My TV viewing options are dwindling.
When it came on, I liked The Good Wife. Courtroom drama. My favorite. Then, late in the first season, the leading lady (married) kissed her boss in the law firm (not her husband.)
And I stopped watching.
Regular readers are aware of my disinterest in the personal escapades of real life celebrities. You can imagine, then, my level of enthusiasm for the entanglements of characters who are made up.
So I’m off The Good Wife. It’s back to reruns of Law & Order, which, until they ran out of stories, stuck single-mindedly to the police work and the legal wrangling.
I was an early supporter of The Big Bang Theory, an energetic ensemble comedy, where the characters regularly talked about, I believe it’s physics, and the network didn’t make them stop, for fear of being ahead of the Heartland. And me.
Hardly groundbreaking in its concept – Four Nerds and a Babe – The Big Bang Theory, nonetheless, felt funny, youthfully exuberant, and – on the “coat of paint” level at least – different.
Disappointingly, the series rather rapidly evolved it into “The Sheldon Show”, Sheldon being one of the four formerly co-equal nerds, recently elevated to headlining centrality. With its structural balance out of whack, the series became narrowly focused and boringly repetitive.
So I stopped watching it.
Modern Family? Smart and funny the first season, wins an Emmy for Best Comedy. Second season, it already feels mustily familiar. It’s like a “Benjamin Button” comedy – a promising youngster, looking prematurely old. Though still capable of surprising moments, in their rhythm and storytelling, this year’s Modern Family episodes feel grindingly the same.
I’m getting ready to stop watching it.
“Hey, Smart Guy, if you think you can do better…”
I know, Italics Man. Sniping from the Cheap Seats. Not classy. But maybe that isn’t the point of this post. Maybe that was just the preamble.
My point is more in this direction. There’s a good chance that the things that make these formerly appealing series no longer interesting to me are precisely the things that are growing those series’ audiences. And they are growing. So, for whatever reasons my enthusiasm for those series has waned, I’m wrong. Or at least, as I described in an entirely different context,
I’m right. But for a tiny amount of people.
This possibility does not surprise me. For a person who for decades threw the dice at the table of mainstream entertainment, I have never enjoyed the benefit of a mainstream sensibility. And don’t think for a second that is not a liability.
My first series, I put my money on a comedy western, when there had not been a successful western on the air for over a decade.
It lasted one season.
I advised the Charles brothers, who created Cheers, to focus on the bar stories rather than the relationship between Sam and Diane. I thought they’d be more interesting. Fortunately, the Charles brothers didn’t listen to me.
I once cast an actor as the lead in a series I created, who would have been perfect if the series had been broadcast on the radio. I entirely overlooked the Ted Danson “Watchability Factor.” By the way, I passed on Ted Danson for the starring role in my western.
I talked recently about a show’s recipe, the importance of the right ingredients and their relative proportions. I spoke of this in the context of choices, emanating from the show creator’s natural proclivities.
Today, I’m coming from the other direction. You can put the show together the way you intended to, the components, a resonating expression of precisely what you had in mind.
And the audience can still go,
How does that work? It works like ice cream.
Maple walnut is an entirely viable flavor. There is most likely a tub of it in every ice cream emporium in the country and neighboring Canada. People walk in, they check out the choices. Maple walnut has potentially the same shot at popularity as any other flavor.
But it doesn’t.
Invariably, it’s chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
Down in the ratings.
You can confect the most transcendent example of maple walnut the world has ever tasted, propelling maple walnut lovers into paroxysms of ecstasy.
“This is amazing maple walnut!”
It’s a bull’s eye! A revelation! A life-altering, frozen cow-product delight!
For eleven people.
The general public?
Chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
If you choose to think along those lines.
But there is nothing you can do about it.
It is simply the way it is.