Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Best and Worst: Television Shows

Olmec, from the glory days
I will preface this post by saying that I am far from being an avid watcher of television shows. Not since the glory days of elementary and middle school - the glory days of Reboot, DBZ, Legends of the Hidden Temple, etc - have I sat and watched television for more than a couple of hours per week. Nowadays I usually only turn on the TV for news and sports. This past summer, however, I happened to be in possession of a significant amount of free time which at first I was helplessly unsure of what to do with. Then, of course, it occurred to me: what better way to burn through free time at an alarming rate than to sit and watch TV shows? And that is exactly what I did - The Office, The Sopranos, House, The Wire, and even Jersey Shore received fair amounts of my attention. I want to particularly share my views on the latter two, because they, in my very humble opinion (as mentioned, I am in no way a television aficionado), are quite representative of today's Best and Worst of what is available on the telly.

Here is where I throw you a curve ball: I highly recommend that you watch both The Wire and Jersey Shore, given that you can afford the time, despite knowing with fair certainty that watching an entire season of the latter will fry your brain. Wait, what? A good friend, or even a stranger from the internet, would not wholeheartedly recommend something that they know to be hazardous to your health, would they? Unless they were a devious bastard. Well, I'm here to tell you that I am not a devious bastard, and that in fact you should watch Jersey Shore, not because it is good TV, but for reasons that I cannot quite express. Maybe because it is representative of many things that are wrong with society and we can use it as a learning tool. Maybe it is so horrendously bad that it circularly wraps around to becoming awesomely good. Or perhaps it's just freaking hilarious to watch. Okay, I'm going to go with the last one.

Mike "The Situation", quintessential Guido
Might as well start with the bad. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a show that is worse, in any reasonable metric, than MTV's Jersey Shore. But as I've suggested, that is possibly part of what makes it, like a train wreck, so hard to turn away from. It is a "reality" TV show - we are expected to glean entertainment from watching the relatively day-to-day lives of the eight members of the Shore House. Doesn't sound exciting? Well, if you were to cut a cross-section of America and randomly select eight people to do this sort of thing, you would indeed probably end up with a pretty boring and uneventful show. These eight, however, are proud, flag-bearing members of the "Guido" subculture (pronounced 'Gwee-doh'). The term was originally used to demean lower-class Italian Americans. Nowadays it is popularly used to describe members of the flourishing subculture that exists in Jersey as well as elsewhere, who: are usually of Italian descent, use steroids to get jacked, stay perpetually orange with spray-on tans, "fist-pump" to house music, and spend a little too much time on their hair. I've just described a male Guido; the female counterparts call themselves "Guidettes" - they are the ones, I suppose, who find these qualities in a male attractive.

Now that I've introduced you to the (somewhat ridiculous) terminology, perhaps you might now be able to see how such a show can be successfully entertaining. Quite simply, the first-time viewer is usually completely incredulous as they watch the Jersey Shore cast go about their lives. Mike "The Situation" popularized the term "GTL" - Gym Tan Laundry - that describes the daily routine that you must follow in order to stay fresh. Remember: "If your shirt looks bad it makes the whole product look bad." Hmm...right. I'm not really sure if any of the cast is college-educated, or what they will do with their lives once they outgrow their Guido phases and realize that there is more to life than GTL, fist-pumping and creating unnecessary drama. Existential crises? I suppose only time will tell.

Your knee-jerk reaction to the show may very well be to immediately stop watching before irreparable harm is done to your brain. You might ask, do these sorts of people actually exist? Well, yes, amazingly. Is the show a self-parody? Is the cast "in on the joke"? Yes, it's obvious that the show is doing the most to capitalize on the ridiculous aspects of the subculture, and the members of the cast probably do try to play-up the Guido stereotypes when they can. But it is also a matter of fact that these are real people, that Guidos are a real phenomenon, and that all of this can be really hilarious. Certainly it is bad television that has no redeeming qualities and plenty of mind-numbing effects, but honestly, where are you going to find better entertainment?

