On The Not Turning Away


Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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61 Responses

  1. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Arrow is the definition of guilty pleasure. I still need to do a post about how they put together a good and entertaining show despite very obviously winging it every step of the way.Report

    • Arrow is the definition of guilty pleasure.

      Only if it’s Japanese for Burn Notice.

      Sam Wilkinson bait:

      The fact the we can largely agree on which shows are guilty pleasures means that we have a shared notion of “quality” distinct from “enjoyable”: a guilty pleasure is the latter but lacks the former.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        I think they are shameful pleasures even though we all call them guilty pleasures – it’s not really a matter of having a shared understanding of Quality as it is having a shared understanding of what society has emblazoned with the stamp of Quality.

        And then internalizing that.Report

        • Avatar Maribou says:

          PS If you work in a job where you have occasion to support people in acquiring access to their so-called guilty pleasures, it’s fairly obvious that they aren’t agreed upon at all, outside of fairly narrow social circles. one person’s guilty pleasure reading is another’s high litrachure.Report

        • No shame here: I’ve expressed many times how much I enjoy Burn Notice, even that I watched all of it (including The Fall of Sam Axe, which was pretty dire. The Chin is a lot more fun in small doses.) And the heck with society. I don’t think there’s any official praise to be had for watching all 163 episodes of Bullwinkle, which I just did while feeling neither shame nor guilt.

          I do think there’s a shared understanding that Burn Notice, while lots of fun, is empty calories, neither requiring nor rewarding a moment’s thought an not standing up to a moment’s scrutiny, and that’s what makes the pleasure a guilty one.Report

  2. Avatar Maribou says:

    Hm. I tend to enjoy shows much more when I binge watch them, unless they are extremely unrelated in terms of storyline (eg the Muppet Show (70s-80s version), or Third Rock from the Sun, where there are running gags but no real story arcs).

    Of course, your definition of binge-watching (a season in 2 weeks) is more like “stretching things out” to me… back in the glory days of introversion, I once watched a season of Angel in one day… and then the next season the next day. These days I don’t really do that so much, and even sometimes choose to chop up an episode of something suitable into pieces because I only have 5-15 minute chunks here and there to watch it… but if I fall desperately for a show I will usually mainline ALL the episodes available in a week or less, until I get to the last 6 or 7 and want to stretch it out. (4 seasons of Lost Girl, I’m looking at you.)

    Do you do something with your hands while watching? I tend to watch while also computing, or sewing, or intensively petting a cat, and I wonder if that makes me notice the grating parts less.

    By contrast to your experience, if I spread a show out closer to the recommended dose (as I have with iZombie and Jane the Virgin), I keep forgetting about the things that annoy me and then being REMINDED of them, and getting annoyed afresh. Whereas if I am binging the things that annoy me become familiar, and even possibly endearing, due to repeated exposures…

    (I’m so tempted to start binging on Arrow now, but I’m busy daydreaming about when I’ll have 3 or 4 uninterrupted hours to enjoy the Almighty Johnsons first…)Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      In my experience, a weaker or uneven show (or season, or episode) is usually strengthened by a binge (you forget or forgive the weak parts; your primary experience is one of moving from strength to strength.)

      A strong show of solid, unvarying high quality is best savored in small bites. Bingeing The Americans or Hannibal would have been a shame (and probably would have killed me).Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        It’s not a hard and fast rule – I binge-watched most of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and that was pretty great – but just as in a standalone movie, sheer forward velocity can make the plot holes and draggy bits less glaring. You speed right past those rough patches mostly-unnoticed, like a drunk driver over pedestrians.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          I’m pretty exclusively a binge-watcher, imbibing TV the way the Good Lord intended: speedin cross town with a cocktail in hand yelling at footdraggers to move out the way er else! I blame The Wire for this reckless, hedonistic behavior. But it sure made New Who, The Fringe, Dexter, Orphan Black,etc., heck, even Agent Carter much more enjoyable.

