Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cookie-Cutter Shows

I often make fun of my parents for watching shows such as Numbers and The Mentalist.

They are cookie-cutter shows that simply present a problem (Think: A murder) and a solution (Solve the case, bring a bad guy to justice).  Each week, this is done in a formulaic method that is dreadfully predictable and offers the viewer nothing more than a sixty-minute waste of time -- a gift-wrapped box-of-nothing, complete with a bow.  The thing that I hate the most about them is that almost no plot development occurs from one episode to another.

So yea.  I make fun of my parents and try to convince them to watch shows with depth and drama.  Shows that leave you hanging and wanting more.  Shows that don’t offer you a gift-wrapped package, but instead light it on fire.  Shows that leave you heartbroken for the next 6 days and 23 hours.  Anything on HBO or AMC would suffice.

But then I realized that I am a hypocrite.

You see, in the past few weeks before going to bed, I have made a habit of popping in an episode of a show like The Big Bang Theory.  This show happens to be a sitcom, but follows the same predictable formula as the crime "dramas" that I so despise.

And I eat that shit up.

And she's not even that hot.  Or talented.
 
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll also I admit that I have had the same affection for such shows as Friends and How I Met Your Mother.

I never realized that I was such a hypocrite towards my parents’ taste in television entertainment until I was commenting on A Crow From Wolves’ blog and defending my beloved Big Bang Theory.

As I began to write a long defense (which I never published) for the effectiveness of the formulaic plot line of the show, I realized that I was defending the very thing I despised about my parents’ cop shows.

There is an intrinsic value to the predictability of a show such as The Big Bang Theory, I have learned.  And I am only realizing now why I enjoy watching an episode of such a show before I go to bed.

Because it washes my mind.

Sure, I could be spending my time more wisely by reading a book.  Or writing another page of a novel.  Or starting a new blog post.  And yes, The Big Bang Theory takes the place of television time in which I could be watching a plethora of real TV shows like Breaking Bad or The Wire.

But partaking in any of these activities leaves my brain racing with ongoing thoughts and questions.  Questions about what I just read or watched.  Desires to continue watching or reading, to see what happens.  Or worse, exponential questions about what I am currently writing.  What is going to happen to a character.  Whether a particular topic is funny to everyone as a collective whole or only funny to my peculiar mind.

Whether or not my writing sucks.

A sitcom easily allows me to stop worrying about all that stuff.  More importantly, I am mentally liberated from all the things going on in my life, good or bad. 

Instead, I can focus, open-mouthed, on one trivial and humorous problem of a nerd followed by him and his friends taking a predictable path to a solution. 

A solution, which I know is guaranteed to come in the following twenty-two minutes.

It’s always the same:

Problem.  Laugh.  Solution.  Laugh.  One last joke.  Kinda laugh.  Sleep.

And because this formula is comforting to my tired little brain, I have made a vow to not be a hypocrite and make fun of my parents for their choices in television viewing.  
Because even the most unimaginative of shows can give me a great gift. 

It might dumb me down, but at least it can wash my brain out and prepare me for a good night’s sleep in which my real-world problems aren’t as apt to creep into my dreams.

Although, I have been having strange dreams in which I am a nerd (perhaps not so far from the truth) who is in love with the hot girl who lives across the hall.  Or I am an Indian nerd who is unable to speak to women.  Or I am an egotistical nerd who is unable to effectively communicate on a respectful level with everyone else, thus leaving me with very few friends.

Perhaps I should start watching Victoria’s Secret photo shoots before I go to bed.

-Youngman Brown

The stuff dreams are made of.

48 comments:

  1. There's nothing wrong with a little etch-a-sketch comedy shows now and then. I watch HIMYM and Portlandia for that.

    But I'm with you on the dramas. I prefer an epic instead of a one-hour story. Give me House of Lies or Game of Thrones any day!

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  2. Like Brandon, I like things with arcs - but I agree about Big Bang Theory, it has the right kind of fluffiness to entertain in an easy-on-the-brain kind of way before sleep, or after a stressful day.

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    1. Yea, and it actually makes me laugh sometimes!

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  3. I have successfully weaned myself off of TV over the last 10 years. Almost. I love Breaking bad, John From Cincinnati, and other shows, but have just quit watching as shows are done, or become boring or repetetive (Weeds, Prison Break, etc...). I spend all of that time online now, which may, or may not, be better for me. I think it is, but that's because I want it to be. I find myself reading, writing, and interacting with others, and I'm sure that has to be more stimulating. Right? Anyhow, of the mundane comedies, I liked Cougar Town. I haven't seen these others that you speak of.

