DO YOU ACTUALLY WATCH TV?

In a previous issue, we reprinted some of the email messages we had received over time and tide that made commentary on our news service. Out of these messages, we printed some of the replies that were based on questions that noted elements of our content.

One question we received last spring was a simple and basic one that consisted of a few words. It read…

I see reviews of theater shows and movies. But what about TV? Do you actually watch new TV shows, or are you stuck in the past?

Robin G.

This question is far from being earth shattering or would express any interest to those that may be looking for hard news. Trust us folks. There are plenty of sources to find hard news! This ain’t one of them in most cases!

Well, this is the basic reason why we don’t review a lot of new TV programs. And when we state about “New TV Shows”, we refer to programming that can be video on any electronic device that sports a screen and can connect to the internet. This means a traditional TV set, a smartphone, a computer (desktop or laptop), or an electronic pad (“iPad”, etc.) And the term “new” means that it’s a service that first made its mark within the last five years. It could even be a title that’s been around a lot longer, just as long as it’s still in production and was created for “new” media. (i.e. Streaming, etc.)

First of all, thanks to the said streaming, there are many more sources where one can obtain this kind of content. And unlike traditional broadcast and cable TV where the programming aired on a selected time and day of the week where one can view only one installment at a time, streaming doesn’t have that restriction. This means that most, if not all, of its content is made available at any time the viewer wants to consume the program. You can watch an episode of let’s say The Morning Show on Apple TV anytime and any day. If you decide to see an episode on a Tuesday at 3:17 PM, or at 3:17 AM, it’s there for the taking! It’s a far cry from the days of “TGIF” days on ABC (or was it NBC? This writer forgets!) where you had to see the lineup on Friday. Ditto for “appointment TV” where you cleared your schedule to tune in on a specific show on a specific day and time. Yours truly once scheduled his days and times so I could tune in to the next episode of something. And I did this as young as six years old when I made such I was in front of the old 21” Zenith on Monday nights at 6:30 PM (CST) to watch the latest episodes of The Monkees, and hoped that Kellogg’s Cereals was picking up the tab that night so I can see a cast commercial featuring Mickey or Peter rant and rave about Kellogg’s Corn Flakes or Rice Krispies! (Even though much of its viewers were kids and teenagers, you would think that a kid friendly cereal would be plugged as it would be just as funny to see Mike and Davy rave about Froot Loops or even Sugar Frosted Flakes. But this is besides the point!)

But getting back to the newer still. I have been told by people that I personally know about all of the great TV that’s out there! I recently spoke to a mutual friend about the Disney+’s Star Wars series that play out as good (or almost good) as the features that were inspired from those titles. And unlike a feature that only can do so much in a given period of running time, TV shows hold the luxury of flushing out the characters giving them more personality, perhaps creating a backstory that the movie didn’t have the time and space for. One recently movie that shows this effort was Warner Bros.’ release of The Many Saints of Newark. This title was about the story of Tony Soprano who was exposed to the mob scene taking place in northern New Jersey when he was a youth in the 1960’s, later making him the man that he became to be. The movie showed the younger version of many of its characters—love ‘em or hate ‘em, as well as others that were only referred to but never depicted. I have seen isolated episodes of The Sopranos either from HBO or through its home video release. But the film would have made a better TV series than a stand alone title. Perhaps David Chase and the powers to be at HBO can work something out with a badda-bing!

And there are other shows to ponder upon where from what I have seen through bits and pieces, look very much like a feature film. They are edgy enough to be mistaken as a movie, and when appropriate, they can cuss and depict violence and sex. This is a far cry from the shows I used to tune in back in the 1970’s that were very restricted to what they can say and depict. This was based on the networks’ Standard and Practices (i.e. “the censors”) that had the upper hand. That was OK for what that was, but the movie could do better. That is how movies lasted as long as they did. Movies can showcase things that TV programs of the same caliber didn’t and couldn’t. That is why today that “tentpole” movies thrive, and dramas don’t!. And there are “tentpole” worthy shows appearing on TV. Thanks to computer generated special effects, one can show things exploding, or creatures running around causing havoc. Dramas take up time and concentration to make them appealing. And there is a lot of that form of content around, making TV shows better than ever.

So this gets back to what this writer doesn’t watch on TV.

Perhaps the real reason is due to less time available with more content to consume. And many serialized programs run on a continuity basis, meaning that in order to understand the storyline and the characters that are part of it, one must watch a series in rank and order from Season One-Episode 1 onward. This all began with such programs as Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere from the 1980’s. These programs had what one TV columnist called a “memory”. That is, its storylines would be able to recall or refer to a scene and/or the characters that were part of that season from seasons past. And these programs had to run in order and would possess a thread. Thus, running the episodes out of order would confuse the viewer. Before that, all episodes were self-contained. You can view a season of Magnum P.I. as a jumbled order, and you would be fine.

So what this writer is commenting about is the fact that I don’t have the time, energy, gumption, or even interest to view everything that is placed in front of me. And no lack of respect to those that offer such selection to me. All this attempt as going to a buffet usually found at a Las Vegas-type casino. There are hundreds of entries to choose from, and one can only consume so much. That is why these buffets are called “groaner bars”. (Or something to that effect!) By the time you tried to take everything from the buffet, you are going because you consumed too much. I am invited to a video version of a groaner bar. All I take is a few things, and then walk away to either return later if at all!

But that goodness to those TV gods out there for doing what they are doing. I would never realize in all of my years covering the media that television would remain king of the hill. It was first placed to me that cable television, with all of its channels offering more product that what the three (later four) networks could ever muster up, could present a load of choices where one can watch TV twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. But much of the stuff that cable TV offered some forty years ago wasn’t as great as it could have been. Unless one enjoyed watching reruns of previously aired TV shows, movies (theatrical and returns of movies made for TV), and sporting events, that was a good chunk of what was on cable. Original shows did exist, but were not as good as to what ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox would cram into their prime-time lineup.

So here’s to you, folks! The ol’ video machine will keep on plugging, while I give the TV buffet another chance. I’ll just wait for dessert. Or to place it all in text speak, YOLO!!!

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