          Plus, I have a hard time remembering plot lines and such over a 7 day time frame.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            Mr. O’Rourke, I’ve read Republican Party Reptile and that was over thirty years ago. You’re far too old for that sort of thing anymore. And please return control of @stillwater ‘s login identity to him.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Giving money and power to control my TV programming is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

              Err, his. Stillwater’s I mean. Which is mine, of course…Report

            • Avatar El Muneco says:

              He was far too old for it then. We just didn’t notice because he was damn good at turning a phrase, and the attitude matched the era. Sadly, neither of those is true anymore.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        @glyph I agree with you in principle but not in execution.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        I find that with high-quality continuity-heavy shows, watching several episodes at once improves them; I link together events more clearly than when I’m watching one episode a week. Gradual character evolutions also become clearer this way. I’ve been re-watching the first season of Fringe on Netflix and really enjoying it. (While the first season is somewhat episodic, there are a lot of longer-term plotlines associated with the cases-of-the-week.)

        In contrast, with episodic shows like Star Trek: TNG, binge-watching makes them feel repetetive.Report

  3. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    These things come up again and again and binge-watching forces you to confront them again and again. It highlights rather than downplays them. It makes the writing seem weaker than it really is.

    I think it makes you aware of how weak the writing was all along.

    For what it’s worth, I kind of hated Arrow. I only lasted the first season. I’ve basically gotten bored of most procedural television where everything resets itself at the end of the episode.

    Also, I can appreciate that the creators have a particular view of the world, but I wish they could be a little bit more realistic in the evils perpetrated by corporations. At no point do they seem to ask “would it actually make sense for someone who is maximally evil and selfish to do this?” The only show I’ve seen that was even worse in this regard was the American reboot of Nikita.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Well, within the context of Arrow Season One’s hard-nosed realism, Malcolm Merlyn thought he was doing something altruistic, not something principally intended to enlarge his wealth and power. With about equivalent logic as Oliver’s for turning vigilante, anyway.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott says:

      It gets a bit better after the first season, from what i’ve seen. They stop trying so hard to be a CW show with superhero trappings and transform into a superhero show with CW trappings.

      Mind you, I still have a lot of trouble with it. They’re so obviously using Green Arrow as an expy for the Batman show they couldn’t get the rights to, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth both as a batfan and a fan of the non-batclone Green Arrow.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Your first paragraph is an accurate description. Though I say they are “winging it” another way of looking at it is that they were relatively quick to notice what was and wasn’t working and adjust accordingly. That still leaves exposed some of the bad ideas that they started with, however.

        (On the second part, I think the merger of Green Arrow and Batman – both of which I am fans of – has worked pretty splendidly. It’s neither the GA nor the Batman of my comic book collection, but it’s a thing that has kind of worked. To the point that I’m glad that they used GA rather than, say, Dr Midnite.)

        (I still think they should have rolled with Green Arrow instead of the whole Just Arrow thing.)

        (I haven’t seen any of this season yet.)Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          It even has a Robin.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            So does the regular Green Arrow. The TV show actually kind of tried to avoid it, but reversed itself.

            Dr Midnite didn’t, but they probably could have turned Hooty into a kid.Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              they probably could have turned Hooty into a kid

              That option was only apparent in the cracked rear view of hindsight.Report

            • Avatar Burt Likko says:

              If Hooty ever turned evil, he’d have minions called….

              …wait for it…


              You didn’t wait for it, did you?Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              I admit I know nothing about Green Arrow, except what’s in the the title.

              I haven’t really enjoyed the show much, and really only watch it to spend time with the teenager. However, I can see it’s appeal for fans of the genre, like the teenager, if you can get past the CWness. I’m not enough of a fan to get past it.

              I feel the same way about Flash, which he likes more than Arrow.Report

              • Isn’t Green Arrow that old sitcom with Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor?

