Tag Archives: Television

(ON TOPIC) How to Survive a Move

I was already halfway through Beyoncé’s latest album when my phone started flashing. A series of signals were triggered in my brain that in turn started some neurological process involving chemical neurotransmitters and synapses and yada yada yada. In short, my phone was trying to tell me something: I had eight new texts and six new podcasts to listen to. Add this to the two movies I’d downloaded on iTunes, the new Hello Mr. issue, three new books, and 47 new emails. It was enough to send me under the covers of my air mattress with a pillow locked tightly over my head, temporarily paralyzed by the media hurricane that wouldn’t let me sleep. (How does Queen Bey do it all?)

It was the night before I moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and I was trying to distract myself from figuring out how all my personal possessions, now sitting before me in an organized pile of boxes and bags, would ultimately fit in my newly acquired 2000 Toyota Camry. As I welcomed the angelic sounds of Beyoncé into my ears–driver roll up the partition, pleaseee–I wondered whether if what you own, the stuff of your life, signifies the stage of life you’re in. What does it mean that I don’t own pots and plates but have purchased, assembled, and disassembled IKEA furniture since freshman year of college? (Learning about sites like TRNK makes me want to be grown up and living in my dream flat in London, populated by “pieces” that each have a story. Can ya feel the pretension, y’all?!) But before I had an answer, I was in Los Angeles after a six-hour drive full of Beyoncé tracks and tears.

Here’s what moving feels like to me:

Hey! Hi! Hello, friends with which I’ve spent years cultivating a meaningful bond! Hello, city that is the most geographically interesting place I’ve been in years and whose streets make me feel like Dorothy in Kansas, ruby red slippers and all! Hello, apartment that has the most beautiful natural light I’ve ever seen and roommates who don’t annoy me and a perfect puppy who licks me and then falls asleep next to me and subsequently becomes the model for my future boyfriend! Hello, you all! Okay goodbye.”

BOOM.

Moving, in that respect, seems so unnatural. But my most recent move from San Francisco to Los Angeles felt a bit different. My post-move slump was a lot shorter than usual and, in truth, I’ve found myself in many moments of, well, joy. And I think I’ve figured out why.

1) Entertainment

In the opening of Pixar’s Up, an eight-year-old Carl Fredericksen sits in a movie theater, mouth agape and goggles on head as he stares at his idol on the silver screen in front of him. To me, that single image best encapsulates what moviegoing feels like. With very few exceptions, there’s nothing I’d rather do on any given day than sit in a movie theater and watch a movie. Since moving to LA seven weeks ago, I’ve seen nine movies: Very Good Girls, Begin Again, Free Fall, Test, Obvious Child, How To Train Your Dragon 2, The Fault in Our Stars, The Normal Heart, and Stranger by the Lake. I also went to the LA Film Festival and attended a program called I See Music, during which they screened Beyoncé’s entire visual album followed by a Q+A with some of the people who know her best. (I talked to her cousin afterward and somehow managed to keep my fanaticism at rest.) The list would be longer if I had more time, money, and the ability to accept the fact that I’d be compromising my physical and social well-being.

I often go to the movies by myself, which, for me, creates a significantly different moviegoing experience than if I bring a friend along. I like processing a movie on my own after I walk out of the theater, so sometimes it’s nice to exit without a friend asking, “So what’d ya think?!” Bringing a friend also excuses you from the remarks of snickering teenagers who think it’s funny you’re seeing a movie alone, as was the case when I saw The Fault in Our Stars by myself on a Saturday afternoon. In any case, there’s something that feels different about seeing a movie in LA. Maybe it’s the history of this town, where the movie studios born in the early 1900s have since given way to the industry of which I’m now a part. I go into the theater to watch a movie, and then I leave and could very well be walking in the neighborhood where the director or writer or actors live. I watch 500 Days of Summer and then take the Metro downtown to Bunker Hill where Tom convinced Summer that, in spite of popular cultural belief, LA is kinda sorta beautiful. Everything feels just a bit closer to home.

