Everything We Know We Learned From Television: Vol. 13
THR's chief TV critic shares his thoughts on not watching "How I Met Your Mother," not liking the execution of the twist on "The Good Wife" and other cranky topics. Plus: Loving Oprah's aura.
► At one point in its existence, How I Met Your Mother was one of my favorite comedies. Certainly one of my top three or four network comedies and, without any doubt, my favorite CBS comedy (which are, if you follow anything I write, not really my thing, with the laugh track).
I always thought How I Met Your Mother had a restrained laugh track (especially compared to The Big Bang Theory and others on CBS). The show was funny, heartfelt and quirky and could sustain long-running call-back jokes. It was comfort comedy.
And then it wasn’t. It did nothing egregiously wrong other than, like a lot of shows on network television, live too long. When shows have a long shelf life, they recycle ideas and interweave characters in ways they wouldn’t have in the start when things were fresh. So HIMYM became kind of staid, a bit predictable and not really worth that most holy of all things in life when it comes to television – time.
There are so many quality shows on television that it’s impossible to watch them all and have a life. The DVR piles up. Beloved shows then get saddled with a cruel expectation – be great or be ignored. And if you’re ignored long enough, I’ll delete your unwatched episodes en masse. It’s the brave and cruel new Lord of the Flies world of television.
And at some point, I just stopped caring about and thus watching HIMYM. After a while I would check back in, watch a few episodes and drop out again – it wasn’t holding my attention. As the episodes and seasons and tricks with the “mother” conceit grew longer and more tiresome, I bailed.
And so, no, I won’t be watching the finale. Why? Because I don’t care anymore. And, clearly, haven’t in a while. No offense to HIMYM – godspeed into history. But as the great Omar from The Wire once said, “A man’s gotta have a code.” And mine is that most shows don’t deserve a second chance. But those that do? They better not waste it when you give it to them.
► Yeah, the Cranky Pants are back on. And feeling tight.
► Alright, since we’re pissing all over so-called institutions, I might as well reiterate what I’ve been chirping about on Twitter when it comes to The Good Wife and its twist. Didn’t like it. The whole thing seemed very, very deus ex machina and never more so than the gun in question, conveniently unsnapped in its holster. In court. And hammered into our heads as a visual with slow motion. I didn’t buy any of it. And so it didn’t move me as much as it could have if it had been handled more realistically. Also, as I noted with some grumbling that bordered on but did not breach into actual disgust, I’m glad that the creators of my favorite series don’t feel the need to write a letter explaining why they killed off a character. David Simon and David Chase never did this for The Wire and The Sopranos. Vince Gilligan never did this for Breaking Bad. If something awful happens to someone on this final season of Mad Men, I trust Matt Weiner will not write a letter. He may talk about it, but I doubt he'll feel the need to write a letter to fans. And the gods must know that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss of Game of Thrones don’t have the time it would take to write so many of these letters.
It’s a TV show. It’s a fictional character. No matter how beloved, please trust that I can handle said death. Do not write a letter explaining it or saying how hard it was. You didn’t kill Jesus.
► Still stunned about: how HBO’s Looking didn’t generate more heat and chatter.
► Not stunned about, since I called it in the review: exactly how much religious groups hate Cosmos on Fox.
► Oprah Winfrey is moving out of the building that houses The Hollywood Reporter. I think we should follow her. She spills more unicorns and rainbows out of her pockets than she can be bothered to pick up. If we follow the aura, good things will come to us. I’ve already put that in a memo.
► I really love Justified. Always have. But this is not my favorite season. On the other hand, The Americans is flat-out fantastic. FX knows how to cover its losses, however minor.
► If you’re wondering, yes, I did turn down the Disney job that Anne Sweeney gave up. And no, it’s not because I also want to direct, you clever bastards. It’s because I still haven’t forgiven ABC for making me watch most of its shows.
► Hey, did you see what Showtime drama Shameless did? It got the Emmy people to allow it to switch categories. It’s now a comedy! That’s really interesting. Because, just as an aside, it’s not a comedy. It’s a really depressing drama. It always has been. Switching categories looks blatantly like an attempt to finally get an Emmy. Is it not enough that Showtime keeps getting Emmys and nominations for the wonderful and talented but not very funny Edie Falco from Nurse Jackie? Must it now try to weasel out of the brutally competitive drama category? I firmly believe that Emmy Rossum deserves an Emmy for her dramatic work on Shameless. I would vote right now – and toss in a hundred bucks if that would help – to give her one tomorrow. But Shameless is never, ever going to be a comedy. Switching categories seems like the kind of cheat that American Horror Story is perpetuating. So I wish this hadn’t been approved. It makes the Emmy people look like – and I know this is kind of a shocker – they don’t watch television.
► On the other hand, if Showtime wanted Homeland to become a comedy, I could totally get behind that. Ridonkulous, that show.
► The High Fives: 1. The Americans. 2. Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Fox – congratulations on a superb and hilarious freshman season, which ends tonight. 3. The Walking Dead on AMC. 4. Elementary on CBS. 5. Legit on FXX (why are you not watching?).