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Month of Blog, Day 3: Your Favorite Television Program

This is a tough one for me - there have been lots of tv shows that I've enjoyed, and I wouldn't call them all GOOD shows (again, the snob in me), but they've definitely gotten me hooked. But there are a few that I absolutely treasure, so I'll talk a little bit about all of them (warning, long post ahead):



Daria
I've actually talked quite a bit about Daria already this summer, since it was recently released on dvd (after, like, a decade of petitions and fans writing in to MTV).

Daria is one of two shows from my high school years that I can definitively say shaped my personality and identity. (I'll discuss the other one in a bit.) Daria Morgendorffer is a super-intelligent and intellectual misfit teen trying to navigate her adolescence, and finds plenty of fodder for her sarcasm in her peers and shallow, self-centered, popular younger sister. As someone who also felt like a misfit, I could really relate. It's not that my high school was anything like a "typical" high school, but I more felt like a misfit from the rest of the "adolescent experience." I wasn't like the happy, pretty girls in the magazines. I was awkward; I was shy; I was overly introspective. I wasn't cute and popular like Daria's sister Quinn, I was smart and cynical like Daria.

It's easy to think of Daria as being a pretentious, non-conformist critic of others just looking at the surface, but the show actually does a great job of having her examine herself as well, and her role as an outsider. Daria repeatedly has many opportunities to interact with the popular kids, and at times, she comes close to being one herself. In one episode, she decides to try getting contacts, and all of a sudden she's cute! In another one, a character dies, and everyone else comes to her to help them deal with their feelings because she's "the misery chick," she knows ALL about being depressed and sad and stuff. Daria is aware of the possibility that she too is fulfilling a stereotype - she doesn't hold herself above others. And she's not mean, either - while she's not one to resist a snarky comment or two, she also spends a lot of time helping and listening to the popular kids when they need her. The show isn't just a "Hey, let's make fun of the mainstream and the status quo through the eyes of an outsider" sort of show (though, there is a lot of that, of course) - it's a lot more nuanced than that. It's clever and well-written, it's oddly touching, and it's absolutely one of my favorite shows ever.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
This was my other major television love from high school. Now, I have to confess, I have not seen any of the last three seasons of the show (after it moved to UPN), so as I'm rewatching the series now, I am definitely heading into episodes that I'm not familiar with, but that's okay - it doesn't take away from the fact that this show was a very big part of my life for a very long time. My favorite seasons were seasons 1 and 2.

Buffy Summers is the chosen one to slay vampires and demons and all that. Any further summary would just be far too involved :) At the beginning of the series, she is a high school sophomore, a new student in Sunnydale, and she makes friends who help her kill vampires.

The genius of the show for me was in its allegory - they took the horrors of the high school experience and turned them into REAL horrors - the scary Internet predator boyfriend threat ended up being a real demon! The overbearing mother who wanted to relive her glory days of cheerleading uses witchcraft to switch bodies with her daughter! The guy that totally becomes a jerkoff after you sleep with him ends up becoming a crazed evil vampire guy who kills one of your friends! It was absolutely clever and well-written. And every once in a while, it was actually really damn creepy.


And Buffy - such a great feminist hero!!! Great heroes for teenage girls are hard to come by, but Buffy was awesome - she was smart, resourceful, and brave. Sure, she had her flaws, but she held fast to her sense of self. And I loved that.

Coupling (UK version)
I got into this show after college - it's a British sitcom that often got compared to Friends and Seinfeld, but really, it's not the same thing. Yeah, they are a group of friends, and there is some intra-group dating, but that's where the similarities end.

For one thing, it's very unabashed in its discussion of sex and relationships - not quite at the same level as Sex and the City, but it doesn't shy away either. And it's funny and irreverent in its discussion, but it's not stupid trashy humor either.

And (I know I've said this for every show so far) it's well-written! Not just in the stories and the dialogue, but in the storytelling structures themselves! One of my favorite episodes, "Split," is when Susan and Steve (the main couple on the show) have had a huge fight, and we spend pretty much the entire episode in split screen, seeing them simultaneously coping with being apart. I've watched this episode SO many times, and it was a while before it finally occurred to me to watch the "non-action" side of the screen while there was something taking place on the other side. And it was genius! The blocking, the non-speaking, all of that had to be cleverly done so that it was realistic (it's not like their lives just stop just because they're not the focal point of the action), but at the same time, it was timed so that there wasn't action on both sides of the screen at once (because that would've been too much to follow). Another episode shows the same 9-minute span of time but from three different points of view. In another episode, Jeff (the kind of silly, never-says-the-right-things guy) meets a woman who speaks only Hebrew, and in the first half, you get his point of view and how he tries to communicate with her when she speaks only Hebrew, and in the second half, you get HER point of view, where English sounds like gibberish to her, and the actor who plays Jeff actually came up with a language system of gibberish - if you listen carefully, you can tell when he repeats words or uses different variations of the same word. It's pretty genius.

