This week’s Daily Grindhouse Braintrust question looks beyond our normal cinematic spectrum into the land of television, a medium in which genre works have been prospering recently, with notable serials like “The Walking Dead,” “Under the Dome,” “The Strain,” “Hannibal,” “Bates Motel” and “American Horror Story” collecting fan followings and plenty of spirited debate. (Also, “Hemlock Grove,” which some brave viewers have endured more than two episodes of!)
What attracts you to a new series, how long do you normally give a TV series before you give up on it, and what makes you “cut the cord?” Is there anything recently that you’ve given up on, or are currently on the fence about?
Craig Edwards: Actors, plot draw me in. I’ll give a show a season usually. I’ll leave if it starts floundering or does stupid and illogical things. Currently on the fence about “Under the Dome.” Still DVRing it but not sure if I’m going to watch any more.
Doug Tilley (Twitter): I honestly very rarely give up on any series I start, simply because I don’t even start a series unless I have a fairly strong sense that it would be something I would like. One of the nice things about the barrage of television choices is that I can afford to be choosy.. though it also means that I tend to wait until a season (or two, or three) is in the can before I get on-board with a program. There are very few shows that I follow on a weekly basis, and the ones that I *do* follow are usually ones that I initially watched a season or two on Netflix or Hulu. Even a series that doesn’t initially hook me, I tend to stick with as long as it has strong word-of-mouth. The only series that I’m really considering “dropping” – and even then just because the week-to-week viewing can be so irritating – is “The Walking Dead,” since it’s a show I tend to hate-watch rather than actually enjoy.
Paul Freitag-Fey (Twitter): I’ll give anything at least the pilot, and while I know certain shows manage to become much better than their first episode, I think I can judge if the show has something unique enough about it worth following. I try not to hate-watch, but honestly, it’s kind of how I’m still watching “True Blood,” which is such a mishmash of good and terrible in ever-varying quantities that being able to gleefully complain about the terrible makes the whole thing more bearable. (If it was all terrible, I wouldn’t bother.) After being relatively unimpressed by the pilot, I gave up on “The Strain,” though I’ve still got a couple of episodes waiting for me to watch — whether or not I get to them will be entirely dependent on my boredom. “Under the Dome” I gave up on after I realized it was supposed to be a continuing series — I was wavering about 6 episodes in, but figured if they had an ending in mind, it’d be worth sticking out. Once I found out they didn’t, I decided the time spent wasn’t really worth it.
Chris Domico (Twitter): I almost never give up on a series, which is why I’m still completely current on Degrassi.
Mike McGranaghan (Twitter): For me, the actors and the concept have about equal weight. But both things have to be present or I won’t bother. I really don’t watch a whole lot of TV because, as a film critic, I’m always watching movies. So for me to make the commitment to a series, it’s got to be something that appeals to me on multiple counts. I make up my mind quickly, too. If I’m not hooked three episodes in, it’s probably not worth my time. The last show I tried and gave up on was “The Crazy Ones.” I was initially excited about the late, great Robin Williams returning to TV. By halfway through the third episode, I realized that I hadn’t laughed once, and that was the end of that. On the other hand, sometimes I sense a show is going to find its rhythm after a shaky start, so I’ll stick with it to see if I’m right. For example, I was attracted to the “The Mindy Project” because of the hilarious Mindy Kaling. Season one was okay, but got stronger as it went along. The second season was much surer of itself. It really turned into a fine sitcom. And yes, I’ll admit right here in Daily Grindhouse that I watch “The Mindy Project.” Because, when you get right down to it, that’s totally gangsta.
Paul Freitag-Fey: Hey, I’m still watching “Survivor,” so I’m not going to judge.
