Monday, July 8, 2013


I finally finished watching "Weeds" this week on DVD, the season finale was last year, and it finished after eight seasons. It's certainly a great show, and a popular one, but the last few years, I must admit that I wasn't looking forward to having it jump up to the top of my Netflix when the newest DVDs came out. There were times that the show just wasn't as good as it hypothetically could've been these past few years, and it did kinda sort of decide to consciously take, some very strange directions in the series. It never really was a smooth-running show per se, but it started with one concept, and suddenly the writing crew seemed to get bored to easily, with the basic idea of the suburban single mom pot dealer, which at the time the show started, played off the popular themes of breaking down the image of suburbia made famous with films like "American Beauty", and TV shows like "Desperate Housewives", and eventually the show would move on to completely other avenues, including changing locations multiple times and severely altering the family dynamic. Beloved characters from early seasons, were simply dropped and forgotten. Come to think of it, they did it in the opening episode, with the character of Quinn, Celia's daughter, who seemed to have dozens, if not hundreds of possibilities regarding things she could've done, and instead, her character was whisked away to a boarding school, only to show up, very briefly a few years later. It was a remarkably odd combination of such groundbreaking comedy mixed with the seemingly ADD-like forgetfulness of deconstructionist storytelling. That might've been part of the charm of the show for some, but I had a tendency to find it quite frustrating, what aspects the show sometimes chose to focus on, and what it suddenly chose not to.

So while I was always happy to see the show, I eventually found it underwhelming after it's initial beginning, although that by no means,  indicates that one should avoid a show, simply because it jumped the shark, especially a show like this, that not only had the ability and quality of writing to rebound from a bad moment, but was so over-the-top and different from anything else on TV, that even it's so-called weaker episodes or seasons were far better than the rest of television. I guess I could go into more details about the show, in it's analysis, the wonderful acting, and always invented use of guest stars, the wildness of the characters, or even some of the great scenes particularly from the last season, like how sad it was that Nancy and Andy's inevitable love scene, after nearly eight years of Nancy completely ignoring Andy, was a scene of "sex as goodbye", as Andy, the ever -helper freeloader, finally moved on with his life and obsession about Nancy, for good, or discuss the constant fast-forwards or other storytelling issues I had with the show, but you know, to a certain extent, it's such a good show that I really don't want to find myself judging or criticizing it's flaws as much as I prefer to celebrate it's greatness and how different it was.

It's too easy nowadays to simply over-analyze TV shows nowadays, especially on the internet, where even the most respectable of critics, have begun devoting entire columns, blogs, even critic-based webseries to review every episode of certain series. (Seriously, "What the Flick?!", why all these damn Youtube episodes reviewing each new "Game of Thrones" and "Mad Men"? Any short list of the most respected film critics around includes you guys; I mean- nevermind, it frustrates me.) You see, while there's plenty of shows I watch on a regular basis, I rarely write about those television shows unless the show's off the air, or has been on long enough to really be established. I actually have big problems with television critics in general. You might find that surprising, but A. more often than with film critics, most of their tastes I think is dreadful; generally I find that TV critics are more often wrong than films critics. Of course, there's numerous exceptions, but that said, I've always wondered the reason for that, and the main issue I have with TV critics, is that, they have a choice in what to write about. Now, I'm sure somebody's gonna point out to me, that TV critics are often given multiple episodes of shows in advance and whatnot, but it's still usually only a few episode of a series, and even if TV critics had the ability to actually watch every single new episode of every single show on TV, even on a given day, much less a week or month or year,  it still doesn't take into considering that TV Criticism, is still essentially a choice-based criticism forum. Let me compare it to film criticism for a second, at least in terms of a professional level, film critics don't have any particular say as to what they watch, and henceforth what they review. I don't get paid to write my film reviews, so I do have a choice, and I take full advantage of that choice, by trying only to watch, the most important and essential-to-watch films (Admittedly, I don't always succeed, but I always try to) but I would rather not do that, if I'm being frank. My preference would be to do what most film critics have to do, and simply watch and review everything that comes to their town, whether it's something of cultural or cinematic importance or not, and they have to write on it. The only real exceptions to these are when studios don't give a preview showing to film critics, which 99% of the time, is a bad sign to begin with. But with television, while I believe their is more of an immediate need to watch TV than films, even if you are a critic, you're still going to lean towards the things one likes. Personally, I believe people shouldn't be given that choice, and only watch what's good, but clearly with hundreds of cable channels, that's not gonna happen anytime soon, but from a TV critic's standpoint, you're still fairly selective in what you watch. You're gonna discuss the shows that you watch more often then the shows you don't usually. It happens to me all the time, discussing "Parks and Recreation" and "The Office" and whatnot more often here, than, I do, insert whatever show I miss. This is also apart of the nature of TV currently, where you hear good reviews of a TV show, that essentially, with the way too many of them are structure nowadays, where if you miss an episode, especially the first episode of a series, you essentially shouldn't even bother until you watch the DVDs because you'll be lost, without context, which is why I believe my theory of not to bother analyzing most shows until they've ended, when we can take a true look back at a TV series. I mean, to bring it back to the few episodes of a show that TV critics are given of a few episodes to preview of new series, so basically they see, a pilot and maybe a couple other episodes of a show, that's still in it's infancy, and still being shaped, the tone and patterns of a successful TV series, are rarely completely formed by the first few episodes, or even a first season or two, ("Night Court", is my favorite example of this, it took 3 or 4 seasons and multiple cast changes before it finally found its rhythm) and they're writing reviews on an entire series based on that small sample. (The only thing worse is that small a sample being the determining factor into whether a network keeps a show on the air, which it often is.) Of course there's exceptions; there are plenty of shows where you can tell right away are never gonna be any good from a first episode and vice versa, and that recent blogathon on the TV pilots that's going around, but still most of the time, TV critics are limited in what they're watching for certain shows, and then, on the other hand, they're overly-watching too many other shows, which let's face it, too many are reviewing what they like, over what is good. I don't blame them for this, the nature of a television and a TV series itself, is not conducive to the proper criticism on a week-to-week, episode-to-episode basis, which is why I find it so tedious to even bother reviewing television in such a detailed manner, most of the time.