"500 Days of Summer" - Tom & Summer's Bench

But there’s more to Entertainment than just movies. For one, I just finished Season 2 of Orange is the New Black. Did you know that TV is getting good? Because it is. I read an article this month called “Queer as Friends” by Max Mosher and was reminded of how much we truly believe in TV. I’ve had particularly memorable experiences losing myself while watching Sex and the City and Six Feet Under. I came out to my parents the night after the fictional David Fisher came out to his mom and listened as she expressed her frustration over the fact that she was the last to know. Most recently, I finished watching Sex and the City in its entirety because I was too self-conscious as a “straight boy” to watch it when my mom did during its original run from 1998 through 2004. I couldn’t always connect with Carrie Bradshaw’s shopping habits or interior monologues, but there were moments when I truly believed that she lived in that beautiful brownstone–that I, as a NYU student living in Manhattan, could’ve spotted her gracefully exiting her apartment one evening to catch a black car with Mr. Big. “We believe because it makes life easier,” Mosher writes.

2) People

I promise I’ve done more than just consume movies and TV by myself since moving. (It was really hard to write that sentence.) There are people out in the world, too! (It was even harder to write that one.) One of the first social events I attended was a cocktail reception hosted by the NYU in LA Alumni group. I was pleasantly surprised to see a few familiar faces and was quickly reminded of how special it is to be a part of a bicoastal creative community.

I’ve also found myself on a handful of “friend dates.” I have friends from my previous homes in New York and San Francisco who have good friends living in LA, so I asked them to set me up with them. At least once a week since I moved here, I’ve been meeting these friends of friends for dinner and/or drinks.

A few weeks ago I found myself with four new friends, all women. (Not the first time this has happened.) Two were gay, and two were straight, and conversation consisted mostly of their LA horror stories. We spent two hours talking about dating. Whether the date was with a man or a woman, from Tinder or from OKCupid, they all echoed the same sentiment: dating in LA is depressing. In the age of dating apps, everyone is seemingly shopping around for the next best thing. One woman mentioned that she quickly grew tired of women who were on their Tinder app during their date. Others expressed frustration over their ostensible requirement to withhold emotion while dating–over receiving a, “Woah woah. We’re just hanging out,” if they, by some miracle, reached a third or fourth or even fifth date. I couldn’t help but wonder (said Carrie in voiceover)…are we growing increasingly resistant to commitment? Do we even know how to date anymore, or is a fundamental rift forming in this Digital Age of romance? All of these dating apps may not necessarily be working against us, but they’re certainly changing the conversation. The “Don’t ask how we met because you know we met on Grindr” face is my personal favorite manifestation of this evolution.

We noted how Sex and the City our conversation was, but quickly laughed and pointed out how terribly unrealistic that show was and how our lives were thankfully a bit more grounded in reality. As we paid our bill and exited the restaurant, one woman said she’d like to see a show called No Sex and the City, which would feature all the men and women–the heroes–behind the lives of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte who made their lives look oh so slick and shiny. Who cleaned their apartments, for example, and what were their lives like when they went home to a land that was assuredly void of Versace couture dresses and blue satin Manolos?

As I fell on my bed at the end of the night, I couldn’t help but think about how the Entertainment in my life had become inextricably tied to the People–that these two separate things had joined to become the tunnel through which I’d make a smooth transition into life in sunny LA. More important, though, I thought about what would happen if we paid just a little more attention to each other. If we sat down across from someone, silent, ears open, and ready to listen.

I haven’t written a blog post since 2013. As tough and periodically sad as moving can be, it’s got me writing. And for that, LA, I am grateful. May the creative juices continue to flow. For now, I gotta go make a spreadsheet before I fall asleep to figure out which piece of media I’m going to consume next. G’night.

zZz…I sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker…zZz….

 

An Ode to “So You Think You Can Dance”

You don’t expect to cry while watching reality TV.

This was the condition under which I was operating while watching “So You Think You Can Dance” this season, so I feel compelled to write about the Experience I had while doing so. I don’t watch much reality TV, but I just caught up with this season of “SYTYCD” and feel comfortable saying it’s the only reality show I’d consistently follow.

