Monday, July 12, 2010

Why, NBC, why?

A few weeks ago, I threw myself to the floor and started kicking and screaming. I did that upon reading  the news that my favorite TV show, Law and Order, had been cancelled.

I started watching Law and Order (as well as its two spinoffs, SVU and Criminal Intent) when I first started working as an adjunct instructor. This was back when I was teaching at two schools and working a third job in retail, so I had very little free time. As a result, I didn't have time to keep up with the character-driven shows like Desperate Housewives or Lost. I tried to sit down and watch Lost once with a friend, but I ended up feeling lost.

Me: So why are they on that island?
Friend: Their plane crashed.
Me: Why can't they just build a boat and get themselves off the island?
Friend: It's more complicated than that.
Me: (looking at Matthew Fox) So is he a bad guy or a good guy?
Friend: Just watch the show. You'll see.
Me: So why are all these people hooking up with each other? Wouldn't their time be better spent trying to get off the island?
Friend: (exasperated) That's what they're trying to do!

I started watching crime dramas became most of them were plot-driven rather than character-driven. That meant that I didn't have to watch the shows regularly, which was good, because I didn't have time to watch TV every week. I could miss several episodes of Law and Order and come back to it weeks later and still enjoy it. I didn't have to figure out who was having an affair with whom or who was fighting with whom.

I have to admit that I'm not completely immune to character-driven shows. One semester in college, I actually scheduled my classes around All My Children. I was totally sucked into that addictive soap world, and forgot about how different it was from the real world. Then I got caught up with other things for a few weeks and missed out on several storylines, so that by the time I came back I realized that maybe it wasn't totally normal for people to get divorced and remarried a bunch of times, and in real life people didn't pause and give evil monologues to the camera about the person they were planning to stab in the back (literally or figuratively).

I watched the other crime dramas too, like CSI: Miami, and I did like them. My favorite character was Horatio Caine, even though he always spoke each word as if it was a complete sentence, as in "That. Is. The. Question." I liked him because of how compassionate he was with the victims, and how he devoted himself to his work.

My problem with the CSI shows was that at least two-thirds of the cast all appeared to be the same age and looked like supermodels (I've never been in a workplace where there were so many good-looking people; maybe I should go into law enforcement), and the characters often seemed to focus more on their hookups rather than on the crimes themselves. Okay, so it's natural to get crushes on the people you work with, though I have to admit I haven't really had a crush on any of my coworkers since I was in high school. But I think that there is more to life than romance. I also think it is possible to go to work and actually care more about the work itself than anything else.

Also, I didn't get how the female CSIs got away with wearing skimpy tank tops to work. I once worked in an office where you could get sent home for wearing khakis; I just assumed that the dress code was even more strict in law enforcement. And did you notice how in almost every CSI: Miami episode, there is always at least one scene of girls in bikinis? It usually doesn't have anything to do with the case itself; apparently it's just necessary to show women in skimpy clothing when solving crimes.

Law and Order, on the other hand, rarely focused on the characters' personal lives (with the exception of SVU). I don't think there was ever an episode that showed Jack McCoy at his apartment. They were always at the office, working on a case. My favorite character was Jack McCoy, played by Sam Waterston, because of how passionate he was about his work. I loved how angry he always got at the suspects, because prosecuting criminals wasn't just a job for him. (And I have to admit that I have a little crush on Sam Waterston, even though he's been married for more years than I've been alive.)

And it was interesting to see the outrageous defense strategies that some of the lawyers and suspects came up with; at first I thought that no one could get away with that in real life, but then when I read stories about real-life criminals and heard the crazy excuses that some of them gave, I realized that it could happen.

Watching shows like this one made me feel like it wasn't such a bad thing to be a workaholic, because here were people who devoted themselves to their work and no one criticized them for it. It's no coincidence that my favorite shows are about work and workaholics. The only other show I watch regularly aside from the crime dramas is House, M.D. because Gregory House is the ultimate workaholic. Yes, he's a misanthrope and treats people terribly, but he's so funny and likable you can't help forgiving him for it. (But I definitely wouldn't want to work for him.)

