Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I thought the Sopranos finale was just fine. I didn't like the first half of this last season that ran in the winter of 2006, but these last 10 episodes were solid like the early days. I think people are disappointed with finale episodes because they want to think that they invested all that time for some important season that will eventually be revealed. But TV isn't about resolution. It's like the old movie serials with better production values. They tell novel writers or screenwriters that you have to know your ending up front. No one ever suggests that to a TV writer.

We were discussing the Sopranos at work and I mentioned that finale episodes are still somewhat rare. The old David Jansen FUGITIVE was probably the first event finale. Mary Tyler Moore did one. MASH was the first one I watched at the time. One of the guys said that the MASH finale sucked and another guy agreed. The last 5 years of MASH sucked really. The show went south after Trapper left and Alan Alda took over as producer and comedy was replaced by too many poignant episodes. But the finale was about as good as you could expect. The war ended. There were some ridiculous subplots but the ending was true to the pathetic mess the show had become.

Seinfeld took a lot of criticism too for its ending. Did they want to see Jerry and Elaine get married? George and Elaine? The show was about nothing and except for that George/Susan engagement it had few running story lines. Why not put them in jail. The idea of them sitting there talking about nonsense for a year seems about right.

I all but stopped watching episodic TV as a regular thing after the first season of NYPD Blue. John got me onto it and I still remember it fondly. By the second season, Caruso was gone, the show became about Dennis Franz and his drinking problem and it just got easier to ignore. I have no patience for commercial breaks and I hate waiting until the next week to find out what happens. And how do you start watching anything new? Early episdoes are usually tough because it's either all exposition that wears it down or too little exposition to get an idea of what its about. If you start watching the show 6 or 7 episodes in, you feel like you missed something.

I remember reading good things about the Sopranos before it debuted and even sat down and watched the first episode the week it aired. I grew bored with characters I didn't know and got up and did something else. I finally saw Season 1 four years later courtesy of Netflix. It was perfect. I could watch as many episodes as I liked one after the other. After that we started renting THE SHIELD, DEADWOOD, THE OFFICE and SEX AND THE CITY. I found that I liked TV much better like that.

I still haven't seen an episode of 24, but we're going to tackle it after we finish BAND OF BROTHERS (refresher for me, new to Trish). It's almost like I don't want to watch anything from the middle anymore. If it's good we'll see it later on DVD otherwise forget it. I'm not about to start watching HEROES or LOST until there is a consensus as to whether they're worth it for a couple of seasons.

For some crazy reason Netflix suggested FELICITY based on my renting of TV shows. It didn't read like something that I would like. Smart quiet girl goes chasing the popular boy from her high school across country even though he hardly knows her name. Still I have learned that nearly any subject matter is worth watching or reading if the topic is handled well enough. I groaned when Trish wanted to rent SEX AND THE CITY and then after 4 or 5 episodes the style and wit grew on me. My favorite example of enjoying something despite the subject matter is the book REMAINS OF THE DAY. The story of a WWII era butler and his efforts to be the best servant possible doesn't seem like much, but it is a remarkable book and movie. FELICITY though was what I expected, typical TV fare geared towards teenage girls. Maybe SEX AND THE CITY skewed my cyber tastes according to Netflix.

What have you all been watching the last few years?


Dude said...

The early pre-child married years for me are memorable for the Thursday nights when we routinely ordered pizza and watched "must-see TV" on NBC. Friends was new and fresh in its first season. I hated when they started inbreeding but Ross/Rachel became a cultural touchstone so I powered through it. I watched every episode for a few years but grew tired of it once Ross/Rachel morphed into Chandler/Monica.

We watched Seinfeld all the way to the bitter end but once that magnet show was gone, there was little reason for me to keep watching TV with the same fervor. I watched ER for many years but ultimately grew bored with it as well. Marci kept watching a few more years and now she seems bored with it as well. Frasier is one of the all-time great shows and I saw nearly every episode. That is one show whose quality never suffered over time and it lasted awhile.

The only shows I watch currently are Scrubs and Desperate Housewives. I am very reluctant to take on new shows but Scrubs captured me right away. I missed a couple of seasons during its run but once I got Tivo, I picked it back up going forward. I stubbornly sat out the first season of Housewives but after half-watching a couple of episodes towards the end of season one, I knew that I would be making it date-night watching in season two. The second season was fantastic, a very creative and entertaining show. It's not as great now that it is a pop culture cornerstone but it is still worth watching.

I guess I also watch 30 Rock. It was weak at first but they hit their stride and put out some good shows after the first half-dozen. I have watched the first five seasons of The Sopranos on DVD and just ordered the first episodes of season six, so I'm a couple years behind on that one. Once I finish that, I imagine I'll start in on 24 which I've never seen. I also want to give Firefly a try as it is an acknowledged cult classic. Everything else I watch is poker, baseball, history and science.

Tom said...

I too picked up Housewives through Trish but haven't seen an episode since March when the Sopranos returned. They're all on Tivo but I haven't had the fire to get to them. That's the only thing that we have in store that we could go to.

I was never a "Must See TV" guy. Trish lived by it like everyone else. I'll watch Seinfeld if I'm flipping around but I never knew enough about it at the time to make water cooler talk. She still references episodes and I'm lost almost every time. It's like me trying to talk about classic movie scenes with her.

I agree on Frasier, which was superior and really overshadowed by Seinfeld. I saw a lot of season one and then drifted away. I was on a plane during the last season or two of the show and they were playing a current episode. I was impressed that it was still funny and worthwhile. It hadn't become Friends just hanging on due to ratings. It's tricky to play the same character for so long and still seem like a real person.

I forgot that I did watch two episodes of HOUSE sometime in the early winter and that was pretty clever although the show centers on the genius HOUSE and weird ailments that only he can detect. I could see myself getting a couple of DVDs of that and trying it out for a season although I might grow tired of 2 dozen diseases that only he has heard of.

E said...

I watch Phillies games and Seinfeld reruns. What is remarkable about Seinfeld is how bad it was the first year or two. I jumped off as a regular the last couple of seasons but did tune in to watch the finale which was for me possibly the lamest episode since the early shows, but I see now that really it was a thank you to the viewers and all the characters that make the show so memorable. Still lame though.

I watched the first two seasons of 24 on DVD a few months back and really enjoyed the show although it does stretch credulity quite a bit (how do you recruit that many bad guys and keep them quiet and underground?) and sometimes characters and plot lines just disppear and never return.

The only other show I watched regularly in recent years was Everybody Loves Raymond which, like most of the long-running shows, got better and better and then worse and then lost me.

I sometimes watch The Bachelor, which is horrible but my wife is on the couch watching it and I like my wife. This past season, the bachelor (Andy the navy doctor) was from here, which added some color. I watched the first episode, listed my top 5, and nailed 3 of the final 4 and the winner. Which is what makes the show so unwatchable - as a man, I can guess based on appearance, age, and occupation which girls he is going to find attractive and which ones don't have a chance. Then 10 weeks of creative editing to try to make you believe your first impressions were wrong, which they weren't.

Last night in a hotel in Dallas, I scanned the 30 channels and then watched a replay of an NFC playoff game from 3 or 4 years ago. I preferred that to most any sitcom or drama the networks have turned out in the past decade.

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