows (more than they already have that is).

    Shamus is not contributing any less to these eventualities than people who edit the ads out, but if the whole system collapses as a result, he won’t have any withdrawal symptoms.

  6. Carra says:

    Downloading indeed.

    Commercials cut and actually the only way I can follow heroes & prison break without having to wait half a year.

  7. Freaky Dug says:

    I agree about commercials(or adverts as we Britshmen call them). They’re annoying and they seem to be taking up a larger and larger proportion of the actual time the show is on. Lack of adverts is one of the main reasons why I like the BBC. You get more TV in less time and without being distracted and interrupted.

    I also have to agree that most TV is useless, annoying rubbish. There are a few good shows that are surviving but a lot of the best ones seem to be being drowned by “reality” TV and celebrity obsessed drivel.

  8. Bill says:

    One of the things that stands out when watching American shows on the BBC is the unexplained pauses – which only make sense when you realise that’s where an ad-break should have gone.

    £135.50 a year for no ads? Works for me.

  9. Strangeite says:

    What about PBS? I know that I was one of the commentors defending such shows as BSG, Pushing Daises, Lost and My Name is Earl, but the truth of the matter is that the majority of my television viewing is with PBS shows.

    Here in Kentucky, KET (our PBS station) broadcasts six different channels. The odds are that there is always something interesting on, especially if it is being broadcast on KET4 (the High-Def channel) and being public television, there is no commercials.

    Frontline and Nova are probably the two best programs on television today.

    And I want to echo the earlier comment that DVR is essential to watching television today. Yes, skipping the commercials is nice, but the real advantage is no longer worrying about the time and date a show airs.

  10. max says:

    You could rewrite your entire post about video games, if you happened to think that they were a marginal use of good time. 99% of TV is crap, but so is 99% of everything else humanity has ever done(go ahead and edit that percentage to taste).

  11. Phlux says:

    Do make sure you pick up Heroes. It is EXCELLENT. The first 8-10 episodes are a little slow to get going, but it is very deliberate and these guys HAVE A PLAN.

  12. Unbeliever says:

    Another ditto — the ONLY way to watch network TV (or, frankly, *ANY* TV) is with DVR.

    Tell it when your shows come on. *IT* worries about getting them for you. Then, whenever it’s convenient for YOU, ask it “whatcha got for me?”, and see whatever you like, skipping commercials freely.

    It’s the only way to go…

  13. M says:

    I was going to jump in and defend television, but to tell the truth, I realised that the only shows I watch now with any degree of regularity are on the Discovery Channel – Mythbusters, Dirty Jobs and Man vs. Wild.

  14. Trevor says:

    I built myself an HTPC (Home Theatre PC) last Christmas with a PVR card and MythTV, and I have to admit that commercials at friends houses are really grating. I just don’t see them anymore.

    The changes in my viewing habits are interesting. I watch far less TV and watch it only when I want to, often falling weeks behind on shows and then catching up quickly. So I’ve not yet divorced myself from the cable TV ball and chain, but it’s a lot closer to the “only DVD at home” crowd.

  15. Rob says:

    Aside from the tv debate (we use a dvr and love it. No longer are we slaves to timeslots) I have to say your comment about parenthesis and nested parentheses spoke volumes to me. I’m constantly trying to figure out how to add a subthought to a subthought. Us programmers must have this ingrained need for that sort of logic. I usually end up with (this is a subthought [even further insight or examples {another level? OMG}]). :)

    My only other problem is I’m addicted to using smileys (I know, it’s sick). Try ending a subthought with a smiley (kinda like this :)) and you get a double-chin smiley! Yikes, that’s a blow to my self-esteem! ;)))))

  16. Jeysie says:

    Downtym says:
    “Even though this is much more expensive ($40-$60 for a season of episodes across multiple shows means I fork out like $300 for DVD’s of the shows I love) than just getting cable, it means that…”

    Actually, it’s probably much less expensive to just buy DVDs. Where I am, at least, it’s around $50/month for all the cable “tiers” (which you pretty much have to get if you’re like me and watched stuff on several different networks which never managed to be in just one tier). Which ends up as $600 a year. For that amount, you could buy about 10-15 seasons worth of shows on DVD. And that’s even without adding on the cost of premium networks like HBO that also have good TV series programming.