It is smarter and funnier than the average American sitcom, because it doesn't try to be witty. It's not self-conscious in its humor. It's very real, and natural, and you feel like you could actually know them in real life. I have all the episodes on my computer, and I watch them over and over again, and I never get tired of the jokes. They're as funny now as they were the first time I saw them.

The Kids in the Hall
I really DON'T know how to describe this show to you, except to say that between Coupling, the British version of The Office, and this show, this is what my sense of humor is. (KITH is Canadian, so... I guess I really don't have an "American" sense of humor?)

KITH is a Canadian sketch comedy show, and usually there is a lot of cross-dressing involved, but it's a normal part of the show - it's not treated like, "HAHA THOSE GUYS ARE PRETENDING TO BE WOMEN!" They're just... women, because you need female characters sometimes.

How do I describe the humor? Irreverent. Sometimes over the top, sometimes subtle. Cast member Scott Thompson is gay, so you get his famous Buddy Cole sketches. There is a lot of gay humor, but homosexuality is not treated like a taboo or a trope.

I don't know. I think you just have to watch some clips. :) It's not for everyone, but it is totally what I find funny. I don't know how to describe my sense of humor, but when I talk about things that make me laugh, KITH is definitely on that list. PS - Bruce McCulloch is my favorite Kid.


Battlestar Galactica
Epic. This show is epic. It has the appearance of being a space-oriented nerdy sci-fi show, but it is really not. It definitely takes on sci-fi from the "looking at our world through an alternate reality" point of view.

Humans have created robots called Cylons, and there was a great huge war, and the Cylons left and disappeared. And one day, they show up again. Only this time, they have evolved to look like humans, and have been living among the humans this whole time.

In the four-hour miniseries that kicks off BSG, the Cylons launch a large-scale nuclear attack on the twelve human space colonies - a genocide, if you will. The 50,000 remaining humans are on the run, and need to find a way to keep the human race alive. And then it gets much more complicated from there.

Like I said, this show is NOT nerdy space robots. It's sexy. It's controversial. It's political. It's religious. It's philosophical. It's allegorical. It takes a good hard look at what it really means to be human, and at how humans treat each other. It doesn't shy away from incorporating current events (terrorism, torture, prejudice, suicide bombers, religious zealots). The characters are all beautifully flawed. The battle scenes are EPIC. This show draws you in and you end up living and breathing this show. And the series finale was just breath-taking. Epic. Just epic. It's so huge that I have not been able to bring myself to start watching it over again, because it will really suck you in, and I'm not ready to go on such a huge journey all over again yet. But it really is one of my favorite shows because it is just SO GOOD.

The X-Files
Okay, I know I'm letting my nerd flag fly here by putting this show on the list along with BSG, but... it's just so good! (Hey, I didn't list Star Trek. Though, I haven't seen much Star Trek.) Granted, I've only seen 7 seasons - I could not bring myself to keep watching knowing that David Duchovny was no longer a full-time cast member. I only recently got into this show - I started watching it while I was pregnant, and spent a large part of my summer vacation and maternity leave watching it.

Yes, there are nerdy elements to the show (alien abductions and stuff!), but it really was smart. I have a huge crush on Mulder for being just so dedicated and sometimes sarcastic and sometimes just impish and it's cute how much he delights in his work! And Scully is totally my girl crush because, again, she is a strong, smart, resourceful woman.

The main story arc of the show - involving the alien abduction of Mulder's sister and the Syndicate, who are these powerful government men who know a lot more than they are telling - was actually the least interesting part of the show for me. I loved the "monster of the week" episodes, as they are called - the show explores such a wide range of different paranormal phenomena, and it's just so, so interesting. And in the later seasons, they actually get really FUNNY. The show starts taking a really irreverent stance, and I love it. And because I'm kind of sappy, I love when Mulder and Scully start getting a little soft on each other :)

So... those are my favorite tv shows of all time. None of which are still being produced :( Out of shows that ARE actively airing new episodes, I have been following True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, and My Boys (yeah, that last one is vastly different from the other two), and I really enjoy them. And I'm trying to catch up with Dexter (I've only seen season 1). I know I spend a lot of time watching junk tv (Food Network!!! CSI reruns!!!), but actually following a tv series is a different thing for me - it's an actual emotional investment. It's me actually deciding that I care enough to make time to watch it and pay attention and remember what happens and try to sort out what comes next, and there aren't many shows that I am willing to do that with. These shows I've just listed? Totally worthy.

Comments

  1. I totally try to explain the whole Buffy being an allegory to people and they look at me like i'm crazy, i'm like, "that's the genius of the show!". no one gets it, so i'm glad i'm not alone.

    ReplyDelete
  2. We're just too smart for everyone else :)

    ReplyDelete

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