Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Maybe I Should Read More

I sat down to write this great post about the new TV season…and I realized I blogged about the exact same topic last year (on my other blog). But it’s all still applicable. (Now, what does that say about television?)



It's September and that means...the new TV season is upon us.

When I was younger (much younger), I looked forward to the start of every new TV season. I'd read the reviews of the new shows and prepare my viewing strategy (no VCRs or TiVo back in the day). On several occasions, I remember circling the shows in the TV Guide to make sure I wouldn't miss any great entertainment.

Of course, back then, there were only three networks.

Now there are more channels--and more shows--than I could ever watch in my lifetime. Not that I want to; most of the shows don't appeal to me. But there are still enough crime dramas to keep me coming back to the boob tube.

Growing up watching crime dramas (as I did) undoubtedly helped foster my desire to write crime fiction.

Who can forget these gems: 200px-Columbo
Barnaby Jones
The Rockford Files
Cool Million
Hawaii Five-O
McMillan & Wife
Mission Impossible
I-Spy McCloud
Charlie's Angels (hey, there was crime on that show, wasn't there?)
The Six Million Dollar Man
The Bionic Woman 
Hill Street Blues

I could go on. (Of course, my viewing wasn't limited to crime drama--I watched plenty of lawyer and doctor shows, too. And don't forget The White Shadow!)

Here's the thing: Back then, I loved those shows and thought they were great. Now, if I happen to catch an old rerun or two, I realize many of them were actually pretty cheesy.

So what's the explanation? Am I just more mature/more discerning now (i.e., I don't have time to waste watching mediocre shows)? Or are the shows really better written and better acted now?

What shows this year look especially promising?




N. R. Williams said...

Of the shows you listed, Columbo has to be the best. I would say, my favorite show right now is Medium. Not because she is a psychic. But because her husband is a scientist and the interaction between the two extremes is excellent characterization, dialogue, you name it.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I've started watching "Mad Men," mostly because it features writers. I've seen a couple of "Castles," which are interesting, if a little on the cheesy side sometimes.

I used to love "Murder, She Wrote." :)

Lois Winston said...

Hmm...same thing can be said about the fashions and hairstyles back then. What were we thinking? Makes you wonder what we'll be saying about today's crop of TV shows 20 - 30 years from now.

I really haven't cozied up to any of the new shows so far this season, but I do have my favorites from previous years -- Mad Men, Castle, The Good Wife, House, and Bones. I'm also looking forward to the eventual return of Burn Notice, In Plain Sight, and Rizzoli & Isles.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I thinks it's a combination of better writing, forced perhaps by the fierce competition for our viewing time, and our increased sophistication or taste for more edgy and believeable material. When there were only 3 networks, they didn't have to try as hard.

So far, my take for the new season: Dexter started off fabulous. Boardwalk Empire looks like a winner. Undercovers was a major disappointment. So is this season's Weeds. The Big C is boring me. Loved opening episode of NCIS. Waiting for The Good Wife season premiere.

G.M. Malliet said...

With you on Dexter, Sue Ann. You'd think the premise would be too stretched by now but it's a fantastic show.

Darrell James said...

I find television to be pretty much as cheesy as it always was. I mostly only watch orginal programming on the movie channels. Dexter, The Tudors... However, I am looking forward to the 2nd season of Justified of FX. The writer's for the show wear wristbands that read: "WWED" (What would Elmore Do?) to try to keep the show true to form.

Mike Dennis said...

Try BOARDWALK EMPIRE, the new HBO series created by Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter. I've written reviews on it for Spinetingler and on my website also: http//mikedennisnoir.com

Mark Baker said...

I watch quite a few classic sitcoms, and I like them much better than today's because they actually found funny situations and jokes instead of immediately going for the sexually suggestion humor.

Dramas today are better written. Which is why I spend too much time watching TV. I'm going to have to figure something to cut out or I am going to go crazy trying to keep up with it all.

