Some months ago, someone commented that I apparently watched a lot of TV. A recent Nielsen report claims the average American watches 5 hours per day, although age and race are factors. Children (2-11) watch a bit over 24 hours per week, and those 65 and older watch over 50 hours per week. It’s apparently close to a flat line with a dip in the teens.
My 50-64 age group supposedly watches nearly 44 hours per week (6.3 hours per day). For this TV Tuesday post, I thought it’d be interesting to see just how much I actually do watch.
It turns out I do watch a lot of TV; here’s the proof…
This list surprised me a little (by being longer than I expected), and doesn’t include baseball or any other sports programs. In my defense, my college major was Film & TV (with a Theatre minor), and I still have a vestige of professional interest in performance arts.
Castle. I became a follower several years into the show due to (very embarrassingly) never connecting the name Nathan Fillion (or worse, face, although I did think he looked familiar) with the captain from Firefly, one of the bright — albeit tragically short-lived — stars in the TV SF sky.
I like cop shows, and Castle follows the cop, non-cop partner pattern that goes back to Sherlock Holmes and Watson. The show has a balance of serious police work and whimsy that makes it fun, and all the characters are likable, especially the leads. It’s become one of my favorites.
Kudos also for pulling off the nearly impossible: Allowing the romantic tension between the two major characters to flower without destroying the show.
Forever. [cancelled] This show is eerily like Castle. A police procedural that takes place in New York and features an attractive and capable homicide detective along with a non-cop partner. The hook here is that the partner, Henry, is immortal (Judd Hirsch plays his son).
The nature of Henry’s immortality is preposterous and problematic from a storytelling point of view. They seemed to de-emphasize it as the show went on (Henry didn’t die in several episodes), but it became a plot factor again in the last episodes.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. A television spin-off of Marvel’s Avengers movie series. It’s hard to criticize something like this for being “comic book” storytelling because that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. (Ironically, I still haven’t seen the Avengers movies. Or the first Thor movie.)
It’s kept my interest enough to keep watching, but I wouldn’t be heart-broken if it were cancelled. I have found myself less enamored with it this season. I’m tired of the constant betrayals. They need a better story arc.
Agent Carter. Another Marvel television spin-off, this one from the Captain America movies (which I have seen).
It interesting for being a period piece and for centering on Peggy Carter, an every-woman character. Given the supermodel aspect of the leads in Castle and Forever (and many — most — others), it’s refreshing having a female lead who is more of an every-woman.
By the way, I’m keeping a page that lists Gibb’s Rules. (Let me know if I missed any!)
[A side note about this show and the next one: As a red-blooded single male, attractive women often command my attention as attractive women (although looks aren’t necessarily the attraction; further, looks alone aren’t enough). I end up crushing on one of the characters. That can be distracting. Somehow these two shows never do that! The characters are somehow too real to be fantasy objects. A reason they’re favorites!]
NCIS: New Orleans. A very good spin-off of NCIS (which is a spin-off of JAG — another old favorite). Scott Bakula makes a very good Gibbs-alike, and the rest of the cast is excellent (C.C.H. Pounder, for example, in the Ducky Mallard role). Unlike the next entry, this one keeps faith with the brand.
NCIS: Los Angeles. [no longer watching] I followed this show out of loyalty to the brand, but never really liked it. Too stupid and too violent and too disconnected from its military roots. I stopped watching it mid-season this year and don’t regret it or miss it at all (it was mainly Linda Hunt that kept me watching at all, and that just wasn’t enough anymore).
Elementary. This is another favorite on several levels. I’ve always loved Sherlock Holmes; I have a long-standing crush on Lucy Liu; and the show is really quite good. I like the twist of an actual female Watson (giving us, for the first time, plot lines involving romance and sex between Dr. Watson and Holmes’ brother Mycroft).
If you’ve watched the show you know Watson isn’t the only character that’s jumped the gender line! (How that key character in the Holmes canon is done is always interesting.) Plus this: Detective Bell is obviously named after Dr. Joseph Bell, the real-life inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.
Several shows in this list (and in previous years) follow the Sherlock Holmes model, certainly in the cop, non-cop duo, but often also in having the über-brilliant detective (Monk and House, M.D. are both examples). An actual Sherlock Holmes show is extra nice!
The Good Wife. Here is another show I began following after it had been on the air for several years. The advertising focused more on the “good wife” aspect than the law show aspect, and — not being a fan of soap opera — that put me off.
Turns out it’s a pretty good lawyer show, is extremely well done, and has some great characters. (I’m going to miss Kalinda!) It’s neat having Michael J. Fox back on TV again! (But make no mistake, it is a soap opera,… but then, aren’t they all.)