    And even assuming you actually do pay attention to that many shows (I think even back when I did watch TV a lot I paid attention to about 6 or 7 at a time, tops), you’re still making out better, since you’re getting them at worst with all the episodes in one place in a good-quality format you can watch at your leisure, and at best with lots of cool extras.

    So, unless you either do nothing all day but watch TV, or you have three or more TV watchers in the house, I think you’re better off financially just buying DVDs.

    As for me, the backlog of TV shows to catch up on with DVD and Net clips is sufficiently large, and my budget and free time sufficiently small, that it matters not to me in an entertainment sense how long the strike goes on for. I don’t need any new stuff.

  17. Gothmog says:

    I have a mediaPC running Snapstream- and it has a pretty decent ‘commercial detector’. All we have to do when watching TV using the software is hit a button and *jump* to the end of the commercial break.

    Works pretty great 98% of the time. I heartily recommend it.

  18. Andy says:

    Shamus, I don’t know if you ever watched Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but that show (notably in the last four seasons) had a lot of the story-arcing you describe: far more than Voyager at least.

    They were quite the dramatic arcs, too. All of it was focused around a giant war between the Federation and another space empire — one which we nearly lost — and delivered the kind of epic space battles featuring hundreds of starships that somehow Star Trek had always promised but never delivered until then.

    It started off slow in the early seasons, but really morphed into a great series. It was run by Ron D. Moore, the same guy who’s currently doing the highly acclaimed Battlestar Galactica remake.

  19. Taellosse says:

    I have not been a regular watcher of TV in roughly 10 years. There was a brief period of a year or two when I first moved in with my then-fiancee/now-wife when she was still watching TV and roped me into watching some of it with her, but a while back, in order to save money, we cancelled our cable service and now get only basic channels.

    We have made up for this with Netflix and purchased DVDs, of both movies (we also don’t see many movies in theaters anymore–only if it promises to be really, really good–i.e. almost never–or would lose something on a small screen–i.e. a big-budget FX movie–and only a small handful of those) and TV series. I just recently finished watching the final season of Stargate SG-1, for example, a show which I highly recommend, even if it did get a bit silly in places in the later seasons. I enjoyed it enough that I’m actually eagerly anticipating the movie(s) planned to conclude the story. Enough that I’m actually seriously considering giving the spin-off show (Stargate: Atlantis) a try. I have hardly ever liked spin-off shows.

    Your point about advertising immunity is well made, though. When I used to watch television, my ability to tune out commercials was finely honed–to the point that my wife periodically makes references to ads I know I must have “seen” but can barely remember at all, which, to hear her tell it, were everywhere at the time. But whenever I do watch TV now, I have a remarkably hard time properly ignoring them. To my mind, the advantage of DVDs, rented or owned, is that I am still supporting the shows I like without having to endure commercials, where a DVR or pirated downloads do not. Admittedly, DVD sales rarely determine whether or not a show gets cancelled before its time (if only Firefly could have come out on disc when it was still on the air, maybe it never would have been canned), but it’s better than nothing–my money does at least go back to the people and organizations that had a hand in the stuff I like, and I don’t have to endure the visual and aural equivalent of assault and battery.

  20. Chris says:

    I’ve heard some discussions from the critics and the media in general lately that we’re in a new “golden age” of television. While my gut reaction to TV is similar to Shamus’s (I don’t have a TV in my house and I gave it up years ago because there were too many lousy shows), my experience watching so many good shows on DVDs over the last few years has made me think they may be right.