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    1. Breaking Bad is simply the bee's knees.

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  4. In the interest of full disclosure I own that bra... and am currently wearing it.

    I used to watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians if I caught it for that very reason. It was fluff TV. I didn't have to focus on plots or character developments. I've since moved on (KUWTK is just trash) and am working my way through every episode of Friends. I'm mid season 4 and like it, but I don't have to focus.

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    1. Friends is definitely a comfort show for me.

      And I thought that bra looked familiar :)

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  5. I only watch one or two shows a month, maybe. I have gone an entire year without watching TV. I do find it boring and repetitive.

    I liked friends, but not the "Joey heavy" episodes. A person can only be so dumb...

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    1. Funny you should say that. I liked the show too, and watched it occasionally, but it was all in syndication at the time. Then I was at buddy's house and he was ranting about how they cancelled Joey, and how mad he was. He kicked me out when I told him that of all of the characters, Joey was the one that should have got killed off. As he was yelling at me, he was saying how Joey was the only good thing about friends.

      After that I thought I was the odd man out, but you have confirmed my even-ness. Thank you.

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    2. Yes, Joey is pretty much the worst.

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  6. I love The Big Bang Theory, but I also love Criminal Minds. Can we still be friends?

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  7. I have about a dozen shows I watch. Big Band Theory is one of them. Any thing that makes me laugh for half an hour, I enjoy. I agree that it's stupid, but I am highly entertained.

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  8. I almost completely agree with you there.
    I used to love The Big Bang Theory but it's formula has started to bore me almost as much as crime.
    For the crime fiction/television, you've only got to read/watch one to know the rest of them!
    They are the most basic form of a story:
    - Everything is good
    - There is a murder!
    - There is a lot of time spent pointing the finger at everyone in the plot
    - And the murder is revealed
    - Everything is good
    (occasionally you may find a weird twist but the formula will be resumed shortly after).
    They bore me to death! I watched the Agatha Christie play in London and now feel like I've read all of her books.
    I think Big Bang and HIMYM are better than these because they are funny, clever, and don't try to be intelligent when they know they are not, whereas crime seems to be there to make people feel intelligent when they work out who the murderer is before the book does.
    Waste of time. There are millions of them everywhere as well! Waste. Of. Time.
    M x

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    1. Yea, you got that formula down for sure.

      And I agree that Big Bang and HIMYM don't take themselves too seriously, which I respect.

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  9. That's why I prefer "reality" shows such as Intervention and Toddlers & Tiaras. They are just the mental sorbet needed to cleanse your cerebral palate before sleeping.

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  10. I'm with Jen. I can turn on a reality show and either pay attention or not pay attention. Even if I am paying attention I don't get all sucked in and fried. You will never hear me say, "I can't wait until the next episode of American Idol." I watch, regularly, but if I miss and episode, I will find out online or next week what happened with a 1 minute recap. However; drama? I am with you on that. I don't care so much for network drama (although there are a few over my life-span that I have watched. Read that: I like Twin Peaks). But I am a sucker for anything on HBO or Showtime. And Walking Dead on AMC.

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    1. Walking Dead is a series that I have downloaded and ready to watch. I loved the first season, but need to re-watch it first.

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    2. I too love The Big Bang and recently started up with The Walking Dead. I refused to start watching it at first because I thought it was just another horror zombie movie but I watched a Sunday marathon one day and got so hooked I am bummed the Season Premier isn't until Fall :( I have to admit I am a movie or tv nut. There are lots of shows I watch because I'm interested in more than one genre. LOL I did watch Numbers and the mentalist for a while but have moved on to Being Human and Lost Girl, The Killing and Justified oh and The Walking Dead plus Dancing with the Stars (i love dancing) and AI (I love music very much) I guess I could go on. Its just my way of mind washing I guess on every level of my subconscious, lol.

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  11. I just made a list of TV shows that I like. Because I'm kind of lame that way. Anyway, some of the shows that I like are cookie-cutter...like Big Bang Theory (the only sitcom that I watch), or Criminal Minds, or Law & Order. I love shows with arcs, but wait until they're on DVD, so that I can watch them all at once. I HATE having to wait another week to find out what happens next. My current obsession is Dexter. I came late to that party.

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    1. I always like to wait to watch them all at once as well, although it generally eats up my life for a day. I watched the first two seasons of Dexter, so I guess I should finally catch up before someone spoils it all for me!

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  12. Ah, a good brain wash is nice.

    I like House which is as predictable as it can be, 1. Person has weird thing and almost dies 2. Team is confident in the cure and makes it worse 3. Situation becomes dire as cure / worse progresses. 4. House has epiphany while watching stripper and determines that it is something eminently curable. Happy ending.