Matt Wedge (Twitter): So much of my time is spent watching movies, writing, and forcing myself not to be a complete hermit, I don’t have much time left for an ongoing show. When I do watch something, it’s usually either after it’s ended and I catch up to it on DVD or Netflix. While it becomes difficult to avoid spoilers, this way of watching does allow me to gauge the cultural temperature of how much quality a show maintained. For example, if I had been sucked into “Dexter” or “True Blood” while the seasons were airing, I would be one of those people who just kept watching the later seasons out of habit and spite, but knowing that even the most devoted fans of each series’ early seasons absolutely hate the later seasons (and in the case of “Dexter,” the ending), saved me from wasting a lot of my time. The occasional show has broken through and forced me to watch it in real time. “Breaking Bad” was the last series I watched beginning to end as it aired and I was so relieved that it maintained a high level of quality throughout and stuck the landing. At the moment, I only keep up with “Hannibal” and “The Venture Bros.” because both are so good they demand my immediate attention. But even this feels like only a partial commitment on my part because the seasons for both shows are shorter than most longer-running shows.
Paul Freitag-Fey: I will say that, to go with what Mike said, the acting can sometimes compensate for storytelling that’s not as good. I’m still interested in “Bates Motel,” for example, but that’s less to do with what will happen to the characters or plot lines and more to do with really being wowed by the performances of Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore. The relationship between those two is fascinating enough to make the unremarkable subplots worthwhile.
Andrew Allan: For me, once a show gets any kind of big hype behind it, I immediately shelve it for years. Don’t know why. But, it always happens. Last show I tried to watch was “Arrow,” being a fan of the comic book. It lost me after one and a half episodes. Had high hopes, but nothing grabbed me.
Ryan Carey (Twitter): I give up on a show after one episode if it’s no good. I hear people say all the time “well, you can’t judge a show by the pilot” — why the hell not? If the first episode is no good, why on earth should I stick around for more?
Freeman Williams (Twitter): This is a subject I finally feel qualified to talk about, because I have a hard drive full of unwatched TV series. I find what sucks me in is a good central mystery, which means I should be all over “Under the Dome,” but like Paul, the lack of an end game – and numerous internal consistencies – killed it for me. This is likely why “Lost” was the last series I watched religiously and still have warm feelings about – though I love mysteries, I often find the solution a letdown, and there were a lot of mysteries left unsolved there. I was surprisingly okay with that. Drove my OCD friends nuts, though.
Give me a good over-arcing storyline and I will likely buy in, no matter the cast, but I’m still going to enjoy good acting over familiar faces. “True Detective” got me involved because of the Robert W. Chambers thread running through it, but Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson’s performances kept me with it long after I got fed up with the soap opera subplots.
Jon Abrams (Twitter): It’s incredibly rare I see a series all the way through, and it’s incredibly common that I’ll watch a first episode or a few or even a single season and then abruptly walk away, often for no apparent reason. The shows I’ve seen in their entirety are “The Shield,” “The Sopranos,” “Breaking Bad,” “Lost,” “Luck,” “Terriers,” “Eastbound & Down,” “Chappelle’s Show,” and “Animal Face-Off.” That sounds like a whole lot to me, but to everybody else I know, even the laypeople, it really isn’t. Most people I know, these days, power through entire series as a matter of habit. “Rescue Me” was one of my favorite shows ever and still I abandoned that one before the last season. I think I even missed a couple episodes of Season Five of “The Wire,” which I think is a capital offense in some social circles. Lately, whether it’s a matter of limited time or distraction or my own God-given wandering nature, I’ve started two handfuls of series – “Game Of Thrones,” “True Detective,” “House Of Cards,” “Veep,” “The Walking Dead,” “Under The Dome,” “The Strain,” “Tyrant,” and “Orange Is The New Black” — without finishing any of them. I couldn’t for the life of me explain why, except on the matter of “The Walking Dead,” which for now I’ll be a gentleman about.
Maybe I just prefer the self-contained element of movies. Maybe giving my energy to an entire TV series is too fraught with risk and disappointment for me to take a chance on. Maybe I can’t be in it for the long-term. Maybe I’m not the romantic I thought I was. Maybe I’m just a one-night-stand kind of guy. Hell, this topic really crystallizes my commitment issues. Looks like that therapy budget can go straight to Netflix now.
What lures you in to a new series? What makes you give up on it? Let us know on Facebook or in the comments below!
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