  21. Phlux says:

    Also I’m a little sad nobody has mentioned Chuck. I hope this doesn’t mean people aren’t watching it.

    This is one of the few “geek shows” that my girlfriend and I can watch together. She won’t watch shows like Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, or Heroes, but for some reason she really likes Chuck.

    I heard it’s not doing fantastic in the ratings. I hope it doesn’t end like the last show we both really liked: Studio 60. NBC cancelled it because it only got OK ratings.

    Chuck is really starting to hit its stride. I especially like how they’ve been improving Adam Baldwin’s character.

  22. Shamus says:

    Rustybadger: I’m sure it’s fine to take swipes at that political party and call them stoopids at your dinner table, but I have no desire to referee the cage match that would result if they responded in kind here in the comments. I used to be one. I’m related to several. They’re good, smart people even when they vote for things that piss me off.

  23. Issachar says:

    Andy: What would be the best point in the ST:DS9 series to begin watching? I rented Season 1, Disc 1 about a year ago and almost couldn’t make it through the first two episodes. I sent the disk back before watching all of it.

    The acting was the problem. There were few cast members I could bear to listen to as they delivered their lines. (Granted, they had to do what they could with some corny dialogue.) The guy who played Cisco was by far the worst of the lot. I cringed almost every time he opened his mouth. It’s actually making me angry even now, just remembering how awful he was.

    I’ve heard so many people lavish praise on DS9 that I assume the series found its feet and improved, um, “dramatically”. When did that happen? I’d like to give it another shot, but I’d like the second date to go better than the first.

  24. Tom says:

    Interesting comment about parenthetical statements. It seems to me that in the dhtml medium, parentheticals should be possible in a more…parenthetical fashion. Embedded as normally-hidden text, or done as sidebar notes (a la Edward Tufte), or as footnotes (a la the wikipedia ). Maybe as collapsible sidebar notes that can be linked to like a wikipedia reference?

    Maybe some nice eye candy, like having parenthetical comments shown at right angles to the main text, and have the whole text rotate around when you click on them to display them? The trick becomes representing nested parenthetical comments, which would then have to be at right angles to all the parent texts. Representing > 3 dimensions in 2D is rather challenging.

  25. James says:

    I watch very little TV. The few shows I’m really into are:

    Chuck
    House
    CSI (the original)
    Law and Order SVU

  26. Shamus says:

    Tom: Yes! I was thinking the same thing as I wrote that. Most people don’t need the long paragraph, and it would be nice to hide it by default.

    It could be as simple as a different colored link, maybe overlined instead of underlined or something. When you click it, the paren text appears. Clicking on the newly revealed text hides it again.

    I’ll bet you could do it with Javascript, but it would be more elegant if there was some way to set it up in HTML.

  27. Corsair says:

    Heroes is pretty good. Unfortunately, they still refuse to give any good Superpower Fights.

  28. hf says:

    Let’s try this again. Last time WordPress gave me some nonsense about a password.

    I wonder, have y’all seen this video from the writers or the blogger’s commentary? (You might also see this, especially if you care about the other side’s claims mentioned in the link at defamer.com.) The issue in the strike relates directly to the conversation here. The second linked video has more to do with DVDs.

  29. hf says:

    Note that I already watch “On Demand” shows with no commercials or easy fast-forwarding. Presumably this does not count as a “permanent download” and would thus earn the writers no money without a new agreement.

  30. hf says:

    And that should read, “with no commercials, or at least with the ability to fast-forward.”

  31. Rebecca says:

    Now, you knew that you were going to get a bunch of recommendations. :) DVD rental rocks! No commercials! Anyway, the only ongoing TV series that I will recommend for you (with reservations) is HEROES, which I think you would like. The first season is on DVD, you might like it.

    The Absolutely Best TV Shows:

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Season 1 was 12 episodes, 2-7 were 24 episodes) The first season is a little lame and it was, for most of the show, produced on a shoe-string budget, but this show is worth it. It’s a multi-arc show, too, with stand-alone episodes, a season arc, and a show-long arc. The spin-off, Angel, is pretty good too.