                (At the place where I was working a few years ago, an agent came in at lunchtime to talk about supplementary medical insurance, His name was (and I am not making this up) Arnold Ziffel. Fortunately,this was announced ahead of time, so we all had a chance to get it out of our systems before the poor guy arrived.)Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          Yeah, I had to intentionally let go of the comic-book Green Arrow to buy in to the tv series character and storyline, which is different in a lot of ways. Darker. And you get to see more of the playboy, the friction between the cover identity and the masked hero.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        The Flash vs. Arrow episode of the Flash was very obviously at attempt at an offmarket Superman vs. Batman confrontation (powers vs. skills and experience).

        Also, The Flash’s girlfriend is a reporter, although I’m not sure if that’s adaptation-induced and a Superman allusion, or a consequence of comics being terminally uncreative and giving two of their top-line superheroes reporter girlfriends.Report

  4. Avatar Aaron David says:

    I have never been a TV person. Nothing will make me hate an artfrom more than having it either forced down my throat or repetitively shown, so binging on a show is out for me. If I am going to watch it, I want to be able to think about it, which caps it at about 2 episodes a week.

    My wife on the other hand is a TV watcher much like @maribou, which has made me hate many things that others love to binge on. Battlestar Craptacticus? Buffet the Vampire Slayer? Breaking Wind? All I can do is either leave my favorite reading chair or headphone it in. Or else grind my teeth down from the repeat of the same theme music played over and over.

    Unless I have insomnia.

    Then, as we do TV as Burt does, I cannot just flick though a certain set of channels to see if anything is on that would put me to sleep. No, I have to select something. Which actively negates the soporific power of TV. So I just put Bobs Burgers on.

    I am the problem child.Report

    • I find live-action Kristen Schaal annoying (worst recurring 30 Rock role ever. By far.) But Louise is one of my favorite cartoon characters.

      Bob: Louise, I need your help to sabotage Gene.
      Louise: First of all, I’m flattered.
      Bob: All right. Now, do you have any ideas?
      Louise: Dynamite in the burgers!
      Bob: Subtler.
      Louise: C-4.
      Bob: Move away from explosives.

      The great thing is that Bob isn’t horrified or even slightly upset that her first though is to blow up her brother. He knows that’s how her mind works, and that’s just part of being Louise.Report

  5. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Also, was it just me, or did they basically skip how Black Canary Laurel gets the super-screech power she used in the last two episodes? I might have stepped away at some point fearing another prelude to Felicity and Oliver finally making sweet love and missed how that happened. Not that it’s actually all that critical.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      That happened on The Flash.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Because we’re watching it on Netflix, and The Flash as it happens (at least on Hulu, if not when it airs), we’re keep getting Arrow spoilers. This would really irk me if I were seriously invested.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          I had to make a viewing order chart to make sure I had it right.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          Particular only to shows like this, with crossover events, but another reason to not binge watch.Report

        • Avatar Alan Scott says:

          That’s not so bad, compared to Agents of Shield–Which has that effect with Marvel’s may movie release.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC says:

            You know, when I first realized that was going to happen, I thought it would be annoying, because, frankly, their first movie tie-in was pointless…

            …but considering how the show worked out, it’s somewhat interesting. We got 75% of a season showing up how SHIELD is *supposed* to work, how they’re just a cog in a machine…and then ripping the machine away.

            Likewise, in 2014, the show and the movies both ‘took down’ Hydra at the same time, or, rather, each cutting off a head.

            So, basically, what seems to happen easy year is that May is the turning point of the show, where some big event happens. In 2013, it was a huge change that entire rest of the season had to cope with, and in 2014, they *resolved* one problem in May and spent the rest of the season dealing with something else.

            This is actually…a pretty damn clever way to structure a TV season. It’s sorta the same way that TV shows are doing ‘shakeup’ episodes midseason. With AoS, it’s a shakeup episode about 6 from the end, and it feels organic.

            Civil War’s is at the end of this season, and I find myself wondering what exactly that is going to do to AoS. If the plot follows the comics, where the Civil War is about ‘registering’ people, it seems clear that SHIELD would find itself in the middle of all that, because that is literally what SHIELD used to do, although apparently in a much less objectionable manner than the Superhero Registration Act.(1) Considering the movie universe doesn’t seem to want to *acknowledge* that SHIELD still exists, maybe that’s what the ATCU is for…a shadowy government organization that the anti-registration side doesn’t trust.