Let me explain:

The only other time I’ve cried while watching a TV show was during the series finale of “Six Feet Under.” That said, I’ve cried during almost half of the “SYTYCD” episodes this season. My brother doesn’t understand how I could get emotional while watching someone dance, and I’m sure he’s not alone in this feeling; not anyone who watches the show is going to connect with it.

I tried to explain my attachment, though, beginning by saying that dancing—like any art—is an incredibly personal thing, requiring the dancer to externalize the internal, to take emotional turmoil and filter it through the movement of the body. When someone is willing to do this in the public eye—in combination with incredible technique—the result can be something transcendent and beautiful. Magic, really.

So go watch this video and cry. It features Sasha, who I believe should’ve been this year’s winner. And if you feel nothing, you’re a robot, metaphorically speaking.

(ON TOPIC) British TV and Why America’s “Skins” is Going to Suck

Meet Will, Simon, Jay, and Neil, your typical college students in London. (Their “college” is our “high school.”) Neil has had sex, Will and Simon have almost had sex, and Jay says he’s had tons of sex but actually never has.

A scene in the Season One finale will define the tone of the show for you. For the first time, Jay shows a softer side as he bonds with a classmate manning the bar at a school dance. As they talk about trust and wanting to feel special, a pretty girl approaches. Jay quickly asks her if she wants to go DJ with him, so he grabs the drinks from the bartender and rushes off. “You didn’t say please! What about opening up and trusting?” his classmate offers sadly.

Jay looks back. He stares at the only kid with whom he’s had a serious, meaningful conversation. “Fuck off, you fat wanker,” he shouts.

Welcome to British humour. (Them Brits have funny spellings.) Let’s begin.

—————————————————————————————-

From the BBC to NBC:
Television Lost in Translation

In high school my parents took my brother and I to a resort in Mexico, and I remember being surrounded unexpectedly by things I associated with home. From cheeseburgers and ice cream to well-ventilated rooms with flat-screen TVs, I found the resort to be, in short, unexpectedly American. On the drive from the resort to the airport at the end of the trip, the lesson of the week became clear as we passed dilapidated shacks and barely clothed women lining the streets: among the nonindigenous, Americans tend to seek the American.

And this, dear reader(s), might be one explanation as to why many American adaptations of British shows fail, time and time again.

First, though, I have to call out the fundamental differences between the BBC, the largest broadcasting organisation (there goes that spelling again) in the world, and the U.S. broadcasting system. For one, the U.S. seems to favor quantity over quality. In a more market-driven consumer culture, U.S. broadcasting seems to feature more disposable shows (of an arguably lesser quality), with a few gems thrown into the mix. Culturally relevant shows like The CW’s “Vampire Diaries” and “Gossip Girl” serve as examples of shows banking on a fad in America’s ever-changing pop culture. Meanwhile, a show from ABC programmer Steve McPherson like “LOST” stands stronger as an example of a network gem that’s enjoyed a longer shelf life.

BBC programming, however, seems to exist in a different league. Averaging six episodes per season of each show, logic tells me there must be more time devoted to each episode of each show. This would in turn allow for a higher, tighter writing quality. The BBC also seems to serve a different function than that of U.S. broadcasting. As the BBC website explains, it exists free from direct government intervention and “is run in the interests of its viewers and listeners.” It was established by a Royal Charter and is funded by a license fee that’s paid by UK households. (The annual cost of a color TV license is £145.50, which is about $230. A black and white license, however, only costs £49. But is it really a choice? You obviously have to watch Gordon Ramsay in color.)

While there are hundreds of American adaptations of British shows, I’m going to focus on three in particular simply because they’re the ones I’ve watched most recently. I’ll start with “The Office,” although it doesn’t quite fit into my argument about failed U.S. adaptations. In fact, it stands against it, really. Instead it’s an example of one of the many wildly popular BBC shows that’s become an international franchise with versions produced in Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Israel, and the U.S. (The Regional Manager in the Israeli version goes by the name Avi Meshulam and looks like he could eat Michael Scott in three bites.)

 

“The Office” (U.K.) vs. “The Office” (U.S.)

