LB: Three Shows I No Longer Watch

by Larry Brody

NETWORK’s Howard Beale, the spokesman character for writer Paddy Chayefsky,  famously said, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” I’m not mad, or even angry, but I am frustrated by some recent viewing experiences, so I’m not taking it anymore either.

In particular, three TV series that I thought would serve me well have committed the cardinal sin of irking me to  the point of no return:

    Yep, this bouncing new baby, which just a few weeks ago I saw as so full of promise, is history to me now. Why? Because I just plain can’t believe in the reality of the characters any longer.Specifically, the three main leads, whose character names I have erased from my mind.An idealistic anchorman willing to go to the wall to prove to his former girlfriend (his producer) that she should’ve stayed his adoring babe? An idealistic “modern woman” news producer whose eyes bug out with jealousy every time said anchorman shows her his latest date? A major cable station News Director who cares more about informing the public than ratings and is clueless about how to manipulate his bosses so he gets what he wants?Every one of those characters is impossible in today’s TV news culture. I appreciate the show’s intentions, but I’m out.
    For years this show has featured a protagonist, whose name, Brenda Leigh, I do remember because, hey, shoot me, but I like country music, who fascinated me. She was an idealistic assistant police chief  so dedicated to putting bad guys away that she wheedled and lied not only to her  boss but also to her husband and herself. I could  identify with that kind of self-delusion.  Simple as that. But about a week ago the series came back after a hiatus with a much altered Brenda. A cruel, abusive bitch who was perfectly willing to sacrifice a rape victim’s sanity to get her man.  The Southern charm which sheathed the character’s iron will for so long is gone.  And the iron will is a barbed, pointy razor. It looks like the show is headed for an ending (it’s going off the air at the end of the season) in which Brenda is fired/humiliated/possibly even jailed. As well she should be.If the show intends to show that its lead has crossed the line and become a baddy herself, that’ll be pretty damn cool. But the attitude in the writing suggests that those running it think she’s justified and is getting a raw deal.  So I’m out for now. (But willing to return if they cook her goose to my taste by the finale.)
    This show was a lighthearted science fiction romp every year of its existence – except this one. I watched it for the  “family,” the banter and generally warm relationships between the leads. This season, however, the ties between everyone I cared about have constantly been in  jeopardy, and the unconvincing suspense has  pushed me away from  the series just as the gimmicky dangers have pushed the characters apart.To be sure, the finale tied up everything and brought everyone back together. But it wasn’t merely the end of a season, it was the end of the series, which means the audience isn’t going to get a chance to enjoy the result. As a writer and producer, I’m all for the idea of making things as tough as possible on my heroes – but as a viewer I hated experiencing it. In other words, I’m a wuss.  Shoot me again.

Sheesh, am I am old crank, or what? What about you? Have any of your favorite shows disappointed you lately? How much? Are you still watching them?  I look forward to your comments.

EDITED TO ADD: Speaking of comments, io9 has a very interesting review of the  EUREKA finale. And even though it’s directly the opposite of mine, I found myself nodding in agreement as I read. WTF?

Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.

2 thoughts on “LB: Three Shows I No Longer Watch”

  1. “The Newsroom” I am sticking with a bit longer. The conventions (or lack thereof) haven’t hit me the same way.

    “True Blood” is something that’s beginning to waver. Terry being chased by the Efreet. Fuck that. Our lovable post-traumatic vet now has an unlovable back-story. Again- fuck that.

  2. I’ve never seen the latter two but I have been watching THE NEWSROOM and just experienced the opposite of you. It’s not that I like it more now after the 3rd (or 4th?) ep, but I’ve begun to really enjoy screaming at the show while I watch. I find it showcases the worst sin of writing: it sounds written. As someone somewhere said, you can hear Sorkin clacking on his keyboard as the characters speak. While I’ve never seen THE WEST WING or SPORTS NIGHT, I was a fan of STUDIO 60 and really wanted to like this show. But it’s so fucking SMUG & PAT. (Didn’t SMUG & PAT have their own comic strip in the 1930s?) In fact, I just listened to Terry Gross interview Sorkin last night on FRESH AIR and she was no more charitable to him about NEWSROOM than I would be. He took it like a man, though. And he does admit he has some serious limitations. However, he thinks his limitation is story and plotting, not dialog or character. And don’t get me started on his decision to set it 2 or 3 years in the past. It would be more engaging if his characters DIDN’T get it right all the time — like they did in the Gabby Gifford’s story. It’s the biggest reason they come off smug. But I’ll keep watching. Even if it’s just to see what’s wrong with the show. Actually, I think it’s a good case study for your students, Brody. And Sorkin may listen to all the criticism and weave gold from the dross. He’s certainly talented so anything’s possible…

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