            OTOH, the trailers seem to be making out the movie is something to with Bucky being arrested, which, uh, doesn’t really have to do with anything, unless maybe it’s the ATCU arresting him. But, then, trailers can lie.

            1) Whether or not someone should be in charge of knowing about, and monitoring, people with super powers is a good question, and I’m sorta sad they didn’t *really* get into it with the Inhumans at Afterlife. There was a two minute discussion with a woman, who was not operating in good faith, presenting the ‘No’ side of that, and that was all. It would have been cool to see someone honestly presenting the argument ‘Considering these people have existed in secret for thousands of years without anyone knowing they exist, clearly they can police themselves. Do we have a *right* to make them submit to our rules and get on our list, or could we just *liaison* with them and assume they know what they’re doing?’ (May, of course, has an interesting counterpoint to that.)Report

  6. Avatar Zane says:

    I have nothing insightful to say about binge-watching versus periodic/episodic watching. However, I’m finding Flash far less annoying than Arrow these days. I’m not entirely sure why. At first I attributed it to Arrow’s attachment to that damned island (“I don’t want to go back! Arrgh!”).

    But now I think it’s that the characters are written somewhat more consistently on Flash. Malcolm, Speedy, and Lance are so mercurial as to be nonsensical to me. (Why is Lance doing what he’s doing at any particular time? Who knows, because he wasn’t that person last season.) And characters like Joe, Barry, Cisco, and even Wells are far more likeable as well.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC says:

      I just binged through Jessica Jones..two episodes Weds, three Thurs, and then all the rest Friday because why the hell not?

      It was amazing. Jessica is probably the most realistically behaved ‘superhero’ I’ve ever seen. All the characters, in fact, are amazing. (Well, not annoying neighbor girl, but whatever.)

      I especially like the part where the problem is more ‘How do we prove this is actually happening?’ and ‘How do we stop it without loss of lives?’ vs. how comics usually work, where the good guy just beats someone up and turns them over to the police, and that *somehow* solves the problem.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I’m three eps in, and liking it pretty well so far. Occasionally the VO (“it’s ON”) is a little much, but still enjoying it.

        One thing that both DD and this are doing handily, is (re)proving that their origin story isn’t all you can do with a superhero.

        (I say “re”, since, well, BtVS is a superhero show in all but name, and they wasted next to NO time with origin, there).Report

        • Avatar DavidTC says:

          I’m not sure why you think Buffy was a superhero show in all but name…it was pretty explicitly an actual superhero show. Also, the first episode was sorta an origin story, or at least a *re*-origin story…we’re not quite sure exactly the origins of Buffy, but the ‘movie’ (Or whatever version the TV version experienced) events seemed to have been a one-off (The movie was a parody of a horror movie, and survivors don’t walk away from horror movies as ‘superheroes’ generally.), and she hadn’t actually *stepped up* as a superhero until the first episode of the series.

          Jessica Jones was sorta the same way. We know these were super-heroics in her past, and we know she won’t walk past people being hurt, but when she realized what was happening, she *almost* just…left. So that series was, in a way, her *re-origin* story.

          Perhaps your definition of superhero show is a bit off and you just mean *comic* superheros, which in my mind is an artificial distinction.

          Also, I’m a bit baffled as to why you don’t think DD *wasn’t* an origin story, because, uh, it was. It just wasn’t a ‘how he got superpowers’ story, but that’s a different story…the show was ‘the superhero origin story’, vs. just some random blind guy who has powers.

          Or, to put it another way…Luke Cage, when we meet him in JJ, is *not a superhero* yet. He has not had his origin story. Sure, he’s superstrong, and has unbreakable skin, but that doesn’t make him a superhero. Superhero origin stories aren’t ‘Why a guy has these powers’. Superhero origin stories are ‘Why this guy is a *superhero*.’, which, if he has superpowers, often involves that in some way, but it doesn’t have to.