“The Office” (U.K.) was created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant and ran for fourteen episodes beginning in November of 2001. A few years later, Greg Daniels developed “The Office” (U.S.) for NBC with the help of the British duo. Debuting in 2004, the show stuck closely to its British counterpart, down to the line. It has since come into its own after diverging from the original downsizing U.K. plot and introducing a cast of strong, dynamic characters.

With an average of twenty-four episodes per season to the U.K.’s two six-episode series and two-part Christmas special, the American show has had more time to apply a distinctly American humor to Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin while delving into the monotony of the office workplace. Consequently, you often get meandering, topical episodes and back stories (i.e. Jan and her breast implants) that sometimes seem distracting and disposable.

In any case, the general argument I’ve heard is the American version is much tamer than the British version, a safer show without the British wit. What I’ll agree upon is that the humor is expectedly different in both shows. Overall, the U.K. version is more bleak and grounded in reality. It’s often quite sad watching manager David Brent (Ricky Gervais) awkwardly slide around the office, waiting for any and every moment to interject with an obnoxious and/or offensive comment. The office itself also seems to function within a particular unconscious desolation. If the unhappy workers continue to show up even though they can’t stand working for the incompetent Brent, it’s easy to infer that the employees have lost faith in corporate management altogether. The episode “Training” provides a good example of the office climate as the staff sits in a circle in the meeting room as Brent sings an original tune called “Freelove Freeway” on the guitar. It’s as if he’s singing, “I am paying you, so be my friend! Be my friend!” And this is sad to me.

The U.S. take, however, is more lighthearted. While the minor characters in the U.K. version are mere victims of Brent’s cultural insensitivity, the U.S.’s are more present and developed. Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson), for example, is a reactive beet-farm-working, self-proclaimed hero. Receptionist Pam Beasley (Jenna Fischer) has also been given time to develop fully as we’ve watched her move from behind the front desk as a single woman to a seat on the sales floor as a married mother.

In terms of the boss, Michael Scott is arguably less distressing than Brent and has moments, albeit rare ones, when I find myself really respecting him as a boss. This can be seen in the episodes highlighting the playful camaraderie that sometimes exists among the characters. For example, in Season Five’s “Café Disco,” Michael turns an empty room in the building into a disco room, a safe haven that brings the office together momentarily in song and dance. In Season Three’s “Local Ad,” Michael creates a television commercial for Dunder Mifflin that’s debuted to smiling faces at an office party. In what I consider one of the best moments of the entire series, the staff sits beside Scott as they watch themselves on screen and realize, if only for a moment, they are all in the humdrum business together. (Watch it here: http://www.nbc.com/The_Office/video/local-ad/172072/) Nevertheless, such moments are rare and still don’t overshadow the fact that Scott is often just as immature as Brent. Scott offers his “That’s what she said” punch line whenever he deems necessary, writes “Hey Meredith, Liz Taylor called, she wants her age back and her divorces back!” on Meredith’s birthday card, and fake fires Pam.

Ultimately, I can’t say which version is better. I’ve heard many people from the U.S. say they can’t “get into” the U.K. version because it’s dryer than the U.S. version they know and love, which I think testifies to the expectations of the U.S. TV-watching audience. When it comes down to it, most Americans just want to laugh. They want to turn off their brains and resort to the TV after a long day as a cheap and easy escape. In any case, Greg Daniels’ adaptation of the show still remains in my mind as one of the more successful adaptations of a contemporary British show. As of late, my opinion of it’s U.S. brother is at an all-time low as Season Seven has been, in short, pretty damn mediocre. Case in point: “China,” last week’s episode. You can’t make a show like “The Office” a backdrop for commentary on the changing dynamic of global powers. As the A.V. club says, it just can’t do that level of satire. Leave that to the crime procedurals.

The winner: Let’s chalk it up to a tie.

 

“Coupling” (U.K.) vs. “Coupling” (U.S.)

“Coupling” (U.K.) is a show based on the relationship between writer Steven Moffat and executive producer Sue Vertue. Starting in 2000, it ran for four seasons with an average of six episodes per season. The show follows six friends, three women and three men, throughout their daily conversations about sex, life, and more sex. (Sound familiar? It should.) The episodes are often characterized by crude humor coupled with insightful and witty musings on what it means to be a man and a woman. Season Two’s “Naked” provides a telling example. Jeff Murdock (Richard Coyle), arguably the most rough and awkward character, imagines kissing his coworker and begins to daydream about the consequences. The situations he creates build and build, taking the humor into the even more absurd until he’s nearly naked in an interrogation room on the verge of being hanged.