    If you try it and don’t like the first season, just wait. The second season is classic.

    Veronica Mars, season 1. (24 episodes) The season-long arc is unforgettable.

    House (Season 1-3 of 24 episodes each): I’ve never tried this one on DVD, but it’s very interesting and provocative. It’s a medical mystery show, but the real issues behind it are inevitably questions of morality and ethics, reaching far beyond medical ethics. The creators really want you to debate every episode (as well as laugh with House; he might be a drug-addicted bitter doctor but everyone loves him.)

    Mythbusters. I think other comments have covered this one.

    Firefly: (It’s like 14 episodes or something like that) I am actually not a big Firefly fan, but this was, like, the best-selling TV Sci-fi DVD ever and a lot of people like it to death. Plus, it’s, you know, sci-fi.

    Battlestar Galactica (Remake): (3 mini-series and then 4 13-episode seasons) I don’t watch this show, because I don’t like to be depressed out of my show, but I can’t deny that it’s quality. It’s sci-fi for grown-ups.

    Other fun things: Pushing Daisies. Star Trek the Original Series. Watching 24 in real time. Venture Bros.

    Can I repeat the Buffy recommendation?

  32. Barbara says:

    I watch TV – apart from one very topical political comedy show – on DVD. My friends get shows on bittorrent or watch them on TV, then if they are good, they buy them on DVD and tell me how good they are. So I borrow them, knowing they are good, and knowing that I can watch them free, ad-free and whenever I like.

    The thing about strong over-arching plots in a lot of TV these days is true, too. Most of my friends, when they watch TV shows on DVD, watch the whole series in one or two sessions, almost as if it were one long movie.

  33. The portion I agree with the absolute most in your entire post is regarding commercials…
    I rarely watch TV…
    Two shows that both happen to fall on the same night, on the same channel, one after the other…
    Smallville and Supernatural…
    I also watch Heroes and Reaper, but I just catch them on the CW website…
    I could do that with the other two, but this way I have an excuse not to answer the phone on Thursday nights…
    Shows that you may, or may not, enjoy, that are available on DVD, include but are not limited to:
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the really good episodes overpower the really bad ones for me. Some people say there are no bad ones, some people can only stand the musical episode and the silent episode, some refuse to watch it just because Sarah Michelle Look At My Ego Even Though I Can’t Really Act Gellar is in it),
    Angel (A spin off of Buffy that actuall interlaces some of the storylines in the first season and a bit in the second, much more mature themed than Buffy, better story(ies), darker all around feel, but Spike, in my opinion, was changed from the original bad ass he was when he first appeared in Buffy, to a butt of jokes bitch. Many disagree with me there.),
    Firefly, and the movie that it spawned, Serenity (Cowboys in space with a psychic ninja girl. Nuff said.),
    Farscape (I loved this show and can say no wrong about it.),
    The various Star Trek shows, X-Files, Brimstone, Charmed, the first several seasons of Smallville though the show is still running, first couple seasons of Supernatural though the show is still running, etc., ad nauseum…
    Some of these shows I love, some I hate, some you will love, some you will hate…
    It is all a matter of personal preference…
    And I REEEEEEEALLY hate commercials, for EXACTLY why you said!
    So there.

  34. Dev Null says:

    I’m another one of these DVR / DVD watchers of TV, and have been for about a decade now. No ads, watch when you want yadda yadda yadda. You’ve heard it all before. We still don’t watch much TV at our house, but there are a few good shows out there, and I’m more than happy to pay for those ad free and on tap. Its the reason I’ve been saying for years now – right alongside you – that commercial TV is a dead medium that hasn’t realised it yet and fallen over. Whats interesting is the question of what will replace it: one strange and interesting possibility can be seen in the subscription online show called Sanctuary For All. Its a little cheesy, but not bad, and I liked the concept enough I paid my subscription and watched them all.

