This past Sunday I watched and very much enjoyed the last ever episodes of The Good Place (CBS). I’ve avoided articles about it in my newsfeed, but a headline or two suggested some fans weren’t satisfied. (A rant for another time: Clickbait headlines and headlines with spoilers. So annoying.)
Maybe some fans just didn’t want the show to end, which I get, but I appreciate knowing when and how to make a graceful exit. I like the way the show’s creator, Michael Shur, effectively said, ‘This much and no more.’
As it turns out, it’s not the only show I watch that’s ending. Several of them are. (And there’s one or two I really wish would call it quits.)
The problem I have with Bull is the premise of trial science, which appalls me. It’s naked manipulation of the truth, and the show has had several episodes where we never discover what really happened — only what Bull’s team convinced the jury of.
That’s certainly true to life, but it offends my views about facts, truth, and honesty. The show skates on the ice of having most of their clients being pretty clearly innocent.
But Jason Bull is no Perry Mason seeking truth in defense of an innocent client. Bull treats the jury like Pavlov’s dogs to be selected by their leanings when possible and manipulated by misrepresentation of reality. On some level, that sickens me.
One show that, in my view, has gotten very tired is The Blacklist (NBC).
With The Good Place over, it’s the only NBC show I follow, and I’ve been hoping it’s on its last season for two or three years now. The draw has always been James Spader, but I’ve gotten weary of the convoluted back history involved.
And, as I’ve said before, I’m also weary of this need to paint everyone as, not just highly flawed and dark, but often as a downright asshole.
In fact, I’m sick to death of this social mode of tearing everything and everyone down. Our culture seems to have decided that aspiring to greatness is too challenging, so let’s all just chill and embrace our inner asshole.
Which is kinda how we ended up with trump as POTUS, so I’m not at all on board with the idea.
Actually, there is also, on NBC, the rebooted Will & Grace, in its third and final season (for a total run of eleven seasons).
At some point this year we’ll see the final episodes of that show, and I can’t say I’ll miss it much. It has been a bit fun watching those four actors go through their well-established paces, but for the most part it’s been more caricature than character.
The most recent episode where Grace plugs a toilet was pretty slapstick. The show was always a bit exaggerated and silly, but in the past had more ability with human moments that made the show worth watching.
The writing lately has seemed pretty paint by numbers.
Meanwhile, over on ABC, Fresh Off the Boat is in its sixth and final season.
I thought the first four seasons were really good. I really enjoyed those seasons. Maybe familiarity plays a role, but in season five it began to seem more standard sitcom. Perhaps the Asian point of view story barrel had been well tapped.
What really distinguished the show was that Asian point of view. Many of the earlier stories wouldn’t be possible with an all-white cast.
Lately the stories are more about the personalities and interactions, pretty much as with any sitcom. Jessica is driven, Louis is laid back, the kids all have their personalities, and so does granny.
At least it hasn’t sunk to relying on gags, which W&G often does. But I don’t find myself laughing much anymore, either.
So, wow, on commercial TV I’m down to NCIS and Bull on CBS and The Blacklist on NBC.
Two that I’m iffy on (one especially) and one I’m hoping will end.
Not a good score for commercial TV. By spring it might be down to just baseball and a daily dash of MSNBC (in the form of Nicole Wallace, one of the few talking heads I can stand to listen to on a regular basis).
And South Park still seems fresh and relevant. I’ve come to rank it as a superior show to The Simpsons in many ways. (Certainly compared to the last decade or so of The Simpsons. Nothing really parallels the first couple of decades.)
On the other hand, there’s a whole world of shows streaming.
Which has been a game-changer. Entire seasons of old shows easily available. My extensive library of DVDs made obsolete in the space of a few years.
The CDs — not to mention the vinyls — had been obsolete for a while. (At least owning physical books still makes some sense, although I haven’t been inside a book store in many years now. I used to almost frequent them.)
The availability of old shows, along with the current tendency to “drop” entire new seasons at once, has led to binge watching.
Which, I will admit, has its attractions. It’s like watching a very long movie.
(In fact, I think the rise of TV shows and the decline in movies owes in part to how much more nuanced and exploratory TV shows can be. There is time to explore back stories and characters. Of course, that can work against a storyteller, too. Sometimes the padding for length is obvious.)
To just name four I have, in fact, binged.
(I liked Black Mirror and Love, Death & Robots so much I was frugal watching episodes. I wanted to savor them. In contrast, I just re-binged Russian Doll because [A] it was so good and [B] I wanted to actually understand it.)
It isn’t just the FOMO that attaches to failing to binge a newly released show. It’s starting to occur to people that binging is the opposite of savoring, and savoring is a big part of remembering and enjoying.
Folks are starting to realize they don’t remember (or enjoy) as much when they gulp down a six- or eight-hour meal.
But savoring takes patience, and that seems in short supply these fast-paced days.
It’s funny to look back at the shift over time.
Firstly, from shelves of books and a few crates of vinyl record albums — very physical analog objects — to digital versions. Many advantages to that shift, but something was lost. There is something to the ritual of playing a vinyl record.
Secondly, from owned physical digital media to streaming and cloud services. Movies, TV shows, and music, that I only own access to. I only have the use of those bits.
And it turns out that’s okay. In a world will so much content, there no longer is so much need to collect your own.
As an old saying puts it, “Another bus will be along in twenty minutes.”
Stay episodic, my friends!