Had I realized Ridley Scott was involved (originally with brother Tony), I would have jumped on board immediately. Fortunately, an OnDemand binge-watching week with previous seasons of many shows allowed me to catch up.
Madam Secretary. I posted about how much I liked this one, so here I’ll just say that it’s lived up to its promise. Téa Leoni is excellent and so is Tim Daly. The show avoids violence other than when necessary to the plot, and continues to have their characters struggle with moral issues.
Person of Interest. This is a pretty good show, although I have mixed feelings about certain aspects. This is yet another I came to late, mid-season three. (A recent WGN marathon caught me up.)
As a career software designer, I find a lot of the computer stuff over the top and hard to swallow. But it is a science fiction show, and there’s often a gimme in such shows. Star Trek (and many others) have warp drive, for example, and current science says that is (almost certainly) impossible.
A bigger issue is the idea of saving one person per week along with the damage they sometimes inflict doing the saving. But I like the characters and the stories a lot.
Battle Creek. [cancelled] Wasn’t too sure about this new show at first, but it grew on me. Just in time for it to be cancelled.
The Mentalist. [series completed] Before the explicit CBS Holmes in Elementary, there was the implicit Sherlock, Patrick Jane (Simon Baker). Before Lucy Liu gave us Joan Watson, Robin Tunney gave us Teresa Lisbon. And in this case, Holmes marries Watson!
The Mentalist was another cop-non-cop partner show, and absolutely a take on Sherlock Holmes! The series completed early this year and wrapped up the seven-year character arcs nicely. It was a lot of fun to watch Jane do his Sherlock thing (often with a con thrown in for extra fun)!
This is another show that allowed the romantic tension to flower between its main characters without ruining the show. Kudos!
The Blacklist. I’ve always liked James Spader (I loved Boston Legal, and he was hysterical in The Office), and this series is worthy of him. It’s been fun watching things unfold. Spader does menace so well!
As is increasingly common, this isn’t a show you can just start watching. There is a series-long story arc that requires you start at the beginning. But it’s a very well-written show that’s managed to find a fairly new angle for a thriller and has so far managed to stay fresh (and Spader does menace so well).
It is among the most violent of the shows I watch, but it tends to be organic to the story, and the show wouldn’t work as well without it (or without Spader’s menace; did I mention he does it well).
Grimm. Here’s another one I got into years after it started, and I’ve gone from really liking it to — recently — becoming somewhat disenchanted with it. It’s syndicated on TNT, so I’ve caught up, and I really like the earlier seasons much better.
I wrote about an issue that really bothered me, and the way the last season played out owes a lot to that issue.
I can’t say I’m happy with the direction of the show. I’ll keep watching if, for no other reason, to see if my suspicions about Nick and Adalind prove out.
Constantine. [cancelled] Based on the Hellblazer comic (as was the movie starring Keanu Reeves), I enjoyed the premise and the characters. I have to admit being a lot more interested when they added Zed (Angélica Celaya).
Parks and Recreation. [series completed] Not directly related to the excellent series The Office, but sharing the same mocumentary mode (with Greg Daniels behind both). The shows were fairly surreal and not to be taken too literally. It took me a while to really appreciate the show, but it was unique and intelligent and extremely well done.
It was also pretty subversive, and I’ve always wondered if some of the fans realized how much it was about them (and not in a good way).
The Daily Show. [host run completed] I am so bummed Jon Stewart left the show. In fairly short time we lose The Colbert Report and The Daily Show. Adieu, Jon! That’s pretty much going to wrap it up for me and Comedy Central. (Most of their shows do nothing for me.)
Jon Stewart was voted most trusted newsman in America with good reason. The show had a good balance of serious news and comedy. And we need a decent news program. PBS is boring, CNN is useless, and MSNBC and Fox News are atrocious.
The Nightly Show. I have mixed feelings about this one, and my general opinion is Meh. But it’s one of the few shows discussing race, and that is an important conversation, so I keep returning to it.
The major problem is that it positions as a comedy show, so it often sacrifices content for gags, and I find that most of the humor misses me completely. I watch the ‘A’ segment with Larry covering current events as well as the panel discussions, but skip most of the rest of it.
Cougar Town. [series completed] I loved Scrubs (except the last season), and I knew this was another Bill Lawrence show, but I didn’t check it out until it had been on the air for years. I regret that, but with 102 episodes, it should be syndicated at some point so I can catch up.
There’s this intelligent wit to the shows Lawrence does, and it’s on display here and in the next entry. The man creates sitcoms that are just a cut above the usual!
Ground Floor. [cancelled] This is another Bill Lawrence show, and this one had John C. McGinley (a huge plus). It was a romcom, but cute enough to hold my interest, and I’m sure McGinley will return elsewhere.