    The other thing that intrigues me is how we will hear about new shows. Like someone else here mentioned, we mostly find new shows to watch from friends whose tastes we agree with… and we often spread the word about shows we’ve discovered amongst our friends – like deranged members of the Religion of the Month Club – just as you’re seeing here in your comments. (I’ll (mostly) hold off on adding my list, as you’ve no real reason to know if our tastes in shows would agree (though Firefly is damn good, and the Lost Room was a good miniseries you can now find on DVD (both are short, so you wouldn’t be losing much to try them out))) (I really was going to resist the nested subthoughts in this comment, but that really seemed to call out for it…) But surely someone must have first caught it on commercial tv for it to enter the gossip loop in the first place. I wonder what will fill that role of introducing new shows? Just people following the latest work of their favorite writer/producer? But how would a new writer get the funding to make their first show?

    I totally agree about the ad tolerance thing. I can’t sit in the room with a commercial tv anymore. The weird flipside of the lack of tolerance is also the lack of ability to ignore it; even the shows on tv are so in-your-face and confrontational visually that I walk into a pub or someones house with one on and I have trouble keeping my eyes off of it… even though I have no interest in what my eyes are being continually drawn back to.

    (Oh and the parentheses within parentheses? Don’t go there. That way lies LISP.)

  35. Ozy says:

    Speaking of good writing, check this out!

    I read your posts about Jade Empire before I played it, (just finished it two days ago) but I wouldn’t have played it without having read your posts. How about that? All said, though, the game is still good enough that it can get spoiled all to hell and still be one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences in recent memory.

  36. Evil Otto says:

    There still is good stuff out there… unfortunately it’s become rarer and rarer in the age of “Survivor: Key West” and “Who Wants to Break a Chair Over Geraldo?” I’ve been following Heroes, Mythbusters, Battlestar Galactica, Ghost Hunters, House, and Avatar: the Last Airbender pretty religiously, and between those shows and DVDs of ones I missed (like Firefly) I’m sufficiently entertained.

    Honestly, if you decide to bother with a show, DVD is the way to go. And almost anything you want is out there.

  37. I don’t know what syndication has to do with how Star Trek: Voyager plotted the episodes. Paramount has syndicated their dramatic programs, like how most syndicating distribution companies distribute this stuff, so that the episodes are broadcast in a fixed order. Nowadays you can tune into syndicated Simpsons and get any episode from any season with the system determining that made up somewhere and I don’t see a system. Syndicated Star Trek programming from the daily syndicated TNG to the weekly syndicated Enterprise have them locked into a set order.

    Star Trek: Voyager writers have no excuses for not advancing character arcs and plot arcs in more substantial ways.

  38. nilus says:

    Maybe its just bad experiences but generally when I meet people that mention they have no TV or don’t watch TV. I tend to picture pretentious jerks. Not all TV is for everyone but there is still a lot of good TV out there. Right now me and the Wife enjoy Heroes, New BattleStar Galactica, Dirty Jobs, House, Dexter and this year we are loving Reapers.

    I think people make the mistake and assume that all of TV should appeal to them when in fact you should only assume less then 5% is really going to hit exactly what you like. There are just to many different types of people all with different tastes. Find what you like, set your DVR to record it and watch as early as 15 minutes after it starts and fast forward past all the commercials.

    TV is not a dead medium, or even on life support. Even with this strike it makes tons of money. And at the end of the day the average consumer would rather watch shows on there big screen in front of a couch then on a little monitor in a computer chair(Yes I know you could technically hook some PCs to some big screens but most people don’t)

  39. I concur! (about television AND parentheses!)

    I decided years ago that life was too short for TV watching. And I just don’t have the patience for it. My husband can’t live without it though. We pay $40 a month so he has 100 channels to click through for two hours every night. His attention span is so short that he starts channel-clicking as soon as a commercial comes on. Then completely forgets what he’s watching and what station it’s on 30 seconds later. So, it’s 2+ hours of non-stop channel surfing. Literally.