And, Sue Ann, Undercovers is my favorite new show of the season. :)

Alan Orloff said...

Nancy - I've never seen Medium (I have seen some of the commercials for it, though). Maybe one of these days...

Elizabeth - I've heard good things about Mad Men, but...never seen that either.

Lois - They'll probably laugh at us for watching TV in only 2D.

Sue Ann - Yeah, The Good Wife is one show I actually look forward to watching.

Gin - I only watched Dexter once. I couldn't get past thinking of the star in his role from Six Feet Under.

Darrell - Exactly. Cheesy. Isn't that what TV is supposed to be?

Mike - Yeah, I'd watch that. Except I don't get HBO. I'll have to wait for the DVDs.

Mark - YES, good point. I agree, I think the older comedies are better, and the newer dramas are better. Hmmm.

G.M. Malliet said...

Alan - I love Medium but it might be a girl thing. I should probably duck now to avoid missiles from all the male fans of this show.

I never saw Six Feet Under. Too squeamish.

G.M. Malliet said...


Which is pretty funny coming from a fan of Dexter.

michael said...

I'd add Ellery Queen to your list of great 70's TV detectives.

The problem I have with Castle and most of today's mysteries are they are trapped in the ancient "twist" formula. After five decades of TV watching there are few twists I have not seen before. It is harder to slip foreshadowing past me if I actually pay attention to the show (which is why I play on the internet while I watch most TV). Castle is arrested for murder!!! Wow, wonder how that turned out.

I like the variety of crime fiction on TV today such as Covert Affairs to Rubicon (a spy "drama" for every taste) or Justified to Law and Order LA.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Mark, I'm not sure if Undercovers lost me when they cracked a supposedly sophisticated code in 2 seconds or when they uttered the word "sexpionage." It is terrific eye candy, though.

That said - I love Drop Dead Diva. Talk about cheesy and suspension of belief! It's like munster and chedder had a love child and hired Velveta to be its nanny. But I do adore the show.

I also enjoy Medium and Covert Affairs quite a bit.

Keith Raffel said...

I'm with those who are awaiting this season of The Good Wife, a combination of Perry Mason and Silda Spitzer - This Is Your Life. Watching Castle is only fun for me because I know it is based on your life as a writer, Alan. And Alan, one more thing - I think the title of this post is great advice.

Alice Loweecey said...

Supernatural--except that the first ep sucked rocks. I'm hoping they get a clue and my favorite obsession hasn't jumped the shark.

Also for the mid-season: Burn Notice and Leverage.

All of these are mysteries of some sort, but they're intensely character-driven--just like what I read and write. Go fig. :)

Alan Orloff said...

Gin - Oh? Is Dexter violent? :)

Michael - I know it's a surprise, but Castle was released.

Sue Ann - It's my policy to avoid shows with the word "diva" in the title. However, I do love your definition of cheesy.

Keith - I would love a flak jacket emblazoned with "Writer."

Alice - I watch Leverage. I like Leverage. But the plots never make any sense, do they?

Carol Grace said...

Dexter? I can't get through the opening - too much blood and gore. Did you know his real-life wife is the woman who plays his sister?
The Closer is my only must-watch and now the season is over, sob.

Lisa Bork said...

You named a lot of my old favorites, Alan. The only show we watch with regularity is Glee--can you tell the children have a lot of influence in my house?!

Keith Raffel said...

Alan, surprised to hear you don't have one.

Vincent O'Neil said...

Great list -- I watched most of these shows and especially enjoyed Banacek and Rockford Files.

I can't comment on this season's selections, but one of the more recent cop shows I can recommend is HBO's The Wire. Tremendous storylines, great acting, lots of action, plenty of wit, and even some humor. If you haven't seen it, it's well worth the time and I do suggest starting with Season One.

Keith Raffel said...

And now Stephen Cannell, originator of the Rockford Files and so much more, perhaps the greatest crime show producer of all, has died. Sigh.