A week ago Sunday I stayed up late binging Solar Opposites. This Sunday I stayed up to 4:00 AM binging Upload, a new comedy from Greg Daniels (just released on Amazon Prime). In both cases, my intent was to check out just an episode or two, but in both cases I couldn’t stop watching.
Solar Opposites was more like a fun party I didn’t want to leave (I’m a night owl, anyway). Upload, likewise, was a delight I didn’t want to end, but I was also seriously sucked into a really good story. I am very much anticipating season two.
I don’t hand out Wow! ratings lightly, but Upload just might rate one.
Sunday night I watched the last episodes of Will & Grace, a comedy that first premiered on NBC in 1998. It enjoyed eight seasons, ending in 2006. Then, eleven years later, in 2017, the original creators and actors rebooted it in what turned out to be a three season run. (Eleven year gap; eleven seasons total. Cute.)
The show was quite popular during its first six seasons, but experienced a pronounced drop in viewership during seasons seven and eight. The reboot did okay the first year, but wasn’t huge, and people lost interest by the second year.
If I’m honest, this third year I’ve kinda been waiting for the patient to die.
I’ve been noticing lately how much I don’t miss MSNBC. I was in the habit of catching Nicolle Wallace’s show every weekday at 3 PM (Central Time). She was one of the last on-air hosts I could stomach. (Chris Hayes is okay, and Rachel Maddow can be very good when I’m in the mood for that level of earnestness.)
But I’ve long thought Chris Matthews was a brilliant jackass in love with the sound of his own voice. And don’t get me started on Brian Williams, who, no, I do not forgive for besmirching journalism. He should retire and find other work.
But I thought Nicolle Wallace was okay.
This TV Tuesday, from the ‘Definitely a Matter of Taste’ (DaMoT?) side of life, I thought I’d mention two TV shows that consistently make me laugh out loud a lot: Archer and Happy! (The exclamation mark is part of the title!)
These shows, especially the latter, aren’t for everyone, but they win big points with me for freshness, irreverence, and sheer creativity. Archer leans heavily towards clever pastiches, and Happy! is… well just kinda plain off-the-chain nuts. The only thing they share in common is they both have me in stitches.
Admittedly, in both cases, a few beers not only adds to the funny but is entirely appropriate and in-universe.
This TV Tuesday post was originally going to be another rant about WTF is going on with NCIS (I held off on because I didn’t want to kvetch on Christmas). But then I had a really interesting thought about my other favorite (broadcast) TV show, The Good Place.
There’s an old joke about the philosophy professor who says, “Every time I think I’ve had an original though, it turns out some damned ancient Greek thought of it first.” There’s a more serious version in Ecclesiastes: “There is nothing new under the sun.”
It turns out I’m not the first, by a long stretch, to notice how The Good Place echos and references The Wizard of Oz.
I wrote about the CBS show, Madam Secretary, back when it premiered. Interestingly, that post is among those people still sometimes read. In fact, it’s one of the older of my posts people still sometimes read. That post also talked about another CBS show, Scorpion, which (to my surprise) lasted four seasons, so I’m not entirely sure what the attraction is.
Madam Secretary, informally retitled Madam President for its sixth and last season, aired its final episode last Sunday, December 8th. And while nothing is perfect, and all runners stumble, in its six-year run, this show gets an unqualified Wow! rating from me.
I’m really going to miss it.
Maybe it’s expecting too much that a TV series remain in your heart for 17 seasons. I still enjoy The Simpsons (starting its 31st season) and South Park (starting its 23rd season), but both the cartoon format and the nature of those shows gives them a lot of latitude in exploring new ideas while remaining true to the show.
A drama, like NCIS, which I’ve rated as my favorite TV show for well over a decade, is more restricted. It’s harder for a drama to find new ground while remaining true to its nature. That can lead to stagnation, viewer fatigue, or, in some cases, “jumping the shark.”
Which is all to say I’m very disappointed in NCIS, season 17.
As I recall, I discovered Perry Mason, somewhere in the early-to-mid 1960s, when I was in grade school. I don’t recall if I first found the Erle Stanley Gardner books or the TV show starring Raymond Burr. I am sure one followed the other very quickly (probably why I don’t remember which was first). Either way, it started a love affair with courtroom drama that exists still today.
The most recent courtroom drama I’m aware of is The Good Wife (2009–2016), and I just finished re-watching that series on Hulu. There is a spin-off, The Good Fight, done by the same producers, and which has some of the supporting actors, but which is part of CBS’s streaming service, so it’s not really on my menu.
And then there’s an old show called The Practice (1997–2004)…
Just last March I asked, Am I Over NCIS? The question seems even more pressing given the NCIS season 16 finale. (Spoiler warning on the season, not to mention any and all previous seasons.) I’ve never been this mixed in my feelings regarding the characters, and the off-screen personal stuff is especially disturbing given other ugly entertainment-related realities that have been uncovered recently.
There is additional pressure from time in the saddle as well as from how viewing habits have changed (both mine and the world’s). Weekly episodes of commercial-filled broadcast TV seem increasingly quaint somehow. And sixteen seasons — most of them 24 episodes — is a lot of NCIS (378 episodes; over 260 hours).
All-in-all, for me the sun may well be setting on NCIS.
If I reverse the first two words of the title (and call the question mark to attention), it removes all uncertainty, but for now I’m on the fence and asking. I’ve already reached certainty with both spin-offs (the oldest many years ago, the younger sibling just last year). Now, either I might be over their parent, NCIS, or just maybe the show itself is over.
I sometimes get the sense I’m more attached to the idea of over than many. I’ve mentioned more than once that I try to look forward, and around, rather than in the rear-view mirror. I’ve also mentioned how a primary ask of mine for stories is: “Take me someplace new.”
Nostalgia never had much pull for me, nor did more-of-the-same once a story has been finished.