That said, Rizzoli & Isles is an okay police procedural. The work-personal balance is good, and the characters are all likable good people with good values. Co-star Sasha Alexander dodged the Tasha Yar bullet when she left NCIS after two seasons! The rest of the cast, especially Lorraine Bracco, is lots of fun.
The show is based on a series of popular novels by Tess Gerritsen, none of which I’ve read (might someday). Funny that Harmon is in two shows with an ampersand in the title.
Major Crimes. (sequel to The Closer) This one fills my need for an interesting gritty cop show that focuses at least as much on cases as on the personal lives of the cops and assorted others (I’d say more, but we’re running long).
In Perception, McCormack played Sherlock (yep, another Holmes analogue) to another female Watson: Rachael Leigh Cook. In this case, Watson married someone else because this Sherlock is schizophrenic. But in control (mostly) and, of course, too brilliant not to help the FBI solve crimes.
VEEP. Sort of The West Wing done as a very broad comedy. A bit broad for my taste, but fun enough, and I’ve come to really like Julia Louis-Dreyfuss. (I’ve written before about an HBO short film she starred in.)
Nurse Jackie. [series completed] A Showtime specialty seems to be highly interesting, highly flawed characters. Jackie is a pill-addicted nurse played by Edie Falco. Filled the gap left by Weeds. Now what?
Homeland. I really liked this… For the first couple of seasons. It was interesting (and Morena Baccarin is so beautiful). The later seasons impressed me less and less. I’m pretty much at the point of watching mainly to see what happens just because I’ve invested so many hours already.
Masters of Sex. A dramatized version of Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson and their famous book, Human Sexual Response. The first season was pretty good, but it’s gotten increasingly soap-opera and I think pretty far off book. Not entirely sure I’ll keep watching.
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. Two words: Lisa. Edelstein. She’s the third of my Big Three Crushes (Lucy Liu and Angie Harmon being the other two). I’d watch anything, but again I’m lucky: The show is engaging and well-written. And, unlike many, the show appeals to my general age group.
Watching a show on Bravo makes me feel a little weird. I do think it’s hysterical (no pun intended) that Bravo has to advertise this show explicitly as a scripted show. Some of the promos actually featured the script superimposed over the scene snippet!
Doctor Who Saved the best for last! I’ve written about Doctor Who many times here. I think it’s some of the finest SF on TV. To the extent that Star Trek is such a big thing as to exclude it from mere Top Five lists, Doctor Who is a whole level above that. It’s a science fiction show that’s been around since 1963 — it’s a genuine classic!
The idea that The Doctor changes bodies (and personalities!) from time to time may be one of the most brilliant devices ever conceived in television storytelling. It allows the show to necessarily re-create itself while still keeping all the essential elements.
That most of its stories are true science fiction (plus they’re fun) has made it an enduring landmark for us die-hard true science fiction fans. And the show has had some truly memorable characters over the years.
Sherlock As I mentioned, a Sherlock Holmes type show that’s actually a Sherlock Holmes show is extra special to me. And, other than being modern-day, the BBC’s version is about as faithful to the source as you could expect in any rebooting of the canon. (So much better than those movies!) The only shame is that they make so few of them, but scarcity has its own value.
Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent as the Great Detective, and so is Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson. It’s been especially fun how they’ve danced with some of the original stories — we’ve met Irene Adler, the Baskerville Hound, and the Reichenback Fall.
Okay, so adding up the damage: Castle, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, NCIS, NCIS:New Orleans, Elementary, The Good Wife, Madam Secretary, Person of Interest (CBS a clear winner here), The Blacklist, Grimm (NBC a loser), Major Crime, Rizzoli & Isles, The Librarians, VEEP, The Brink, Episodes, House of Lies, Homeland, Masters of Sex, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, Doctor Who, and Sherlock.
Yikes. No wonder this post is so long. That’s 18 one-hour dramas and 4 half-hour comedies. Plus Sherlock (which doesn’t count due to its rarity). So we’re talking about 20 hours (but I didn’t count the shows I’m no longer watching).
With the exception of Sherlock (and to some extent Doctor Who), most come along weekly, although at least two are summer shows (Major Crimes and Rizzoli & Isles).
Which all means that I’m probably watching a bit less TV for my age group. During the summer, baseball games can be as much as 30 or more hours a week (depending on how devoted you are), but during the summer baseball is about all I watch!
But in any event, I’m not as quite as obsessed with TV as I feared. Or perhaps sound. I do take it pretty seriously, but then I think you have to. It’s a powerful device, and it does affect you. Best to keep an eye on it.
And as I’ve pointed out before, with a long-running show, you can end up spending more time with fictional characters than you might with some of your distant friends or even relatives. I know I’ve spent more time with Captain Picard than with some of my cousins!