          The reason that superhero TV shows have to tell the origins is that fighting crime as a vigilante is a *really odd* thing to be doing, so the shows sorta have to explain *why* someone would be doing such a thing. The problem arises because a) everyone knows the outcome, generally (Of course they’ll become a superhero, it’s a superhero show!), and b) half the time, the hero is so well-known everyone knows the origin by heart!

          JJ managed to avoid both those, probably because instead of hinting *forward* to her become a costumed superhero and how she can help people, they were able to hint *backwards* at it. And there’s no iconic ‘Jessica Jones’ outcome they have to get to…most people haven’t even heard of her, and those that have, know her as an *ex*-superhero already. And also because whatever she does about Kilgrave, it’s clearly not going to fix *her* psychological problems. (I mean, she thought he was dead already!) All she can *possibly* do is stop him from doing more harm.

          Like I said, JJ is probably the most realistic look on TV at how being a a superhero could screw someone up, and how a extremely moral superhero would end-up acting, if a bit time-compressed via her previous interaction with Kilgrave. (It would probably take *years* for someone to get that screwed up normally.)

          Especially towards the end, where she realizes that, frankly, she just needs to kill Kilgrave, period. It doesn’t matter how many hostages he has at any moment, she need to just kill him, because if she doesn’t, he will *casually* kill just as many people before she has her next chance. And that she has *twice* captured him and he’s gotten away, and there’s no way he can get through a trial. Thank you, JJ, for *actually addressing* the goddamn Joker immunity problem and snapping his fucking neck.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            If you ask most people to name superheroes, they will go with ones that originated in comic books. But Buffy’s pretty clearly a superhero, which is why I said “in all but name”

            And the reason origin stories are popular is because most superhero stories require (or at least tend towards) a “status quo reset button” – so their origin, is often the biggest change or arc the hero will face.

            But origin is boring, so why waste so much time on it? Hence BtVs just stating “In every generation….” – that is, it simply IS, now what?

            JJ is doing something similar, when Luke Cage and JJ one-word “explain” themselves via “accident” & “experiment”.Report

  7. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    I haven’t watched Arrow or Flash…yet. I probably will get around to it. Weirdly, I’m more interested in sidekicks, since I was a devoted reader of Teen Titans when it came out. (Issue 1, where did you go?). But that’s ok. Who doesn’t want to see an arrow with a boxing glove on the end of it?

    However, the Netflix seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones (I’m in the middle of that second) are fantastic. Made originally for Netflix, they avoid many of the issues you note. They are kind of grim and rough, too. The lovemaking in Jessica Jones, such as it is, cannot be described as “sweet, sweet love”, though it is quite, ahem, real. In contrast, Matt Murdock appears to be somewhat lacking in the “getting some” department.Report

  8. Avatar Kim says:

    I find, even when “binge watching” something (I have amazon prime too! no tv), I watch one episode, maybe two a night. It’s enough.

    Particularly when watching The Wire, or something complicated. It’s like a good stout red wine, something to be treasured.Report

  9. Avatar Iron Tum says:

    I’ve found that there are two kinds of shows that strongly benefit from not being binge-watched:

    1. Shows where the setting is bizarre/strange and part of the reason for watching and

    2. Shows with little/no exposition, or which the “real” plot is in the background.

    And example of 1) is Twin Peaks. I absolutely adored that show when it was on TV (I wore an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time) and later when I was in college someone threw a Twin Peaks marathon (with stacked donuts and cherry pie en suite). But watching all the episodes back to back normalized the experience of being in the town, it lost its strangeness without having the contrast of Real Life around it.

    As for 2) Neon Genesis Evangelion fits the bill there. If you only watch an episode or two a week, you have time to notice plot holes that turn out to not be actual plot holes which makes later reveals more impactful. Imagine watching The Sixth Sense at the rate of one scene/day. Would you figure out what was going on before the movie had time to make it explicit?Report