Monday, February 16, 2015

What hooks me on a show

I'm predisposed to get hooked on shows, but some do it and some don't, and I was thinking about what all the shows I love the most (and obsess the most over) have in common, so I thought I'd see if I could make some lists about it:

The absolute basic things:
  • Fun--I like a show that doesn't take itself to seriously that it crushes you with its self-esteem; note that "fun" can mean "lots of crushing of zombie-heads", not just "lighter tone"
  • Smart--It doesn't have to be the cleverest thing ever, but it has to be smart enough that I'm not bored or insulted.
  • Good story--My story-likes tend to fall in the categories of "totally-not-a-cop helps a cop by being unconventional" (Castle, The Mentalist, Bones, Sherlock, Elementary, Forever), or in "totally not the normal boring world" (Firefly, Farscape, The Walking Dead, any of the super hero shows out how, Sleepy Hollow, Community, 12 Monkeys), or "FBI Agents solve mysteries and also there's monsters" (X-Files, Fringe). I define good story as: 
    • Interesting characters that aren't like everyone else, are clearly motivated but morally complex, and relateable no matter how weird they are
    • Plots that involve some neat idea that's not everywhere
    • Something not spoon-fed so that I can think about it after it's over
And, lets be real, almost every time:
  • Someone to ship the heart out of
because really, if there's no one falling in love against all odds, maybe 9.5/10 times, I get bored. The other .5 are the ones that have really awesome other stuff going on so that it doesn't matter that there's no URST, and are super-rare.

And then these things are bonus:
  • Genre settings and trappings--I'm a sucker for scifi and fantasy shows, so, like, Henry being immortal in Forever, all the demons and stuff in Sleepy Hollow, all the powers in SHIELD, they're basically guaranteed before they happen that I'd watch some of it and see if it's worth it.
    • Especially good: dinosaurs, aliens, time travel, wormholes, humans not being the top of the heap, mutants, mysteries that are probably magic, something to do with books or literature.
  • Something weird really early on--A lot of shows wait a while to bring the weird, but the more competition there is, the harder it is to sit on any of your story ideas, so I appreciate it when a show is strange right off the bat--like Sleepy Hollow, and 12 Monkeys, and Farscape.
  • The contrast of the normal and the not-normal, handled well. Jane being raised in a circus and not knowing how normal people live. Crichton not having a clue at all about alien societies. Cole not knowing how to hold a fork or what Chinese food is. Love it.
  • Better representation that most--because let's be serious, most TV is white guys doing stuff. So if there's women doing stuff, or not-white-guys don't stuff, or not-white women doing stuff, or any of the other variety of people out there, they're basically golden. 
    • If they make no big deal at all--like the way Joe is just a cop, and it doesn't matter that he's black and raised a white kid in Flash--it's straight to my heart.
And these are a virtual guarantee that I'll love them:

  • Strong shipping--If the show sets people up as a potential couple, and it's a good one with good writing and good chemistry, I'm there
    • This one can backfire real bad if the chemistry is not there or if the character is introduced only as a love interest--because that's lazy and a combo of bad writing and bad casting, and is an insult to those of us who watch so much tv.
    • Super-bonus if there's lots of good ships available, like Scorpion, or even better yet, SHIELD, where basically anyone could pair off with anyone and I'd be happy.
  • Involvement by Joss Whedon, JJ Abrams, Rockne S O'Bannon, or Steven Moffat. I've loved almost anything these guys have created, and I go into them expecting to love them whenever they have a new thing, so that definitely helps. 
    • Of course, if I don't love them, it's that much harder to convince me otherwise.
  • Above-and-beyond cleverness, and thick, juicy plots that don't spoonfeed but also don't needlessly complicate--which, apparently, is hard to do on TV. 
    • Lost did good for a long time, and then totally fell apart. Fringe, though, did a lot better, and I think it's because they learned a lot of lessons from it. 12 Monkeys is doing very well, and I'm crossing my fingers until they break that they hold up*.
So basically, I like smart TV that's not about whatever the news is about, that involves delightfully weird stuff (not depressingly or confusingly weird stuff), and has really interesting characters that I can relate to and that are definitely falling in love with someone, even if it's unclear who.

What hooks you on a show?

*It's very hard to type with crossed fingers.

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