But the U.S. could never pull this off. The U.S. version premiered in 2003 on NBC and didn’t even last until November sweeps. Four episodes aired, while seven more were filmed but ultimately unaired. I firmly believe the adaptation failed because 1) an almost identical script to its British counterpart was used and 2) miscasting. The humor and wit of the U.K. version was quickly lost through the delivery of the U.S. actors who, in short, sounded silly when reciting the same lines.

Although it seems NBC wishes to forget “Coupling” ever happened (as the show is now hard to find), one short clip on YouTube pairs a scene from the U.K. version with the same scene from the U.S. version. In Season One’s  “The Girl with Two Breasts,” U.K. Jeff hovers in a bar near an Israeli girl who doesn’t speak English. As he approaches the table he says, “You read,” commenting on the obvious fact that she’s reading. U.S. Jeff Clancy (Christopher Moynihan) recites the very same line, but with a very different intonation. Jeff exclaims, “You read!” followed by a cheesy, frat boy thumbs up and nod. This very gesture exemplifies the miscasting on part of the U.S. version and why it may have failed. (Or maybe it’s because Gina Bellman’s U.K. character Jane Christie is renamed Jane Honda in the American version.)

The winner: “Coupling” (U.K.)

 

Where Do We Go From Here?

Everyone I tell to watch “Skins” gets hooked. My cousins (and therefore their friends) are the latest victims.

“Skins” is a U.K. teen drama following teenagers in Bristol, South West England. It’s become a popular yet controversial show dealing with a myriad of issues regarding homosexuality, dysfunctional families, personality disorders, sexual abuse, and death. The show was created by father and son TV writers Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain who meet with teens on a weekly basis to keep the show authentic and fresh. The show premiered in 2007 and will enter its fifth season in January 2011. The first two seasons follow one cast, or “generation,” led by Nicholas Hoult as Tony Stonem. (Hoult is best known to American audiences as Hugh Grant’s chubby and lovable pal in “About A Boy.”) In Season Three, the show transitioned to the current cast.

I’ve come to really love “Skins” and was therefore upset after hearing last year that Liz Gateley is bringing “Skins” to America. With an unknown cast. To be aired on MTV in January 2011. Why is this an issue? “Skins” is what it is because it’s raw, sexy, and real. In my opinion, MTV is the wrong channel to host this kind of a show. Knowing the MTV Brand, it might tame the show and package it more accessibly for its young adult demographic. (Nevertheless this week’s premiere of MTV’s “The Vice Guide To Everything” gives me hope. The show featured correspondents chewing the natural narcotic qat in Yemen and visiting an underground strip club in Detroit run by a man named Jay Thunderbolt. It was pretty damn gritty.) The teasers for the show also make me feel it could fall prey to the Coupling Syndrome—sticking too close to the original, that is.

The winner: TBD (This is me being civil and fair.)

Ultimately, I think more care needs to be taken when adapting British shows. We can’t just ignore that British viewers bring a different worldview to their TV, one that we can’t wholly relate to over here in the U.S. (Some people find it difficult to watch someone dig themselves into a hole deeper, and deeper, and deeper, until they’re naked in an interrogation room while daydreaming about getting hanged. I get that.) The crudeness and wit of the U.K. doesn’t necessarily have to be lost, but as “The Office” shows, perhaps the best solution is to truly adapt the show. Take the premise and characters and work them into a culture and world as better recognized by the average American viewer. And then put it on the appropriate channel. (I would say cable TV is where it’s at and broadcast TV is where it was.)

For now, I journey back to Season One of “Skins.” Sometimes it’s fun to think about what would happen if the writers of “Skins” and “The Inbetweeners” pulled a soap opera move and made the cast cross over into each other’s shows. Maybe they’d meet at a club in London and then Jay and Cassie would fall in love and then their car would get stolen so Tony would hijack a car on the side of the road and then they’d get caught and have to go to court and it’d turn into an episode of “Law and Order: U.K.” and the judges would be wearing wigs and we’d all have a good laugh.

