“deep thoughts” on television shows I watch or used to watch


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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42 Responses

  1. Avatar William Brafford says:

    4.) Yes, the Wire is that good. The first few episodes of most seasons are slow, as they serve to set you up for the rest of the season. Judging the Wire by one or two episodes is like judging a novel by one or two chapters. If you’ve watched the first eight episodes of season one and still aren’t feeling it, then it’s not for you.

    6.) I can’t stand Family Guy. It’s an active dislike.Report

    • That’s what I hear. Okay. I’ll watch it. (I have to convince my wife, which is the impetus behind this question….evidence!)Report

      • Avatar William Brafford in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        I have to go somewhere, but if I get back and no one’s made the case, I’ll see what I can do. But especially given your interest in (new) urbanism, communities, education, and politics, I think you’d get a lot out of the show if you stuck with it.Report

      • Agree with William on The Wire. I’d also go further and say that if you’re going to watch a whole season, you really need to start with season 1 or maybe seasons 3 or 4. Season 2, without the context of Season 1, can be pretty difficult to follow, and Season 5 takes a particularly long time to get interesting. Then again, Seasons 1, 3, and 4 are generally the consensus picks for the show’s best.Report

      • Avatar Lev in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        Agreed. The Wire is all about accumulative effect. It’s not paced like television usually is, but its structure is all the more powerful because of it.Report

      • Avatar Ian M. in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        The Wire is long form television – each season is a story arc. You really have to watch them in order, but the show is excellent. Richard Wright and George Pelecanos are two of the writers(!!)

        The South Park guys are vaguely libertarian and when they take a shot at libertarians I’ll believe their “we’ll mock anybody” line.Report

      • Avatar HyperIon in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        Re: watching The Wire
        Turn on close-captioning. I understood a lot more with that feature enabled. In fact I do this for most videos.Report

    • Avatar Max in reply to William Brafford says:

      yeah i’ll come to the wire’s defense as well. my favorite show of all time by leaps and bounds. if bad language isn’t your thing it might grate on you a bit, but it’s a very perceptive look at urban life.Report

  2. Avatar Kyle R. Cupp says:

    I refuse to let me son watch Barney. It’s an aesthetic decision bordering on an ethical one. Bob the Builder I can stand, but frankly I’m glad he’s moved on to watching The Princess Bride over and over again (minus a few scenes we distract him or make loud noices during). I’ll have to check out the Wiggles. Is it on DVD? We don’t have a TV hook-up.Report

  3. Avatar gauche says:

    Two things:

    1. Since nobody has said it in your other thread, welcome to the Church. I went through RCIA last year and it really was like coming home. A couple years ago, I read Chesterton’s “The Man Who Was Thursday” and hated it with a strangely visceral passion. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why someone would bother to write a plot like that. Halfway through RCIA, I understood exactly what the book meant. I hope you have a similar experience.

    2. Watch The Wire. It’s not a cop show, or a crime show, or a show about drugs and the inner cities. Those are some of its stuff, but it’s a show about how people respond to their incentives. It’s a show about how every person makes the rational, utility-maximizing choices based on what’s immediately in front of them, and the whole of those decisions is always less than the sum of its parts. The Wire will break your heart, and in a good way.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I watched the first two episodes of Deadwood after hearing a number of people warn me about the language.

    Given that that is what I sound like on the ride home whilst listening to NPR, I didn’t notice much of anything and left disappointed.Report

  5. Avatar Rufus says:

    Family Guy started alienating me a few years ago and, while I’m not yet to the level of active dislike, I’m getting close. It’s not the offensive comedythat bugs me about the show; it’s the hacky way it’s used to cover up a lack of good writing.Report

    • Avatar JosephFM in reply to Rufus says:

      The fisrt couple of seasons (before it was cancelled) were actually pretty good.

      But then, I liked the first three seasosn of Aqua Teen Hunger Force too, so maybe take that with a grain of salt.Report

  6. Avatar Lev says:

    I never really got into Mad Men. Psychologically it was somewhat interesting, and the details were so perfect that the whole thing just looked like a masterpiece. My experience with it, however, was that it was basically a high-toned soap opera about unlikable people, peppered with anodyne observations about the 60’s. I didn’t really find the dynamics between the characters too compelling, though admittedly I haven’t been tuning in for a while. To me, it’s sort of like The Hudsucker Proxy: The Show, with basically the same flaws but lacking in the deliberate artifice of the Coens’ films.Report

  7. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    I think I can say, with a fair amount of accuracy, that y’all watch too much television. But, so do most Americans. So, you should feel really good that you’re some of the “Real Americans”.

