For instance, the prospect of watching The Irishman puts me off. I have to both spend too much time with the characters initially and then I know that I will never really get to know them because it's one episode.
In contrast, most novels at least allow me to fill in blanks including the future, creatively because I can't "see" the characters. Even the simplest of words - for instance colors such as "blue" - make me wonder if I "see" what the author and other readers see. I certainly know that I don't "see" the characters physically as the same person others "see", including the author. And many novel series allow me to spend more time with the characters.
I grew up with television. I was six years old when we got our first television so that my parents and all the neighbors could, on April 18, 1951, watch live, as it happened, General Douglas MacArthur arrive in San Francisco from Korea after being relieved of duty by President Truman. All I was interested in, of course, was to watch kids shows, particularly westerns on Saturday morning.
The next 29 years of watching TV was scheduled by three broadcast networks. Effectively, I could watch no more than three hours a night of scripted TV, and many nights that turned out to be fewer hours and sometimes even none. In 1980 when the VCR entered our world, we began to miss fewer shows and fewer episodes.
Today we have video streaming. As I noted here in In 2020 thousands of scripts will be lost to each of us every night because it's wireless video streaming not television. And it seems to be positive progress!, video streaming allows us to miss thousands of episodes of hundreds of shows every year (532 active scripted shows in 2019, along with thousands of shows available from prior years).
The current situation is every bit as frustrating as it was before 1980. Not only must we choose from among 500+ active scripted U.S. shows, we now can watch hundreds and hundreds of shows from around the world. Heck, each year added to our choices are a few hundred new and old British, Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand shows which are in English. And I don't mind subtitles on shows from elsewhere.
The problem is to figure out what shows to watch. And after an episode or few, one must decide if it is worth watching more episodes given all the other options. Frankly I don't care about ratings or critics. I have my own criteria for judging shows based on a few questions.
Is this show "entertaining" meaning:
- Does it engage my interest and leave me looking forward to more?
- Do I find it either-or-both humorous and moving?
- Are the primary characters either-or-both well-developed and compelling?
- Does it frequently offer wisdom and meaning from circumstances and discourse?
- Is the show's overall theme not depressing?
- Does the show not rely upon gratuitous violence?
Not every episode of a scripted series show can elicit a resounding "yes" answer to the first four questions.And sometimes an episode of a show can be depressing or violence in a scene may seem gratuitous.
But if the overall theme is depressing, that's a problem. One can answer "yes" to the first four questions about most of the episodes of a show, but if the theme of the show is just simply depressing...well...there are many more shows out there with themes that are not.
A good example of a show that consistently elicits a "yes" answer to the first four questions is "Breaking Bad." It is a show with excellent writing, directing, acting, etc. and an incredibly depressing theme as described by IMDb:
"A high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer turns to manufacturing and selling methamphetamine in order to secure his family's future."
It went five seasons offering 62 episodes, winning Golden Globe, Emmy and other awards galore. Among IMDB all time Top 250 TV Shows it is #4 in viewer ratings, behind "Planet Earth II", "Planet Earth", and "Band of Brothers." In other words among IMDb viewers it is the top rated multi-season scripted live-action drama series.
We stopped watching it in its second season.
Then there is the judgement call regarding a show's use of violence. Violence is a significant problem in American society and we shouldn't take the use of violence in a show lightly, particularly when the show has a strong appeal to the under-25 audience. One could probably write deep thoughts about the relationship of the popularity of scripted series with violence to the American predilection for violence, suicide, and drug use.
Still violence is sometimes essential to present a story. It has been argued that the violence in Lord of the Rings is non-gratuitous in comparison to "Game of Thrones." I felt that - which means the "gratuitousness" sometimes simply can be a feeling. The key question is: "Did showing that scene of graphic violence add anything to the story telling?"
"Game of Thrones" ran 73 episodes over 8 seasons. Among IMDB all time Top 250 TV Shows it is #8 in viewer ratings with extreme high ratings among those under 30.
We stopped watching "Game of Thrones" in the second season. It seemed like the basic question of the show's theme, what drove the most curiosity, was which characters at the end of the series will not have been butchered.
The highest rated live-action comedy series is "Friends" at #41, well behind murder and mayhem.
Admittedly, comedy is a tough genre. It's entirely your sense of humor that will determine if a comedy show appeals.
A good example today is "Mom", a broadcast network show which has excellent writing, directing, acting, etc. but is admittedly about reformed drug and alcohol abusers. It's overall theme is not depressing. In terms of IMDb ratings (with 10 as the highest rating) 58.2% rate it 8 or higher. I would answer "yes" to the first four questions regarding the majority of episodes of the show. But on IMDB 4.0% rate it a 1. And I can understand why many would react that way, particularly to the first couple of seasons.
"Fleabag" is another current comedy though in the streaming-only arena. I just don't get it. It's that simple. It ranks well above "Parks and Recreation" but, then again, "Parks and Recreation" which aired 125 episodes over 7 seasons on a network broadcast channel has two-and-a-half times the number of individual ratings than "Fleabag" which has 12 episodes on Amazon Prime streaming, so perhaps the top 250 ranking is meaningless.
Fortunately, as noted above there are thousands of episodes of hundreds of scripted shows every year (532 active scripted shows in 2019, along with thousands of shows available from prior years), there are more than enough dramas and comedies for every taste out there.