Shit’s about to get real.

(I often experience the impulse to put a Works Cited list at the end of some of my blog posts because this is what college has taught me to do. So, with that said, Desperate Networks by Bill Carter and NBC: America’s Network by Michele Hilmes informed parts of this post. And that MeTube thing.)

(ON TOPIC) Me, Myself, and Fall TV: “Did you know dolphins are just gay sharks?”

My stomach turns. Entertainment magazines sit to my right, staring. My Google browser is open and the cursor blinks at me from the empty search bar. I take a deep breath because it’s the beginning of August and preparations must begin.

Fall TV is on the horizon.

As fall begins to poke it’s little head at us, most people start putting away the flip-flops and gearing up for school, cold weather, and/or work. But for me, stress hits me like a brick and I know it’s time to crack down and get my annual TV viewing schedule sorted. Because how will there be enough time to watch everything I want to watch.

I’ve discussed this concern with a few of my close friends, all of whom suggested I keep my TV habits to myself because they’re…“embarrassing.” So, just to spite them, I’m going to devote a whole blog post to revealing the methods behind the madness.

Let’s begin by unleashing the monster:

FALL 2010 TV SCHEDULE

MONDAY
How I Met Your Mother (CBS, 8PM)
The Sing-Off (NBC, 8PM)
Weeds (Showtime, 9PM)
Mike & Molly (CBS, 9:30PM)
The Big C (Showtime, 10PM)
The Vice Guide To Everything (MTV, 11PM)

TUESDAY
Glee (FOX, 8PM)
Raising Hope (FOX, 9PM)
Running Wilde (FOX, 9:30PM)

WEDNESDAY
The Sing-Off (NBC, 8PM)
Modern Family (ABC, 9PM)
Terriers (FX, 10PM)

THURSDAY
The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8PM)
Community (NBC, 8PM)
30 Rock (NBC, 8:30PM)
The Office (NBC, 9PM)
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (FX, 10PM)

FRIDAY
None

SATURDAY
Saturday Night Live (NBC, 11:30PM)

SUNDAY
The Simpsons (FOX, 8PM)
Dexter (Showtime, 9PM)
Family Guy (FOX, 9PM)
Bored To Death (HBO, 10PM)
Mad Men (AMC, 10PM)
The Walking Dead (AMC, 10PM)

WHEN TIME PERMITS: Skins, Seinfeld, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, The Wire, The Comeback, Cougar Town, Blue Bloods, Boardwalk Empire, The League, Children’s Hospital, Breaking Bad, All in the Family, The Honeymooners

Mind you, this isn’t what it looked like a few months ago. It’s acknowledged it’s flaws and gotten a little wiser, like people do with age. Many shows were once highlighted in red, but they’ve since been deleted. If a show is in red, this means it’s a “low priority” show I don’t watch every week. Examples: “Blue Bloods” and “The Defenders.” This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad shows; instead, I devote my time to watching the shows I hold a littler closer to my TV-obsessed heart. Some shows have also been deleted because they just didn’t hold my attention enough to stay on the list. Examples: “Hawaii Five-O” and “No Ordinary Family.” On the surface this may seem harsh, jailing them without a fair trial, but I was always picked last in gym class so this is how I deal with it. (Better than awkwardly rocking back and forth in place. This is how Burt Chance, one of my favorite characters from FOX’s “Raising Hope,” deals with hard things from the past, but I prefer less showy methods.)

In this manner, my scheduling process has affected my TV-viewing habits in two noteworthy ways. The first, as alluded to above, is I now divide everything I watch into the categories “Shows I Watch” and “Shows I Kind Of Watch.” Rarely do shows jump from the former to the latter, although it’s possible for a show to transition from the latter to the former. For example, I just finished Season One of “Six Feet Under” on DVD, so it made the successful transition this week to the “Shows I Watch” category because 1) I’ll watch anything that’s been touched by the brilliance that is Alan Ball (writer of “American Beauty”) and 2) comparing Michael C. Hall’s psychologically complex characters on “Six Feet Under” and “Dexter” is a whole lotta innocent fun.

