Thursday, March 1, 2007

There’s an Empty Time Slot in the TV Lineup in My Heart

Tonight at 9pm on Fox they will be airing another episode of their new game show, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, which once again asks the question, are you stupid enough to watch? But what this program really signals is that last week’s series finale of The O.C. was real and not just some horrible dream I thought I was having. And this is extremely unfortunate because The O.C. was definitely one of my favorite shows on TV and I am once again forced to lament over the loss of one of my shows while other much worse shows live on, seemingly forever. So please enjoy my two-part tribute to why I’ll miss The O.C.

Part One: Why I’ll Miss The O.C. (Show Specific Reasons)

When The O.C. first came on the air I paid no attention to it whatsoever, despite its popularity. I figured it was another in a long line of crappy Fox shows that was full of melodrama and I simply didn’t have the patience to deal with that. But then for some reason, I decided in late 2005 to give the show a try, first by renting the first season on DVD and then by watching the new episodes, and I was hooked immediately. It turned out that The O.C. wasn’t what I thought it would be at all, but rather more like a show I would create. The show did feature outlandish, preposterous, and sometimes even laughably unreal situations, but instead of over-the-top melodramatic acting done by a cast of attractive, but untalented actors and actresses, it was instead performed by generally talented people, thus making what could have been a horribly bad show, a much better one.

But what really made the show work was its wit and careful self-awareness. The show’s dialogue would often times revel in the absurdity of the constant drama that the characters faced and it did so with such skill that it worked out very well. Few characters in TV shows or movies that are graced with the knowledge of self-awareness end up working out, as they normally mock the show or film so much that you the viewer can’t even respect the work any more (just take a look at the Scooby-Doo movie or really any other movie based on an old property), but The O.C was different. For instance, in a recent episode, Seth joked that after an accident left Ryan needing blood from Seth that if his blood had made Ryan more Seth-like that they could have kept “this” going another few years thanks to the comedic potential of that situation (and by “this” he was referring to the fact that his TV show was almost over, even though its not a TV show to him). The subtly of that line was perfect and that’s why it wasn’t annoying to me. The show did this many other times in other ways (such as the fake TV show that Summer loved which was a fake O.C. or when they made fun of the real-life O.C. show that MTV created by having that happen in their fake world too) and that definitely made it special.

And of course, there was the music. The show became well known, and poorly copied by crap shows like Grey’s Anatomy, for its use of music from smaller, indie bands looking to make a break. But where other shows have used music to just let them write a few less pages of dialogue, by simply having a montage with music to end a show, The O.C. managed to take the music and work it into the show well. Also, the music they chose was a whole lot better than the music that many other shows use. And while I was sad that the final episode of The O.C. didn’t feature any music from Death Cab for Cutie, Seth’s favorite band, I figured it had more to do with the fact that the group is much bigger now, thanks in part to the show, than a bad decision by the show.

The O.C. wasn’t a life-changing show and it wasn’t a revolutionary one for the TV world, but it was good and that’s while I’ll miss it.

Part Two: Why I’ll Miss The O.C. (General Reasons)

As much as I’ll miss The O.C. because it was a quality show, I’ll miss it even more because my TV options are slowly dwindling away, thanks to shows like this one leaving the air and thanks to an influx of new crap, I’m starting to get more and more frustrated by the medium I was in love with only a year or two ago. Today, TV simply just isn’t that good. I figured that after the last few years which launched such shows as Lost, House, Veronica Mars, The Office, and My Name is Earl that we were headed for a renaissance in the TV world. And then Grey’s Anatomy and Criminal Minds became popular shows and things took an immediate nosedive. Right now I’m not even that in love with the shows that I do watch on a regular basis and I figure it will probably only get worse.

Here is how I would have ranked my favorite shows at the beginning of this TV season:

The Office
Lost
Veronica Mars
House
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Prison Break
My Name is Earl
The O.C.
Friday Night Lights
Heroes
Jericho

And now, after a very disappointing TV season so far, here’s how I would rank them:

Lost
My Name is Earl
24
Prison Break
Friday Night Lights
Heroes
The Office
Veronica Mars
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
House
Jericho

So why all the changes, you ask? Well The Office moves way down because this season has been a complete disappointment. After last season, which I figure has to be one of the best seasons of a TV show ever, the show has become a huge disappointment, in large part due to the fact that Michael and Dwight have become caricatures of themselves and thus the whole realistic aspect of the show has disappeared. I suppose I should have seen this coming after fans voted that the Season 2 episode featuring Michael burning his foot on a George Foreman grill and then Dwight getting a concussion was their favorite, because that episode was completely absurd, unlike most of the other episodes of the show which seemed somewhat believable. But now that episode seems to pale in comparison to the ridiculousness we see these days.

Veronica Mars has slipped on the list because instead of being a cool, smart, and clever mystery, it has turned in to a rather predictable and often plot hole filled program with less edge and more melodrama. Perhaps this is because they paired the show with The Gilmore Girls or perhaps its because the show’s producers realized that if they wanted to keep their jobs, they were going to need to make the show more mainstream (i.e. stupider). Either way, I’m kind of glad that the show won’t be on for a few weeks now, especially after the lame way the last “big” mystery ended.

As for the new shows that I have started watching this TV season, I often times catch myself wondering why I watch them. Jericho is a show I can’t decide whether to stop watching or keep watching all the time and that’s because they can’t decide whether they want the show to be awesome or a melodramatic piece of garbage. But I can tell you, on a regular basis I say to myself, “if next week’s episode isn’t better, I’m done with this show.”

Heroes is somewhat enjoyable at times and it manages to be okay even when its not because it seems to do things the Max Power way (the wrong way, but faster). Honestly though, its not that great, even though it could have been.

And while I do find myself liking Friday Night Lights more and more these days, thanks to the excellent camera work and editing and the brilliant performances by many of its actors, I do get irritated by its constant pushing of the hot issues buttons (teenage sex, underage drinking, steroids, racism, etc.) and then only having those issues be important for 1-2 episodes, as if a problem with racism or steroid use by high school athletes goes away that quickly and has no lingering effects.

So now you can see why the loss of The O.C. stings just a bit more than the loss of one of my lower ranked favorite shows. It isn’t simply that I’m losing something that I liked to watch, its also that I’m feeling like my tastes are so much different than the rest of the population at large and because of that I’m doomed to be disappointed every single TV season while fans of CSI and all its various incarnations only get more and more to enjoy. I guess what I’m saying is, sometimes I wish I were stupid.

- BEN

1 comment:

Matt said...

1. Friday Night Lights
2. Lost
3. Prison Break
4. The Office
5. Veronica Mars
6. The Sarah Silverman Show
7. The Black Donnellys (Based on the last 9 minutes of the first episode)
8. How I Met Your Mother
9. Heroes
10. Studio 60

Weeds, Dexter, Entourage somewhere high if we're counting non-network.