As to "Weeds" (as well as other shows), I guess there's a purpose to now, go back and take a look back, and really give a complete critique of it, and I did that to some extent; I could do more, but I imagine there are others who probably already have. I don't know, I still feel this frustration, not only with television itself, being so serialized and detailed that there's some legitimacy to this notion of reviewing episode-by-episode of certain series. Of course, I complain about that all the time, and then never watch the shows that aren't that and are more episodic, so, who knows. Maybe I just want better TV shows. Or at least better TV critics and criticism, or an attempt to look at TV shows outside of their own little bubble of television. Outside of my own bubble as well come to think of it. I don't find this overall perspective on television and television criticism to be incredibly lacking, and as much television, good and bad, across all genres and even ways it can be viewed now, the narrowness of the criticism from, even from the highest levels of respectability is very bothersome, and I don't know if there's a truly a way to change that, since there's no way a TV critic can watch all of television at once, nor can they be so continuous detailed and obsessed with the few shows or kinds of show that they do breakdown, which is already most-of-the-time, based on their own preferences to begin with, so even that kind of criticism, is automatically skewed. I don't know, I see a show like "Weeds" ending, which should be celebrated, for all that it added to television, and how much it really challenged the kinda stories that can be told in a sitcom form, and most of me is thinking how the show could've even been better, and I kick myself, for thinking that. It may be true, but a good show is a good show, and there's certain times to go into these elaborate details about shows and really dissect them to death, with movies, it's one thing 'cause it's only two hours, and once it's seen, it's done-with, but with TV it feels like were pointing at a giant redwood tree and going, "The way that leaves is hanging on the branch isn't right."

I've been debating whether to have more television criticism on my blog lately, despite the trepidation I have, in some manner, and maybe in the future, I'll find a format that I can work with to do that in, but in general, the problems with television criticism really need to be looked at.


Daniel said...

Sounds like you have a certain type of TV you enjoy watching and the big move has been towards the more serialized style.

As for Weeds, I agree with you. It was inconsistent over it's run but it could never be accused of being boring.

Even though some of the storylines were weak, I always gave it a lot of credit for taking chances most shows wouldn't. I'm planning on revisiting the series at some point.

David Baruffi said...

I don't think it's a certain type of TV I like over another, in fact I generally prefer these serials (At least the good ones) over most of the few shows that aren't in that format; I think I just get frustrated with the fact that we're resorting to serials, because it doesn't seem like anybody can do a more classic, sitcom/drama, single episode, formula well anymore. If it's a good TV show, I'll watch it whatever the genre or format, but you know, when I watch a rerun of something like "The Dick Van Dyke Show" for instance, you can just turn it on, and it's great. You don't need to know three seasons of backstory or be apart of any kind of demographic to enjoy it, it's just great, and it's funny, and nothing more than that. There aren't many shows that are good, that can do that right now. I get frustrated when I hear people tell me, sit through it for "Just give it a few seasons, trust me," I shouldn't have to, even with great show like "Breaking Bad" or something, I just wonder sometimes, can someone like a J.J. Abrams tell a story without doing that? (I don't think he can do the serial either, but that's another thing)

All in all, I would rather have great television, no matter what, "Weeds" certainly was that, although the last season was boring, comparatively especially. (And it should've been Celia that shot her the season finale before. I mean you know, bad enough it was the kid, but really, it so should've been Celia!) But you know, I think of TV nowadays is basically, "That's works over there, let's try that...", and it gets boring and tiresome, and you have to catch everything on DVD anyway since they're all these, every episode's important serials now. I think it's limiting, I do think TV critics suck, and are selective, and most of them I believe do tend to lean towards what they like, and not take a step back and look at what's good, (I do believe firmly in a difference between what's good, and what one likes) and look at television through a more overall outlook.

In hindsight, I'm not sure "Weeds" was necessarily, the best jumping off point for that, to discuss this, which like "Weeds" didn't always succeed at the more natural storytelling, one-thing-leads-to-the-next structure, but it's what I was thinking about and that's how I was relating to it.