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10 December 2013 @ 11:45 pm
December Blogging Meme: TV Sitcoms vs. Primetime Dramas  
Today's blogging topic, courtesy of bleodswean, is "Half hour situational comedy versus hour primetime drama."

My preferences lean heavily toward drama. When I was a kid, I probably liked sitcoms more. I used to watch Three's Company (because I had an inexplicable crush on John Ritter), and loved The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bob Newhart (the '70s version), M*A*S*H*, and WKRP In Cincinnati. I liked Soap, partly because of a crush on Billy Crystal and that he played a gay character (slash!), but to be honest, the satire and offbeat sense of humor were also right up the alley where the adult me would eventually wind up parking my FBI Watchvan.

I don't like sitcoms much nowadays. I tend to like irony, absurdity, and satire—all at once!—which you can find in The Simpsons and Raising Hope but which typically is in shows that do less well with audiences: Max Headroom, Arrested Development, Community, Better Off Ted, Futurama, Aliens In American, and (in later seasons) My Name Is Earl. My comedic tastes are often the commercial kiss of death, though The Colbert Report is still going strong (but the fact that my whole family finds it funnier than The Daily Show probably tells you something).

I also seem to have scheduling trouble with half-hour shows, unless they start on the hour OR come after something I already watch. It's as if I can't latch onto the memory of when they air. :(

TV dramas, though... they're my mainstay. I'm not usually drawn to nighttime soaps or melodramas (as I think of them), so there are tons of shows that don't appeal to me. But good writing and good characters (and often, snark) really pull me in. For years, Chicago Hope and E.R. were favorites, and then House, M.D.. I liked all of the Law & Order shows (especially SVU, before Eliot left). Six Feet Under, Oz, The Walking Dead, Dexter, and Homeland are some favorites from cable, and 24 held me captive for a number of seasons. I was obviously pretty passionate about Prison Break and Supernatural for many years, and have really started liking Criminal Minds in reruns (though I still hate S1, which is why I originally gave up on the show). I miss Fringe and its characters a great deal.

I am not a huge fan of the big overarching storyline many hour-long shows have, though. Too often, those get overblown and ridiculous, until it takes six seasons for Patrick Jane to find Red John, and by then the conspiracies of conspiracies have just become stupid. I think the long arc ruined Supernatural for me, with the increasing one-upsmanship over the angst of prior seasons (and trotting out the Apocalypse, which I'm sick to death of). My favorite X-Files episodes were typically the comedic ones that had very little to do with the mytharc, and while a quiet, large story progression is fine with me, I usually like shows on an individual-episode basis. An amazing, tightly written and well-acted episode is like a little present I can re-open again and again. It's one of the reasons House is still so good on rewatching, but E.R. less so. With E.R., you were always in the middle of a longer arc, and too much of the story was driven by the seasonal plotline rather than the episode plotline. I think that's probably a matter of personal preference, but "small and solid" usually works better for me.

If it seems like I've skipped over many of my favorite shows, it's because they're not really primetime dramas. I've loved a lot of mixed-genre shows that are lighter or just too bizarre to fall into that pure "drama" category. Some of them (Burn Notice, White Collar, and Justified) have been pretty popular, while many others (Reaper, Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls, and American Gothic) were just "too weird' for mainstream audiences.

Well, this got long. Or was that the point?

To sum up: of the comedies I like, very few are sitcoms, and dramas appeal to me more consistently. But on the scorecard of My Tastes vs. Typical TV Viewers, let's just say that if the Nielsen people ever came to my house, they would leave a lump of coal in my stocking.

Thanks, bleodswean, for the great topic!

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Kronette: Merry Whateverkronette on December 12th, 2013 01:42 am (UTC)
There's nothing inexplicable about a crush on John Ritter. You knew he was smart underneath the bumbling, and I was devastated when he passed away. I practically grew up on Soap. I'll still watch it and it's where I saw most of those actors for the first time.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: TVhalfshellvenus on December 12th, 2013 02:27 am (UTC)
His character on 3's Company was a cartoonish letch, though, so I imagine a lot of people would get stuck on that. Still, I thought he was cute, and also devasted when he died. Too young, and so shocking.