Secondly, the stress of watching dozens of shows each week has led to my love for thirty-minute sitcoms and six-episode British series. After all, how can you watch several hour-long shows per week and expect to have a life and be able to travel and do normal people things? Trust me when I say YOU CANNOT. After returning from three weeks in China, my precious thirty-minute sitcoms (barely) allowed me to catch up on all my shows and pick back up within the week I returned. My palms are still sweaty just thinking about this tumultuous week.

So what does this mean? This scheduling process thang and subsequent anxiety. Well, in short, it means my happiness during any given week is contingent upon the strength of the week’s TV episodes. Which really means it’s reliant upon a handful of writers. Which is really freaking risky. (Forgive me for likening the television industry to the political climate of the United States of America, but this isn’t unlike the U.S., where power ostensibly rests in the hands of a few.)

I’ve plotted the effect TV has on my level of happiness, and I’ve included it below. (If my friends think my chart is embarrassing, I can only imagine how they feel about my line graph.) The happiness scale ranges from zero to ten, zero being “extremely unhappy” and ten being “extremely happy.” As you can see, my happiness peaks on Wednesday and Thursday nights (usually around 9 PM), declines on Fridays and Saturdays, and then picks back up on Sunday nights thanks to HBO and AMC. You’d think my rating would be much lower on Fridays considering I don’t watch any shows airing on Fridays, but sometimes I use this day to catch up on shows I might have missed during the week. Hence the moderate 5.

There isn’t time and space to realistically review each and every show I’ve been following this season, so I thought I’d pick a few of my favorite characters and shows and briefly describe them in the case you’re looking to put a new show on your own TV schedule. And it’s obviously in chart form because this blog has taught me that my life can be easily reduced to four-column charts and line graphs.

Character Show Returning or new? Catchphrases, Traits, and Quirks
Brittany S. Pierce “Glee” (FOX, Tuesday, 8PM) Returning (Season 2) Known for her deadpan humor and hilarious, wacky one-liners. On animals, “Did you know dolphins are just gay shark?” And her hero is Britney Spears. (Read her name in full and you’ll understand why.)
Phil Dunphy “Modern Family” (ABC, Wednesday, 9PM) Returning (Season 2) The “cool dad,” an ex- cheerleader, and victim of Coulrophobia (a fear of clowns). In his own words: “I’m like Shirley Temple and that black guy in that movie.”
Hank and Britt “Terriers” (FX, Wednesday, 10PM) New, but unfortunately just cancelled this week despite its critical acclaim An ex-cop (Hank) and former criminal (Britt) become best friends and badass unlicensed PIs. Britt: “In your experience, what’s the best way to get rid of blue balls?”Hank: “Don’t get married.”
Sheldon Cooper, Ph.D. “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS, Thursday, 8PM) Returning (Season 4) A child prodigy who’s now a theoretical physicist lacking any understanding of irony and humor. He has an IQ of 187, only sits on the left side of his couch, and yells “Bazinga!” when he tells a joke.
Troy Barnes “Community” (NBC, Thursday, 8PM) Returning (Season 2) Former high school football star who injured himself during a “kegflip” and now attends community college where he builds blanket forts with Abed. He just realized he’s 21 because his mom told him he was 10 twice because he repeated the fourth grade.
The Gang “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” (FX, Thursday, 10PM) Returning (Season 6) The Gang: Dennis, Sweet Dee, Mac, Charlie, and Frank. They’re cynical, they’re pathetic, and they’ve made a movie called “Lethal Weapon 5.” ‘Nuff said.
Dexter Morgan “Dexter” (Showtime, Sunday, 9PM) Returning (Season 5) Leads a double life as a blood pattern analyst/murderer. He calls his urge to kill his “Dark Passenger” and is largely incapable of producing normal human emotions. He also has an apron with “Natural Born Griller” written on it.
Don Draper “Mad Men” (AMC, Sunday, 10PM) Returning (Season 4) Is he Don, Dick Whitman, or someone in between? He likes drinking, women, and is an incarnate of the American Dream. Don and Dexter are two of the most engaging, morally ambiguous characters on TV.