    Heh… I hope he doesn’t see this! I love you, honey! :D

  40. ArchU says:

    I totally agree, Shamus. I stopped watching TV years ago and never looked back until just recently. The only show I keep up to date on is Heroes since it is actually neat (my only reason to watch TV – however the show seems to be a break in between commercials so I bought it on DVD), and I’ll occaionsally watch shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway? on cable at my fiance’s house when there’s little else to do.

  41. Kllrnohj says:

    Just so you know, several TV stations now air their TV shows online, which is, in my opinion, superior to TV. The quality is decent (not HD, but certainly watchable), and the best part is that there is only a single 30-second commercial per commercial break in the show. I know NBC does it, as I watch Heroes each week, and I’m fairly certain that other stations do as well.

  42. mark says:

    I download on the basis that the UK is a year behind in almost all TV shows, and i LOATHE ads. seriously, it HURTS to watch tv when i visit my sister in florida. I only have cable TV here because its free with virgin phone and fast internet, and i can use it’s “catch up tv” on demand service to skip ads, pause, rewind, etc.

  43. neminem says:

    I’m still sad nobody’s mentioned Doctor Who in this thread yet… it’s the only still-going show I’m currently attached to, though I’m looking forward to Whedon’s new one when it gets here (I tried the Dresden Files, but I honestly wasn’t surprised at all when it got canned, as it wasn’t actually all that great (oh, and by the way, nested parentheses: awesome)).

    Also, I agree completely with you on commercials; I only ever watch tv shows on my laptop, either from legitimately bought dvds, or lacking that ability, bittorrent-obtained rips.

  44. Lord ZYRK says:

    I used to watch a lot of TV, but now the most TV I watch is when I’m eating, or I’ll see if there’s a movie on when I’m on the computer (although I basically listen to the audio.) I will say it does feel good not to be constantly staring at the screen like a veg. Like how my one old english teacher called it an idiot box and to justify it told us to watch someone watching television — they look like dumbfounded at nothing. It does take a while away to appreciate the annoying obnoxiousness of commercials.

  45. rflrob says:

    I’ve been very pleased with ABC and NBC for putting their shows online. I “watch” Heroes and the Bionic Woman on NBC, and Pushing Daisies and Samantha Who on ABC. I use the quotes because I haven’t seen either of them in weeks, but plan to return at some point when life settles down.

    The one, thirty-second commercial is usually fairly tame… National advertisers tend to be more respectful and innovative than your average car salesman, so the commercials I’ve seen tend to be quiet, and often amusing (I’m thinking of the sprint hack-your-life tips, like how to remove your shirt in 3 seconds).

  46. Zerotime says:

    Apart from (I think) House, Supernatural, and Life, we’re so far behind on American TV shows here in Australia that this strike could go on for another year without the TV networks running out of new stuff to show.

  47. Attorney At Chaos says:

    I sympathize with the writers. Every time a new technology comes around, the suits try to hog it all without giving anything to the writers (or actors). It happened with videotapes, it happened with cable channels, it happened with DVDs, it’s happening again with online content.

    The suits say they want to remain “flexible” – what’s more adaptable than a percentage deal of the gross*, or a deal based on the ratings/number of viewings? If they want to be fair it’s easy to write a contract to cover a wide variety of outcomes. It’s seems quite clear that the suits just want to keep everything for themselves.

    That said, the writers could be out on strike for years and I’d hardly notice it.

    * Not the net. Hollywood accounting (at least on movies) makes sure that almost no movie ever shows a net profit, even if it rakes in over 500 million at the box office and more on DVDs and such.

