Rescue Me was a perfect example: after watching more than a season (on the strong recommendation of a friend), and hating the Denis Leary character in ever increasing amounts, always thinking he couldn’t possibly get any worse until he did, I eventually decided I’ve got better things to do than watch shows about assholes. Since then, that has been a prevailing sentiment. This is the reason I won’t watch Sons of Anarchy.
I can put up with only so much. But what really blows my mind is how stupid details that could so easily be fixed without any impact whatsoever on the plot get overlooked. Science gobbledygook is a common one (often used in the CSI franchise), as are simple things like the continued use of “enhance” where people zoom into fuzzy photographs or videos and see impossible details. Also, the guessing of computer passwords. In a scene in the otherwise potentially promising Mr. Robot, one of the characters, a supposedly excellent hacker, needing to get into someone’s computer apparently looks up at something above the desk, finds a “clue” and viola! that is actually the password! The absurdity of this makes me irate. Why not just have her use a USB stick that runs a password-cracking program and then when it finds it in an implausibly short time, she could comment on the inadvisability of a 4-letter all lowercase password or something? And while these little details are not enough to make me hate an entire show, the more of them there are, and the more heavily the show relies on them (CSI), the less patience I have with said show.
I can name three off the top of my head: The Danish show The Bridge, in which the villain starts off by mysteriously killing the power to a bridge connecting 2 countries (Denmark and Sweden) and somehow, during some period of no traffic, taking a body which has been cut perfectly in half to the exact centre of the bridge and placing one half on the Danish side and the other half on the Swedish side, without the slightest trace of blood or (of course) clues of any kind, and then vanishes without a trace. I forget, but I think other impossible acts carry on from there. In one of the later seasons of Dexter—a show that throws all plausibility to the wind as a matter of course—the city is tormented by a killer who manages to create a series of complex tableaux in public spaces of murdered victims decked out with wings and other set pieces without ever leaving a trace of himself. Where ARE these places where everyone sleeps solidly from midnight to 7am and surveillance cameras don’t exist? True Detective (Season 1) is another one with a killer that builds complicated ritualistic sets and leaves ridiculous clues hanging around, seemingly moments before without leaving a trace of himself.
Some shows stick to their premise so doggedly, week to week, that they create super-unbelievability over the course of the show. Take, for instance, Dexter. What if there were this character who is a controlled serial killer by night and blood-spatter specialist by day, but instead of murdering another killer per episode (resulting in a simply ludicrous number of murders and serial killers), he took an entire season to plot, stalk and kill his victim. It would probably be more interesting, more nuanced and certainly less absurd. The Americans (one of my favourite shows for other reasons) suffers from the same problem: every week, more assignments, more disguises, more missions … these people wouldn’t have time to sleep, let alone raise kids, pretend to run a business and retain a semblance of normalcy. I know, it’s only TV, and the shows are there to entertain. I’m not suggesting they be broken into pedantic slavery to veracity, but I think that they suffer from overextension, and that slowing the pace wouldn’t hurt them at all. On a slightly related note, how much better would the X-files have been if half the time, or even part of the time, Scully turned out to be right and the hoax was revealed? Much better, in my opinion.
This is strictly an American thing. The whiz-bang, rapidfire dialogue of certain shows is something I simply cannot tolerate. The actors speak quickly back-and-forth in perfectly constructed sentences and sometimes witty repartee. There is no thought, reflection or error. This is what caused me to dislike The Newsroom and Scandal among others. Related to this is precocious children: children who say things only an adult would say or in a way that only an adult would say it (and who do this regularly as part of their character).
The Tough Guy
I am convinced that there is no easier role for an actor to play than a tough guy, and TV and movies are riddled with them. They show no emotion other than lust and anger, maybe a bit of drunken camaraderie with the boys, or maybe a little bit of hurt (from whatever tragic thing it was in their past that made them so closed off). They are distanced from their lovers (who inexplicably love them nonetheless), they are never actually happy, they don’t laugh except to intimidate, they are ultimately boring beyond belief. They glower, clench their teeth, lower their eyelids and barely talk. The vast majority of cop/detective shows harbour at least one tough guy. A perfect example is Ray Donovan: a show I’ve been trying to watch, but simply can’t because I desperately want Ray’s wife to murder her tedious, boring, absent husband and go have some fun with his money.
Strippers and gratuitous sex
The Sopranos started the stripper thing with the BadaBing, and it seems like every American drama since then has picked up on this “great idea” to have their men hanging out having conversations in strip clubs so they can get some naked women in there just for the fun of it. Similarly, I’m pretty sure that nearly every sex scene is a gratuitous sex scene. Ray Donovan has one or two per episode, and often starts with one. I was starting to worry about myself: am I turning into a prude that I find these scenes boring and moderately offensive? Was I wrong to feel that they are basically pornography, where the focus is clearly on the man fucking and the woman receiving? That the shot is often absent the woman’s head, especially when fucked from behind? That there is little actual enjoyment going on other than perfunctory orgasm? But I’m pleased to report that I saw a show recently that completely vindicated these thoughts: that I am not having a prudish reaction, but that these observations are true in the overwhelming number of cases. The show I saw was Catastrophe: a British comedy about an American man who has a short affair with an Irish woman and … well, nevermind, but there’s sex: there’s realistic, mutually gratifying, believable sex that is necessary to the plot and not male-centric pornography (nor is it the silly, fast-motion, hopping up and down, legs akimbo, shapes under blankets “funny sex” that some shows resort to). They’re both having a good time, there are moments of awkwardness (but not all-awkward Girls-style sex), and of happiness. So I’m not a prude, I’m simply bored out of my mind and fed up with the incessant man-fucks-woman scenes in most TV shows.
The role of women
This last one should have been my first reason for hating TV shows because it has become a real issue for me with anything I watch. I’ve become very aware of the roles that women have in TV and very critical. This was a huge reason why I couldn’t get into True Detective: that the only women in the show were victims, strippers, and a wife who became an adjunct and mere plot device to both characters. This relegation of women to minor and often abused roles is outrageously common. I’m fucking sick of it, and I’m going to write an entire post about it.