I've heard that there's going to be another L & O spinoff which will be set in Los Angeles. Until then, though, I tried watching other shows that are popular. There was a marathon of The Hills this weekend, so I decided to watch a couple episodes and see what all the fuss was about. After all, these were single girls pursuing careers and love in the big city, right? It couldn't be too different from the chick lit novels I love so much. Surely there was something positive to be said for these shows, right?

After a couple of hours, I had the urge to destroy my TV so that I never had to watch an episode again. Sorry to all the people who like The Hills, but I just don't get it. But then again, I seem to be one of the few people who doesn't get what all the fuss is about with Twilight, either. I think that Rob Pattinson and Kristen Stewart kind of look like they're brother and sister.

Why exactly are we supposed to care about Audrina Partridge and Kristin Cavallari? From what I could see of the episodes I watched, their lives seem to be focused on clubbing, dating guys who treat them badly, and gossiping about their friends behind their back. Then there's always a scene where they get into a girl fight and start screaming at each other. And let's not forget Heidi and Spencer; their awful behavior towards other people made me realize why so many people dislike them. But overall, watching those shows bored me.

I tried watching The City, and it was even worse. All of the girls were so catty and mean towards each other, and it was hard for me to like any of them. And I can't watch a show if I don't like at least one of the characters.

I couldn't relate to any of the people on those shows. Maybe it's because I don't have the money to go to expensive restaurants or buy designer clothes. Maybe it's because I never had the chance to work with beautiful celebrities or work for popular magazines. Or maybe it's just because I can't stand any of these people's personalities. This is what I've been missing? People would rather watch this than Law and Order? (And yes, I know that The Hills is ending. But still.) And why does MTV do that thing where they gather a bunch of young people after the show to analyze the episode that just aired? Is that really necessary? Is this what TV is coming to? Oh, the humanity!

Maybe I'm just mourning the loss of my favorite TV show. Yeah, that must be it. I have to go cry myself to sleep now.

What about you? Any cancelled TV shows that you were sorry to see go?


  1. If i could make a list of all the tv shows that got canceled that i loved: The Unusuals, Joan of Arcadia, My So-Called Life, Without a Trace... etc etc.

    and Ugh the Hills. I wanted to commit suicide/homicide after watching a couple episodes of that show. Those people give 20-somethings a bad rap.

    I would suggest watching Bones if you like L&O and House. Also, i love my Tivo for the simple fact that i could tivo my General Hospital during college!

  2. I'm sorry about your show being cancelled. I think it's Jay Leno's fault. Isn't he the NBC whipping boy?

    What is with shows where lawyers wear inappropriate clothes? That happened on Ally McBeal. The skinnier she got, the stranger her clothes became, and the show went downhill overall.

    I've lost a few favorite shows too, but I can't think of any because I'm not feeling well. My brain isn't cooperating.

  3. I love ubiquitous crimes dramas. They made it so almost everyone gets the joke when I shout "Enhance! ENHANCE!"

  4. Hi Coyote Rose,
    Bones is on my list; I like that show. :) And you're right about the other shows. Without a Trace and My So-Called Life in particular were two of my favorites.

    Hi Theresa,
    I think there was actually an episode where Ally went to jail because her skirts were too short. And I think Jay Leno has become NBC's whipping boy, though I think that the network's executives are to blame too.

    Hi Margaret,
    Crime dramas are definitely ubiquitous; they're on several tiems a day. I think that's why I became addicted.

  5. I still mourn the loss of 'Six Feet Under'. I loved that show! I can't believe it's all over, and it's been almost six years!

  6. Oy.. I had to watch "The Hills" and "The City" once last week while at a friend's house and I have never been in so much pain. To me it was more like, Why, MTV, why?! heh


  7. i had no idea law and order had been cancelled!
    i feel like that show has been on my entire life.

    and i totally feel you on the hills, etc. you would have to drop some serious cash for me to waste my time and brain cells on those "women".

  8. I freaked out when I heard it was ending too! Yes Jack McCoy is amazing!


  9. Hi Talli,
    Six Feet Under was a great show! I wish it had run for more seasons.

    Hi Naomi,
    I know what you mean. I thought that they might be like the soaps I used to watch, but I think the soaps are actually more realistic. :)

    Hi mi,
    That show has been a big part of my life too. They still have the reruns, but it's not the same.

    Hi Delilah,
    Jack McCoy rocks! I wish they'd put him on the new Law and Order in Los Angeles.