I can’t even believe I once altogether stopped watching television.
Such is the power of love, I guess, that because the guy I was infatuated with didn’t like TV, I was able to quit cold turkey, enduring years of long, dark, post-Daylight Savings nights Time without it.
Maybe TV sucked anyway during that period. Or maybe my reading list was a whole lot longer. My reading list is still pretty long – never-ending, in truth – as is my writing schedule rather rigorous.
However, a writer can’t exist on written words alone. Every weekend (the only time I watch TV), I look forward to relaxing my brain a little with some visual entertainment (I once read that your brain waves while watching TV are slower than when you’re asleep), and also becoming a better writer in the process.
(I’ve previously written about how watching Netflix has improved my writing, but I’ve since discovered this also occurs when I’m tempted to extend a viewing binge by just one more episode: all I need do is remind myself that someone wrote these episodes, which means they weren’t sitting on their backside watching TV when they should have been writing. Works nearly every time.)
Eyes on the prize
TV is exploding with great options these days, both on cable and of course, Netflix, where the I do a large chunk of my viewing. I’ve now had Netflix for almost two years now and have started noticing patterns in the types of shows I watch.
Things I like in a TV show:
- Well-developed female protagonists that kick either metaphorical or literal ass
- Characters that are resourceful, cunning, and think on their feet to come up with solutions to impossible-seeming situations
- Shows set in the past (either historical or fantasy) or the future (sci-fi)
- Shows that make light of the absurdity of real life
- Characters who are either slightly unscrupulous or totally scrupulous and have to make tough moral choices
- Awkward characters who don’t see the world the way others do
- Complex – or even convoluted – plots that still manage to make sense
Things I didn’t know I liked in TV shows until I saw them:
- Soap opera plots
- Non-sequential storytelling
With these criteria in mind, in this first of three posts on my TV viewing habits, here are the shows I am currently watching and why.
How to Get Away with Murder
This show didn’t really come to my attention until lead actress Viola Davis won the Emmy award this year for Outstanding Lead in a Drama and gave an amazing acceptance speech about the importance of complex roles for women of colour:
I subsequently found out the show’s entire first season was available on Netflix and decided to give it a try.
I’m not usually much into law shows so I didn’t know what to expect, but I was BLOWN AWAY, not only by season one’s overarching plot involving four law students trying to cover up and conceal a murder they committed, not only by the elaborate, non-sequential manner in which the reason for and repercussions of the murder was told, but especially for Viola Davis’ stellar performance.
Davis plays high-calibre defence attorney and law professor Annalise Keating, a Machiavellian, take-no-prisoners courtroom champion who’s not afraid to employ methods that are themselves just this side of lawful and ethical (or altogether on the other side as well) to obtain the evidence and outcomes she needs to win.
At the same time, outside of the courtroom, when stripped of her power suits and glam makeup and wig, Annalise is a human being with a wounded heart – stuck with a cheating husband, a victim of past harm, and seemingly suffering from a low self-image that leads her to either destroy everyone she loves or to protect them so hard, she ends up destroying them anyway.
I’ve written before about my love of this all-black soap opera, which involves a top hip hop/R&B record company and the extravagant family at war with itself over the company’s future fortunes amidst a backdrop of gang violence, sex, betrayal, backroom business dealings, and AMAZING original music.
Most notably, I discussed the fantastic character, Cookie Lyon. Empire now in its second season, I’m an even bigger Cookie fan now that her musician ex-husband and company CEO, Lucious, had gone from merely narcissistic and self-absorbed to full-on megalomaniacal and evil.
Indeed, the more over-the-top each new plot development gets in this outlandish show, the more I love it all.
Master of None
I became familiar with comedian Aziz Ansari through his specials on Netflix and found his slightly coarse demeanor in combination with his petite stature and boyish features a hilarious combination.
His new Netflix original sitcom reminds me of a cross between Seinfeld and The Hangover, each with considerably more diversity and each substantially more hipster, its target audience clearly the late-20s/early-30s urban, middle class set.
Indeed, at times, I feel this show is a little too cool – that the desire to be perfectly quippy and impassive often occurs at the expense of character development and depth, causing the performances to feel a bit insincere and not so much funny as just curious and odd.
However, I really like the show’s content – how it takes on issues often absent from traditional comedies, like the sacrifices made by immigrant parents so their kids can have a better life; the under-representation of people of colour on TV, and the everyday micro- (and macro-) aggressions faced by women – in a both comedic yet candid way.
Xena Warrior Princess
I’ve written extensively about Xena and will continue to do so as my replay of the shows six seasons continues.
Now midway through season four, having missed half this season and most of season five when they originally aired during the late 90s due to my being away at university, I’m currently, watching episodes I never actually saw before. Which, some 17 years after the fact, is something I’m pretty excited about.
Game of Thrones
At this point in this show, I’m still watching more to keep abreast of a major entertainment phenomenon than from rapt interest on my part.
There are definitely storylines I’m enjoying – Daenerys Targaryen is an incredible character; I’m also following Jon Snow’s arc, and love anything to do with the irrepressible Bronn – however who knows how long any of those folks will last.
I also find the show’s excessive gender-based violence against women – not to mention that in true HBO fashion, it has a higher bare breast count than George R.R. Martin’s overall body count – fairly off-putting.
Plus, after five seasons with it only now just becoming clear who might actually take Iron Throne (if for no other reason than so few contenders are left), it’s all starting to feel a bit protracted.
How often do you watch TV? What shows are you watching right now? Who do you think will take the Iron Throne? Let me know in the comments.
A/N: It’s that time of year again: time for me to go on a very long and aggravating journey and let my brain turn to mush, most notably through watching loads of TV. I’ll thus be taking a break from blogging during the holiday season, but will return either just before or just after New Year’s.
In the meantime, to all my blog readers and followers: A very Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays to you and yours!