TV Shows I Broke Up With This Year

IT’S NOT YOU,

IT’S ME.

When it comes to television, I am actually very loyal. I stick it out; I hope for the best. I keep watching a show long after any initial disappointment because I remember what drew me to it in the first place. (Case in point: “The Killing.”) I am not one of those fickle viewers who chronically flip through channels, sated by any half-engaging show they find. For the most part, I watch TV only when a particular show is on, and I turn it off once that show is over. This is not to say that I am a sophisticated television viewer, or that I’m concerned with such an issue, or even that I see any real value in becoming dedicated to a show. (Actually, if “Arrested Development,” “Veronica Mars,” and “Pushing Daisies” have taught me anything, it’s probably just a recipe for heartbreak.) I simply want to acknowledge that that is how I watch TV, and that, as a result, it feels like a much bigger deal when I finally resolve to stop watching a program.

If I’m completely honest, I’ll admit that there aren’t that many shows that I get excited over anymore. My favorite shows right now are all sitcoms, I think, which seems wrong, somehow, as if I am barring myself from any vicarious emotional growth. I used to watch shows like “Friday Night Lights” and “Lost,” but they’ve been off the air for a little while now. My once favorite genre, the dramedy, appears to have died sometime in the mid-aughts. I’m practically starved for hour-long programs when only a few years ago this was the format for most of my preferred shows. In short, I don’t think this is necessarily a great time to be watching TV, but there are still many great TV shows currently on the air.

(I should point out that I am mostly focusing on the major networks: CBS, FOX, ABC, and NBC. There are a lot of great shows, no doubt, on channels like HBO and Showtime, but I’m not a subscriber. I’m also a fan of AMC shows like “Mad Men” and “The Walking Dead,” but I’m still catching up on Netflix. And I think that, sadly, ABC Family is not pertinent to this discussion.)

I tried to get into a lot of new shows this year, to maintain my relationship with others, and to try out some shows that have been on for a while but which I had never seen. Inevitably, however, I ended up dropping some of the shows that I had hoped would become or remain staples of my weekly viewing schedule. This is their story.

It seems blasphemous, but this was the year I gave up “Modern Family” once and for all. I had stuck around for a little while out of my fondness for Manny, Sofia Vergara’s boobs, and silent baby Lily, but this season I found I just didn’t care anymore. The characters I had liked before either weren’t that likable anymore or had just gotten stale (and Lily was a different Lily—and she spoke!). The antics felt like tired retreads that only highlighted how closely the show adheres to a formula. I realized that while I may still get a laugh out of “Modern Family,” I no longer enjoy it. I don’t enjoy how it pretends to subvert the traditional sitcom while actually being a very traditional sitcom. I don’t like how everything feels like a tidy lesson about family and togetherness. Maybe I’m just frustrated because “Modern Family” seems to get all the accolades while there are plenty of other comedies out there that are, I would argue, much funnier and much more inventive. I don’t know—but I do know that I no longer feel any pull toward this show. When I miss an episode, simply put, I don’t feel that I actually miss it.

Perhaps even more blasphemous is how I am now treating “How I Met Your Mother,” a show I not only watched regularly for several years, but which I also championed to friends and family. Once upon a time, “How I Met Your Mother” was my go-to example for a sitcom that was both accessible and smart. Although it adhered to many common sitcom tropes, it also turned them on their heads; it manipulated time and expectations in a way that privileged storytelling over mere jokes. I liked “How I Met Your Mother” both for its characters and its ability to consistently surprise me. Perhaps that is the very reason why I now feel so over it. To put it bluntly, the show is past its prime. I’m not necessarily suggesting that it can no longer deliver the laughs, drama, or tender moments, but I am positing that the fundamental premise no longer works. The framing device of Ted telling his children the story of how he met their mother is now laughable: to stretch the series over as many seasons as it has had, this has necessitated numerous red herrings, tangents and false starts. The characters, as a result, are equally stretched thin; though they grow, it is at a snail’s pace, their development too wrapped up in the show’s own fate. The longer the show goes on, the less of its original charm it retains. At this point, I just wish Ted would get to the point already; since I know he probably won’t, I’ve decided to stop waiting around for him.

Of all of the shows I stopped watching, “Up All Night” is the one with which I have the least history, by virtue of its premiering only this year. Despite this fact, it took me a while to admit that I just don’t like it very much. There’s nothing actually wrong with the show, and quite a lot to like, to be fair. It’s one of the few shows that can pull off having a baby as a central character (though not as well as “Raising Hope”). Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph are great, and I’ve long loved Will Arnett. Part of the problem might be that I just can’t relate to the central experience, that of having a baby—but I think that’s ultimately a cop-out. I have trouble pinpointing the problem, but I think it might have something to do with main characters who are  just a little too bland as a pair. Applegate’s Reagan and Arnett’s Chris approximate people you actually know, and as a result aren’t that interesting. Of course, maybe the problem is that I’m secretly hoping for Arnett’s inner Gob Bluth to break free—less diaper-changing, more chicken-clapping. Whatever the reason, “Up All Night,” despite its title, is more likely to put me to sleep.

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1 Comment

  1. I am the same way with television.

    Reply

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