In this latest series of posts, I’m going to talk briefly about some of my favourite TV shows of yesteryear, and some which I’m watching at the moment. In ‘Sh*t I Used To Watch’ I’ll reminisce about some TV shows that I used to watch, from my childhood up until roughly the time I graduated from University – by and large these will be shows that I haven’t watched since that period, or have only caught a small numbers of episodes of. In ‘Sh*t I Watch’ I will talk briefly about the shows I’m watching at the moment, and will deal with both current series which have not yet been cancelled or completed, and those which I am catching up on having missed first time around. I’ll try to post one of these each week, but as regular Glancers will be aware, my regular posts are fairly irregular.
Some of the shows in both categories which I’ll talk about will be ones you should all be familiar with, while others will be extremely niche and I can only imagine about three other people will have ever heard of. It’s my assumption in these posts, perhaps more than all the other junk on this blog, that you will get a murky picture of the person I both am and once was, and that maybe in a wider lens you’ll get a higher level look at the White, Western, child of the 80s. I’ll let you make your own conclusions, but the most obvious may be that we are what we consume, and our lives are rarely more than a procession of vicarious experience. Drill deeper though and we find a less bleak vision, seeing a communal, shared, loving experience as the most important moments of our lives as a species are no longer things like ‘Which Side Won The War’ or ‘Who Got To The Moon First’ or even ‘Why Are We Here’, but rather ‘Will Rachel And Ross Get It Together’ ‘Who Killed JR/Laura Palmer’ and ‘ WTF is Laddergoat’. Actually, that is kind of bleak. Today’s post is going to briefly summarize the show in question, and list a bunch of TV shows that I haven’t yet watched but which are on my ever-growing list. Between reading, writing, watching movies, playing guitar, playing videogames (on top of the real stuff like living, working, breathing, being married, and being a dad), there isn’t much time for me to watch TV. It used to be that any time a new, interesting show came out, I was first in the queue to see it, but now I tend to wait until a show has finished before I even start the first episode. We’ve all been burned in the past by a heinous cancellation, leaving unanswered questions and beloved characters forever suspended in a black hole of fan fiction and speculation; it hurts. A certain part of me only wants to invest my time in a show that I know has, or will fully run its course. I don’t need any more doubt, or imagination to take up my brain power.
Today’s show is a juggernaut, and arguably the most talked about and respected TV show of the last five years. Game Of Thrones is an epic tale featuring a massive cast of characters and places, with conspiracy, murder, deceit, boobs, and what am I even talking about you already know more about it than I do. I’ve known about the show for a long time, but until this year I hadn’t watched a single episode of it. I still haven’t read a single word of the books which the show is based on. My wife bought me the first three Seasons on DVD for Christmas and as of time of writing I have only seen up to the end of Season 3. I’m not going to give away any spoilers in these posts, either the ‘Sh*t I Watch’ or ‘Sh*t I Used To Watch’, hopefully, and so let’s try to keep the comments Spoiler free too! I don’t know why it took me so long to watch the show – I think it’s a cultural thing – I’m not a huge fan of the country I was damned to and if people from here try to claim something as their own, or latch on to something in a popular way, I will generally go in the opposite direction. Of course, that isn’t being fair to the show itself, and it was clear that there was overwhelming critical praise, so after watching a bit of the pilot I decided to give it a go. As expected, it is a treat, but I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan, and I certainly wouldn’t say it is without its faults. For my two cents, I think there are too few episodes per Season, and I feel that something as large as this appears to be could easily be expanded into a few more episodes each year. For me, there seems to be too much rushing in each episode, and too little time spend with each set of characters. That’s obviously a personal and minor squabble because the show still works wonderfully well. There is a terrific cast of actors, the effort going in to making the show believable is second to none, and it’s always great to see violence and boobs. Do I think it’s better than Buffy? Well no, because nothing is better than Buffy.
I raise the Buffy issue as that’s the benchmark I use for all TV now – no other show has affected me on so many levels as it did, and does. It remains the funniest show I’ve ever seen, with the most well written characters, the best dialogue, the most brilliant plots, and has such a huge emotional power compared to any other show I’ve ever seen. GOT is far from being a comedy, and there are rarely any moments of humour – that’s fine, humour would be out-of-place here. GOT is all about the drama, but in drama you need to have elements of horror or tension, and certainly an emotional connection. I have found it difficult to truly ‘like’ or align myself with any character in the series so far – there are people I like and people I love to hate, of course, and maybe that is also supposed to be the point. Buffy did the same thing though – every character was flawed, but it didn’t make you love or hate them any less. One of the things GOT is also known for is something which Buffy doesn’t get the credit for (outside of the fandom) even though it can be argued that it started the whole thing – the idea, and the reality that no-one is safe. Major characters are killed off at will during GOT, to the point that, similar to The Walking Dead, we genuinely don’t know if anyone is going to make it out alive, and much of the tension in an episode is from our belief that someone we like could have their throat cut in the next scene. GOT has a massive list of characters, and many of those characters do not survive more than a handful of episodes. Buffy had a massive list of characters, alongside its spinoff Angel, and a tiny number of those survive to the end of the show.
I came in to GOT not really knowing much about it, and hoping/expecting a world similar to LOTR, a world of fantasy with Dragons, Orcs, and the like, but in reality those fantastical elements have been, so far, kept to a minimum. They are in the background, or they are older than the apparently modern, civilized world which the characters now live in. We do get Dragons, we do get creatures, but the series’ strength is in the clashing of the various houses and their respective values. In that respect the world mirrors our own, and there is a constant sense of fragility, a sense that a single injustice, misplaced word, or relationship gone sour could have apocalyptic ramifications. Like the real world, we have people who live only for honour, and those who only live for glory; those who seek personal gain at any cost, and others whose lives are merely more than a futile journey of vengeance. The best shows allow us to see ourselves, and our friends, and our world in what is presented on-screen, skewed just enough that we are happy to say at the end of an episode that ‘I would never do that’ or ‘that would never happen in my country’. Perhaps GOT’s greatest lesson is that we don’t always have control over our lives, and even the best laid plans can fall apart disastrously due to the smallest unexpected intervention; I think we can all agree that this lesson is one which is inescapable even in our own secluded lives.
Living only a few minutes drive from some of the shooting locations of the series gives an interesting additional dynamic to watching the show, both as a fan and as a fan of the craft; it’s fun trying to spot places you know and it’s cool knowing that there are talented people just down the road making positive history. I’m keen to see what happens in Season 4 and 5 and I’m keen to get started on the books, and while I’m not going to say I’m a GOT nerd, I will say I’m a fan.
Bonus Material Alert! Below is a list of shows I haven’t yet watched a single episode of, but which are on my list. Feel free to let me know in the comments what you think I should watch, or add anything which I haven’t listed – if it’s recent, I probably haven’t seen it.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Dexter (watched 1 episode but wife decided she didn’t want to watch any more)
Friday Night Lights
One Upon A Time
Orange Is The New Black
Parks And Recreation
Person Of Interest
Sons Of Anarchy