Some of my friends think I’m nuts for devoting so much time to TV. I’ve had time now to think of a response, and it’s summarized best via the law of diminishing returns, one of the most important principles of economics. (The law states that if one factor of production is increased while the others remain constant, the overall returns will decrease after a certain point.) As I add one more show to my already stable TV-viewing schedule, there’s a higher chance the overall satisfaction and enjoyment I get from the shows I watch will decrease. Think about it. If all I watched was “Boardwalk Empire,” I’d LOVE “Boardwalk Empire.” A lot. But because I watch more than twenty other shows, “Boardwalk Empire” becomes a lot less special and, in fact, gets pushed from the “Shows I Watch” list to the “Show I Kind Of Watch List.” This is simply because I don’t always have the time and energy for it, and I’m not really OK with this. Although the writing isn’t always brilliant, the production design, costumes, and (most of) the performances in this period piece certainly are.

On a similar note, in watching so many shows you begin to notice similarities among them. This, again, detracts from the specialness of a particular show. For one, the opening scenes of “LOST,” “The Event,” and “No Ordinary Family” all involved an unlikely plane disaster. It was somewhat original when “LOST” did it, but totally unoriginal by the time I saw it on “The Event” and “No Ordinary Family.” Emotional scenes in some of my favorite shows also often seem to find the main character swimming in a pool: Dexter in “Dexter,” Don Draper in “Mad Men,” and Cathy in “The Big C.” With so much quality TV out there, it’s difficult to view shows in and of themselves.

So why do it? Why devote so much valuable time to the Tube? Because, in truth, I enjoy being a part of so many different worlds, albeit fictional ones. I like watching shows that know what they are and take pleasure in creating well-developed, believable characters. I do it for the pleasure of realizing I’m a part of the world in which these people inhabit, like when I’m watching an episode of a show that gets me thinking about a previous episode and I go, “Ah ha! That’s why they said that!” Those little connections always make me smile. I also do it for the pleasure of experiencing a show with momentum that never fails to get you excited for next week’s show. In “How I Met Your Mother” this week, for example, Ted has a bet with Barney that involves Ted wearing a dress, although we have yet to find out what that bet is. But because I’ve been with the show for six seasons, I know a future episode will most likely answer this for us.

Sometimes I like to picture the writer’s room of my favorite shows and imagine them rejoicing when they get a good moment down on the page. Considering I want to write for TV one day and have sat in the writing rooms of shows like “The Daily with Jon Stewart” as an intern, I’ll always stand (or sit on my couch) in awe of many of today’s TV writers. They’re magicians sometimes, really. Proof: Read “Chuck Lorre and the rules of the network sitcom” by Tom Bissell in the December 6, 2010 issue of “The New Yorker.” The article offers some great examples of how writers often have to make on-the-fly adjustments to lines, particularly when taping live multi-camera sitcoms like Lorre’s “Mike & Molly.”

I often try to imagine what the writer’s room of “Dexter” is like. Since Season One, Dexter has had a pretty limited emotional range in comparison to most TV characters—instead of seeing him laugh, cry, and get angry, you see him stony-eyed and indifferent. But in Season Five, after making a kill in vengeance for a loved one, Dexter, kneeling on the ground and covered in blood, screams bloody murder. And it was beautifully frightening. Soon after, we meet Lumen (played perfectly by guest star Julia Stiles), and a romantic relationship between the two slowly develops. I picture the writers looking at one other and saying, “This season we’re going to make Dexter scream. And then fall in love.” It’s moments like these that keep me coming back for more.

That said, I’m very sad I won’t be able to keep up with so many shows once I go back to school next semester. I’d pull a Dexter and scream bloody murder, but thank Moses I have Netflix, Hulu, and DVDs to calm me down.

I must go though, as I have some TV to watch. Glee started at 8:00 and I still have to figure out how I’m going to fit Breaking Bad re-runs into my schedule.

I can feel the sweat on my palms already.

NEXT UP—British TV and Why America’s “Skins” is Going to Suck