I'm thinking I might want to rewatch Soap at some point. The one half-remembered moment I have from it actually is not comedy-- it's when Jessica discovers her husband is cheating on her, and though her character was often silly, that heartbreak was genuine. It really got to me.
cindy: cm - garcia (by notimetothink)tsuki_no_bara on December 12th, 2013 03:47 am (UTC)
i had kind of a crush on john ritter too. you were not alone! and i only watched dead like me in reruns, and while i couldn't quite get into all the side stuff with george's family (altho i kinda liked her sister and felt bad for her) i really liked the conceit and i liked the reapers.

i loved max headroom! and matt frewer! when he showed up on spn i fell off the couch with glee. physically he was a great pestilence. i also kinda loved the random episodes of my name is earl that i caught. (reruns. :D ) it was ridiculous and goofy and silly and good-hearted.

i'm super pleased you like cm, too. the nice thing about it is that you can skip episodes and not miss too much. there's some character-plot progression but it's very sporadic. (i also tend not to be a huge fan of the overarching mytharc-y plot.)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 12th, 2013 06:42 am (UTC)
I became intrigued with George's family. Her mother at first seems to be a brittle, uptight, beeyotch, but she's also grieving. Via later flashbacks, you see that she has two prickly children who reject her love, and then later that her own mother was disinterested in her and tended to run off for months and months at a time. Suddenly, you get a very clear picture of why the mother is the way she is. You do have to feel sorry for Reggie, in that she was overlooked by George and is now alone and bereft. She and her mother are doomed to irritate each other, even more than George and the mom did. :O

Max Headroom was so stylish and weird, and I've kind of fangirled Matt Frewer ever since. Can't help it.

CM was the first time I didn't like Mandy Patinkin in a show, and he still rubs me the wrong way in those early seasons. I've loved him in everything else. Reed finally grew on me when he became less stiff and more adorkable. You can practically track the series' vintage based on his hair-- the nerd cut, the baby bird, the gradual progression toward GQ-ness, and now... the oddly tragic hair nearing baby bird status again. ;O
cindy: cm - physics magic (by notimetothink)tsuki_no_bara on December 13th, 2013 05:19 am (UTC)
my issue with george's family was that i didn't like any of them. i totally get that they were grieving, but they still managed to be weirdly unsympathetic. not totally, but most of the time.

i always have something to say about spencer's hair. :D and sometimes it's even positive! (i have a lot of opinions about his hair.) and yeah, you can pretty much use it to tell what season it is.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Laundromat Reaperhalfshellvenus on December 13th, 2013 07:57 pm (UTC)
George's family never becomes very likable-- and she was pretty unlikable at the beginning of the series herself! But she has a chance to grow, and her family is stuck being who they are and grieving at what's happened in their lives.

I really like Reed's longer hair (hot!) The nerd-cut is horrifying, and the hiking-up seasons (2 and now) not so great. This is the lesson in keeping the back longer if your hair tends curl enough to climb in the back. Mine does, and so does Christopher's. :O
Port: dean pendesertport on December 14th, 2013 11:16 am (UTC)
You know, I love the Daily Show and Colbert equally, but do find Colbert more consistently funny, minute-to-minute. They both have irony and satire, but Colbert just plays it past the hilt. Plus he has really clever wordplay. :)

It seems there are two types of fans: those who enjoy one-off eps, and those who prefer mytharc. I'm definitely with you, and X-Files is the perfect example. Though maybe not entirely fair since it seems they actually were making it all up as they went along. But damn, their funny eps were funny, and their monsters of the week were mostly memorable. Kinda the same experience as SPN, sadly.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: TVhalfshellvenus on December 15th, 2013 06:46 am (UTC)
But damn, their funny eps were funny, and their monsters of the week were mostly memorable.
Two of my favorite X-Files episodes were "Bad Blood" and "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose," which were both comedies. Mulder being trapped in the car with the gung-ho coworkers on the way to some awful "Building a fortress with chairs" conference (which he bailed out on) was another.

For SPN, I like the episodes in isolation, but the larger arcs have not worked well for me. There are ideas that were abandoned, ideas I just didn't care to see play out, and ideas that exceeded my already tested suspension of disbelief. I was there for the snark, the monsters, and the journey of the brothers... but I'd hoped it would be a journey more of togetherness than of pulling apart. *sigh*

I don't think the longer arcs have worked as well on White Collar as the show's creators seem to believe, either. And Burn Notice-- ugh. Those arcs finally destroyed the show entirely, though they made for a good rotation of fun villains in the earlier seasons.