    Here’s a question: You probably sleep 6-8 hours each night (~30% of each day). What percentage of your day is devoted to The Tube?Report

  8. Avatar Zach says:

    Yes on the Wire, although if you don’t like the cliffhangers in Weeds, you might be somewhat turned off by every episode of the 1st season in that regard (gets somewhat better in later seasons). There was no point to Weeds anymore after the conclusion of Season 3; if you’ve seen it you know why. Mad Men’s good aside from the flashbacks (so far… haven’t seen much).Report

  9. Avatar bcg says:

    The Wire’s first season is its weakest. I went a year after watching the first season before watching the second; I finished the second, third, fourth, and fifth over about a week and a half.Report

  10. Avatar North says:

    #6 I enjoy Simpsons, Family Guy has always been a steaming mound of media fecal matter.

    #7 Southpark is just a show (that I like a lot). I don’t know that they really have much in the way of a consistant political thrust. Maybe I’m projecting but they seem to be neoliberal; they disagree with conservatives and very very vehemently with social cons but they carry a lot of contempt verging on despising the far left.Report

  11. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    The Wire is the greatest TV show I’ve ever seen, although it can be a bit slow to develop. I second the call to watch starting with season 1, and watch the episodes in order–you lose way too much otherwise. It’s a good show to rent season 1 on DVD and watch it all over the course of a week, shotgunning a few episodes at a time. And incredibly worth the investment–nothing I’ve seen on TV comes close to that kind of depth, realism, and meaning.Report

  12. Avatar Kyle says:

    #6 Yeah, but I’ll take Futurama over The Simpsons without skipping a beat.Report

  13. Avatar 62across says:

    What’s amazing about The Simpsons is that you can pass through a room with it on the TV and catch something really funny in those few seconds almost every time. No show has ever delivered so many laughs per second as The Simpsons, especially Seasons 4 through 7.Report

  14. Avatar JosephFM says:

    I feel about South Park roughly how most of you feel about Family Guy. I don’t get it, I really really don’t. Hey, we’re sophomoric jerks who like making incredibly obvious (or simply wrong) political points with bad potty jokes!

    Home Movies was probably my favorite “adult” cartoon, as these things go, though. It was just so dry and perfect. None of the followups (Metalocalypse, Lucy the Daughter of the Devil, the teen series O’Grady on the N) came close.

    Most of my television-wathcing lately, though, is stuff like Star Trek reruns. Other than that, just Mad Men, which Lex is absolutely right about: it is “basically a high-toned soap opera about unlikable people”. That’s why I like it.

    I’ve also got sucked into Dollhouse, despite not really liking it at first for being too stylistically mainstream with its post-CSI/24 quick cuts and glossy violence.

    And I’ve never seen the Wire because I don’t have HBO, and would have to really put aside the time to get into it. But I’ve always wanted to.

    If we’re making recommendations, though, besides Home Movies I’ll throw in the original Manchester version of Life on Mars, which I may have mentioned before. Seriously though. John Simm is just perfect in it.Report

  15. Avatar Ian M. says:

    E.D. – one quote from David Simon (creator of The Wire) was “it’s a show about how bureaucratic institutions grind down individuals.” If that doesn’t get you to watch it, I don’t know what will.Report

  16. Avatar Herb says:

    About Al Swearengen going “good” in later seasons of Deadwood…yes, he became decidedly less brutal, this is true, but it’s useful to remember that the characterizations of Swearengen (and Bullock) were always studies in shades of gray. Swearengen was the bad guy with a kernel of goodness within him, while Bullock was the good guy with a streak of evil. They’re like the Yin and Yang of the show.

    This applies to many of the characters on the Wire, too. (The mix of good and bad within the same person.)Report

  17. Avatar Jack says:

    Since you are already convinced, I don’t need to say that The Wire is the greatest television series every produced, so I won’t.

    Another recommendation: I found HBO’s Rome, both seasons, to be as good as or better than Deadwood.

    Dexter is a fun show as well.Report

  18. Avatar HyperIon says:

    Speaking of “used to watch”, my local PBS station is running the Jeremy Brett “Sherlock Holmes” series on Friday nights. I have caught several and am surprised at how trite they seem now. I was a big fan at the time (mid 80s?) after reading the Conan Doyle stories.

    As we age our tastes change.Report