YEEEEAAAHHHHH
Phew, now on with the good. The Wire is a show that premiered in 2002 but is surprisingly unknown to most. It is a crime-based drama centered on the city of Baltimore, but try not to think CSI or even Law and Order. In contrast, The Wire is (almost) uncompromisingly realistic and un-formulaic. Pfft, reality? Real life is boring, you might say. Who wants real life when you can have impressively unrealistic crime labs, stunningly unnecessary CGI scenes, and a guy (*cough* David Caruso *cough*) who, at the exact moment before the opening credits, removes his shades and makes a remarkably cheesy pun? Well, contrary to what you might expect, realistic drama can be just as interesting and exciting as the aforementioned fantasies, especially if it is as multifaceted as The Wire - the show explores the lives of drug dealers, corrupt union leaders and politicians, homicide detectives and government bureaucrats, all with equal attention and little or no bias.

An example of good television
Unlike current popular TV shows of similar genre, most things that happen in The Wire are plausible events. Rarely do I find myself having to suspend my disbelief while watching, whereas with others such suspension of disbelief is simply an expected precondition of the viewer. It is a widely-encompassing exploration of the Baltimore drug scene that is, by television standards, actually somewhat educational in nature. I didn't expect it, but I find that I became more knowledgeable about the subject matter while watching The Wire. Though House provides plenty of entertaining drama and character development, it's reasonable to say that you probably won't learn much about medical science by watching it. In comparison, you probably will learn a thing or two about detective work and drug dealers from The Wire in addition to being entertained by the drama and the characters (I'm not at all bashing House, just trying to make a point). Some might not have the patience to sit through a show as realistic and devoid of instant gratification - for those people, there are plenty of shows that shun reality, some of which I've already mentioned. But for the others, I believe that watching The Wire can be quite a satisfying and entertaining experience.

An example of a badass
Well, there you have it. Two shows from opposite sides of the spectrum, both of which I believe are worth watching. Certainly there are probably shows that are "worse" than Jersey Shore, and ones that are "better" than The Wire, but these are the ones that have left indelible impressions in my limited experience. I do not believe that all such bad shows should be removed entirely, nor should all similarly good shows dominate television. Both have their place, and both can be very entertaining. Feel free to comment!


77 comments:

  1. I'll be honest: I didn't watch a single of "popular" series in last few years. No House, no Lost, no anything. I think it's kinda bad, but I don't care. I don't have time for this. :(

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  2. Legends of the Hidden Temple is the single greatest show to ever be on television and nothing will ever come close to topping it.

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  3. PapaJ said it best. I back that statement 100%.

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  4. Legends of Hidden Temple...... so many memories

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  5. Man, this is actually a really cool post. Diggin the content. Anyway, I'd definitely watch more shows but I don't even own a TV. Closest I get is stuff on Hulu or Netflix Instant so I can watch while I do other stuff. Maybe I'll have to check out the popular stuff sometime.

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  6. to be honest, this season of house is disappointing. why is house a pussy all of a sudden? that was the entire show...

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  7. man, i watched that show, it was awesome

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  8. Totally agree with you lol. House is awesome (except for the new series)

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  9. House, True Blood & Supernatural all the way!

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  10. "An example of a badass" hahaa I love the way that you have post it !!!

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  11. Please keep blogging. This was a very interesting take!

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  12. Can't argue with your rating for the Jersey Shore. I watched half of one episode and I swear to god my brain cells were dying while I saw snooki parading around like a chubby girl looking for some men to sit on.

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  13. Wait a minute... Legend of the hidden temple.. That sounds familiar... Somewhere back like 10 years ago.. cannot...remember..too...traumatic!

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  14. I optimistically believe that people watch The Jersey Shore with an elitist mentality, i.e. "I'm nothing like these imbeciles." I pessimistically understand that this might genuinely be entertaining drama to some people, however.

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  15. Well written and put together post. this is the kind of posts that keep a bit of faith in humanity left in my head.