  48. Dev Null says:

    Nilus, you have a point. I try hard not to be one of those pretensious non-TV-watchers, because they annoy the beejusus out of me too. Not least because half of them – like me – DO watch TV, they just don’t watch it on TV…

    But while the shows themselves may survive, I do think _commercial_ TV is a dying medium. The weird thing is that the only people who haven’t worked it out is the companies paying for the ads. I don’t believe for a second that the Coca Cola company (for instance) gets actual sales value for money out of the n-teen(-hundred?) million dollars they spend every year on TV advertising. People always say they wouldn’t do it if it didn’t make them money, but the people telling them whether it worked or not is their advertising department. Three guesses which side of the bread _their_ butter is on, and the first two don’t count. TV advertising still pays for TV, it just pays for itself less and less as more and more people opt out of bothering to watch the ads while still watching the shows. Not even counting high-tech solutions, I haven’t known anyone who watched the ads on TV in years; a 1980s vintage VCR will solve that problem for you. When the advertising folks finally fail at keeping corporate America in the dark, we’re all going to have to come up with a new way to fund our favorite shows.

    To a certain extent its already happening. The reason why 95% of TV today seems like it was aimed at morons or sports fans (not equating the two mind)… is because it WAS. Thats who’s still most affected by the ads that pay for it.

  49. Lain says:

    I want to lay the finger on another side of this discussion.

    In my opinion the current situation is a mixed fault between the following paticipants:

    retarded execs of the marketing business.

    the more retarded tv-viewers. (There is an scientific analysis here in Germany, that, if the companies choose to make more intelligent commercials, the viewers buy less! Especially with products for mothers. See also the brillant commercials of Camel at the End of the 90′s, with the puppets)

    and the nonetheless retarded writers – of commercials. I know, its difficult to send your messages within 30 seconds, but …. ah hell, everybody knows the annoying strips.

    The Snickers commercials are a good example for enjoyable advertisements. Some other companies also try it. And mostly get punished by the customers, who don’t buy their products. But buy more, the more annoying their commercials are!

    So gwtting distracted, making the sponsors of my favourite show happy buy buying their products and getting more and more intelligent entertainment could be so lifefullfilling.

    If only dumbness would not rule the world. On all sides.

    PS: I didn’t want to hurt any feelings of any reader here. Pease accept my apology, if I did this. Readers of this HOMEPAGE can’t be retarded by definition!

  50. John says:

    I wasn’t able to read all these comments, but I know for a fact (thank you search feature) that nobody has yet mentioned the best science fiction show (hooray geekery!) to come out in years. And it’s now out on DVD.

    Babylon 5. Five seasons of it, and I guarantee you, that if you watch the first season you will be HOOKED. Babylon 5 took on a five-year story arc and played it through BRILLIANTLY. I have not seen better science fiction before or since, although I will admit that the new Battlestar Galactica has come close. As did Farscape. All three of those shows have been insanely brilliant, but Babylon 5 really has to take first place in my heart.

    Shamus, if you really want to see good, intellectual TV on DVD, buy the first season of Babylon 5 and check it out. You really won’t regret it. (Of course some of the first few episodes are pretty bad, but around mid-season, the story really kicks off.)

  51. Ack!
    Neminem: Good call!
    I can’t believe I forgot to mention the new Doctor Who, and, though many hate it, and many worship it, I am a also a fan of Torchwood…
    As for Dresden Files, hmm, I must say that I enjoyed it very much, but, there are aspects of the books that I like better…
    On the other hoof, there are aspects of the show that I like better than the books…
    In my own opinion, worth owning and watching on DVD even if you haven’t/don’t plan to read the books, though the books are nice…
    Also, before a flame war erupts about the inaccuracies of the book versus TV episodes of Dresden Files, Jim Butcher, writer of the books, had 100% say so on all the TV episodes, and in an interview aired on the NBC website (or was it CW?), said that one should not look at one as a copy of the other, merely as an alternate reality where many things are similar and many things are different.
    He wrote the shows different from the books on purpose, so, if you don’t like because it is not like the other, that is your fault, not the show/books…
    And stuff.
    Also, an addendum regarding my mentions of enjoying Reaper, the premise is similar to the old show Brimstone, as in Bounty Hunter for the Devil sending escaped souls back to Hell…
    That’s where the similarity ends, so do not listen to people calling it a rip-off, because while Brimstone was definitely ahead of it’s time in concept, it was a dark and gritty occult drama…
    Reaper is a comedy.