    Yeah, but I still watch.

    To a man/ woman, the Friends crew will say that of all of them Matt LeBlanc was the most serious about his craft.

    WG
    http://itsmynd.com

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    1. I watched one episode of House before, and it followed your four steps to a T.

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    2. Oh I STILL watch House. I LOVE his character and it is pretty cookie cutter but I love the weird things people get on there oh there's always Grey's Anatomy,Desperate Housewives, haha, told ya I could fill several pages with what I watch. I love documentaries and history channels also. The whale documentary on PBS last night was awesome. I guess what I watch, what I read, music I listen to is as varied as my ADD personality. I'm game for anything except....well pain. Can't hang with that. lol

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  13. I stopped watching TV regularly because I get sucked in. I turn it on for 'just a bit' and before I know it, it's been 4 hours and I haven't eaten dinner. My life begins to revolve around commercial breaks: going to the bathroom, getting a glass of water, doing my dishes. That's not a way to live. But like you, I try not to judge others for how they like to do it, because I was probably there once too.

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    1. This happens to me a lot. I'll just lay there and all the sudden it will be time to go to bed (an hour ago).

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    2. Hey as long as I don't forget to eat or go to the bathroom, I'm cool. When its the first commerical break I put it on pause and go do something constructive (??) then come back and I can skip all the rest of the commericals because its recording, haha. See I have it down to a science. I'm happy.

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  14. Well, bazinga, pal. Life can't be all too serious; mind-numbing T.V. watching becomes an issue when it's done over several hours and you don't even attempt to accomplish something productive. :P

    -Barb the French Bean

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    1. The episode I just watched has one of the characters saying "bazinga" at least three times!

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  15. Love Big Bang and I am a total Gleek. TV, when I watch it is an escape. Dont mind the odd doco but sometimes you just want to zone out.
    And if what is on the giggle box is full of hot guys like Hawaii 5O or NCIS LA, well I am sure not going to complain about formula TV

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  16. We have different tastes - different from each other, of course, but also our tastes can differ according to mood and circumstance. Sometimes we want to be stimulated, challenged or educated, sometimes we just want to be entertained. I don't see anything wrong with that - although a diet of pure entertainment would probably be no better than eating nothing but chips and white bread.

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    1. That is very true. Sometimes after watching a dumb show I will just Wikipedia-surf, just so that I feel that I learned something.

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  17. Dude, if you aren't already, you ought be watching Shameless. On Showtime. Probably my favorite show right now (not there are many). Humor and heart in spades.

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    1. I have heard great things about Shameless, although I don't know if I should watch the foreign version first.

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    2. Watch the foreign version first, you won't be disappointed

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  18. I share both your feelings towards cop shows and The Big Bang Theory.

    Cop shows, hospital drama, they're all the same.

    But what is the world without guilty pleasure?

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    1. This is very true... I don't know where my life would be without The Bachelor.

      Just kidding.

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  19. There's nothing wrong with watching "fluff" no and then, especially before going to sleep because, if you're like me, my brain refuses to shut off unless I numb it with silliness.

    Before I didn't have television I used to watch the game show network to fall asleep. The game show network.

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    1. See, I would need to watch the game show to it's conclusion to see who wins. Not sure I would be able to fall asleep.

      But I agree, there is something to be said about background noise.

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  20. I won't lie, I saw the picture of the cookies and got excited! Greedy little overeater, me!

    Here, in this crappy country, we are cursed with terrible TV progams or maybe we're blessed with a lack of temptation, I don't know! I'm a slut for 90's shows and spend most nights watching them, looking at the hairstyles and the clothes I used to wear, because a TV charater had the same and ask myself: "What were you thinking?!" :)

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  21. "Problem. Laugh. Solution. Laugh. One last joke. Kinda laugh. Sleep."

    You just described my entire life. :)

    best,
    MOV
    ps--and I LOVE brain candy TV!!! Give me a nice re-run of Will and Grace any day.

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  22. I'm hooked on The Secret Circle and Once Upon a Time. What does that say about me?!?! LOL

    My mom's addicted to big bang theory. She made me watch one or two episodes, but that one characters voice REALLY irks me. hahaha

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    1. I forgot to mention (in all the ones I listed above) I watch The Secret Circle and Once Upon a Time too. I think I'm good, how bout you? lol

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  23. Believe it or not, I actually commented on this post, but alas, it has vanished. Third time this week! Grr...! Oh well, I'll pop in at the latest post! :)

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When you comment, I vibrate.