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  16. Heroes, Supernatural, Dexter. 3 Best shows on TV

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  17. Dexter House and Weeds are my top three I would think. Though I dont think I am too fond of this Cuddy relationship thing....uhg

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  18. Ah, great summary. I can't watch TV anymore though, the commercials eat away at me too quickly and I have to find something else to do.

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  19. didnt know too much about the wire, might have to check it out now

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  20. If Jersey Shore or New Jersey itself for that matter just disappeared, I wonder if we'd ever hear about it on the news?

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  21. I still would'nt watch jersey shore.

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  22. That just totally change my piont of view...

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  23. Thanks for the post, saves time having to watch som eof this crap on t.v. :p

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  24. Unfortunately I don't watch t.v. that often, but cool post!

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  25. I agree, except for house I hate that show!

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  26. Not too high on house but everyone else seams to like it, so yeah

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  27. my favorites are breaking bad and dexter

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  28. I like this blog. I'll check back tomorrow for a new update :)

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  29. Jersey Shore is awful, wouldn't touch that shit. I just feel the "its so bad its good" mentality has gone too far, and people actually try to emulate these freaks now. But The Wire sounds cool. Thanks

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  30. I fucking love days of our lives but I think Friends has to be one of the best shows on cable television of all time!

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  31. Way to break it down. Very well written and informative.

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  32. I read through your whole post, and I decided to watch The Wire, as I'm a fan of realistic scenarios and characters.

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  33. i was going to say your tastes suck til i saw you like house.

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  34. Thanks for the insightful comments on my last blog post!

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  35. Some pretty cool shows here.

    I like your blog, so I'm going to follow.

    Thanks!

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  36. I stopped watching conventional tv years ago, its nice that there are so many alternatives on the internet so that i can skip right through all the bs

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  37. If you want to watch a great tv series then look at breaking bad, a completely underrated and mesmerical show.

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  38. Excellent post! Thank God for House haha!

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  39. Personally, I think Jersey Shore is horrible

    But good post!

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  40. My friend showed me Jersey shore, and i spent the whole fourty minutes just laughing hysterically. But yes...its terrible.

    Excellent stuff, keep postin!

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  41. LotHT was the best show ever probably!

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  42. I WENT ON LEGENDS OF THE HIDDEN TEMPLE WHEN I WAS LITTLE!!!!!!!! blue blue blue blue blue!!!

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  43. Jersey shore, is gay.
    house however, is freaking AWESOME!

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  44. I love Legends of the Hidden Temple!

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  45. Dude this is an amazing post keep it up!!! So following for this!

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  46. I watched most of these series, amazing loved em!

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  47. my favorite show is trailer park boys!!

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  48. House is good.
    I recommend the shows Underbelly and Outrageous Fortune.

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  49. i haet jersey shore, heres some you need to checkout if you havent' already: dexter, breaking bad, Lost, the sapranos just to name a few..

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  50. @Apó

    I know I know, I've been so busy lately. I'll try to have one out over the weekend!

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  51. So true, watching Jersey Shore is like a trainwreck that you can't help but watch. The first time I watched it was a few weeks ago when I was bored and decided to watch some TV and was hypnotized by it when I passed by MTV as I was channel surfing.

    I haven't ever watched The Wire, but you seem to give it a high recommendation so I might check it out.

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  52. Only recent thing I've seen is House M.D., and that is because I heard it was gold. And lo', so it was.

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  53. http://www.doobybrain.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/papercraft.jpg

    There you go mate, your very own ceiling cat. It's very simple to do and you really can't do it wrong :D I've been thinking about making an army of these and making some sort of weight at the bottom (Magnet??) And throw them to a high ceiling hah.

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  54. very interesting, cant wait for more :D

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  55. Nice update, waiting for more! :]

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  56. Nostalgiad hard at Olmec. House is pretty awesome, but i havent seen the wire

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  57. I love House :) Just sharing daily love ;p

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  58. As someone who lived and studied New Jerseyites for four years I can tell you that those guidos are all over the place in Jersey. They seem to know someone in the mob, too. It's funy whatching two guidos get into an argument and both "happen" to be mob connected.

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