  52. RPharazon says:

    TV in Mexico is a brain-shattering affair. Instead of about 3 3.5-minute commercials, there are two 6-minute commercials. I don’t know why.

    Sitcoms and Soap Operas are literally a national patriotic affair.

    When good shows come over, they’re usually dubbed horrendously, ruining everything that was good in the show itself. Example: Mythbusters in Spanish dubbing. I literally got a headache from that. I’m not kidding.

    The only shows I actually watch anymore are Becker every two days (It’s only subtitled, thank God), and House every week (also subtitled).

    Thank goodness I can actually make use of that HDTV with my Xbox 360, plus my laptop and a VGA cable.

  53. Deoxy says:

    Lain really nailed the problem: most TV is aimed at people who are affected by commercials. Considering the fact that commercials do almost nothing for me except alert me to the existence of a product that I might, if it catches my fancy, look into and make my own mind up about, I’m certainly not their target demographic.

    Coke (or McDonald’s, Pepsi, Dr Pepper, Nike, Hershey’s, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum) could stop advertising forever, and it wouldn’t affect me one way or the other, because I already know about their products (and 99% of “new” products are just gimmicks that aren’t even planned to be in production a year or two from now).

    Yeah, definitely not their target demographic.

  54. Tom says:

    I’ll second John’s recommendation of Babylon 5. Best show ever, and, as I recall, the first to be filmed in wide format. The first few episodes, before the sets and actors had settled in, are spotty, as are some episodes after mid-season 4, when J. Michael Straczynski was informed that the show would be canceled a year early and he had to compress the major plot lines. Which left him with a whole new challenge when the threat of being overrun by angry fans convinced the studio to reverse its decision.

  55. lxs says:

    American adverts are particularly bad. So is much of American TV, HBO being the main exception. British adverts are usually much better, sometimes a substantial relief after the reality crap.

  56. Lord of Fools says:

    I heartily recommend anything by HBO.

    My favourite television network (favourite only because the news was actually news and they play foreign-language movies) recently started playing ads in the middle of shows. They used to have a long break in between shows, which was annoying, but better than having your show interrupted. Alas, all that ended at the beginning of the year. Woe.

  57. NBSRDan says:

    Once upon a time, there was actually a golden age of commercials. Their writing was clever to the point where TV watchers would banter about not only their favorite shows but also their favorite commercials.
    Then there was a slight slip in the average writing quality, causing audiences to tune out commercials draconianly, causing commercial makers to increase bizarreness and obnoxiousness to grasp at the viewer’s attention, causing audiences to further tune them out in a downward spiral to where we are today.
    But hey, try to make the best of it. Next time you hook up cable for the superbowl, gather up the family and play Guess the Product: Mute the television and compete to see who can correctly guess what type of product is being advertised before the product name appears on-screen. Woman on a treadmill trying to outrun flying phantom eyes? I’ve got it! Shoes!
    There are alternatives, however. You mentioned DVDs, which are a great way to get the whole package all at once (waiting for a given show to end shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re already invested in it), as well as weed out non-endings.
    If you find some new way of justifying the expense of cable, there is also TiVo and other DVRs which, while perhaps still breaking flow, allow you to skip commercials entirely. Interestingly, I use one constantly and have yet to notice a my mental defense weakening. The unfortunate (perhaps fortunate in your eyes) side-effect of DVRs is that they might kill television as a medium if advertisers perceive too much market saturation.
    You might also want to have a look at Hulu and similar websites, offering entire streaming seasons at the less severe cost of one interruptive ad per “natural” break.

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