Television Taste

My wife and I came late to the game.  Only a few weeks ago did we start watching Downton Abbey. Just last night we completed watching season 1.  I was hooked by the end of the second episode.  After hearing how wildly popular the series was, I doubted seriously I would find it appealing.  Everyone was talking about it.

But I watched it and there it was; I, too, was a fan.  And I look forward to getting “caught up” so I can join the legions of other fans who wait in anticipation each week to watch a new episode.

I’ve long said I was not much of a television viewer.  But I think back just a short time and realize I have had quite a few favorite series before (or concurrent with) Downton Abbey:

  • Breaking Bad
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Homicide: Life on the Street
  • The Buddha
  • House of Cards (both British and current American versions)
  • Broadchurch
  • No doubt there are more…

I suppose my assertion that I don’t watch much television is based on the relatively few hours I watch compared to all the hours it’s available.  And so much of the stuff on television is such mindless swill.

But, then, maybe it’s truly just a matter of taste.  What I find annoying swill might be comforting mindlessness for someone else.  What I like might require more energy than some folks are prepared to give to enjoy it.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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13 Responses to Television Taste

  1. Mosha says:

    Juan, couldn’t help but add one of my favorite scenes from Tinker. John, if you like spy/espionage this is worth the view!

  2. Mosha says:

    Juan, as we say in Espanol, ¡esta de falsedad! Not knowing the le’Carre’s stories! Need to look into that before my 3rd view of Tinker, having left me baffled in certain aspects….now I know why, my grand connoisseur. ¡Gracias!

    Nope, didn’t know about Anderson’s relationship with his parents, and thanks for passing that along, for as we know directors project a great deal about themselves into their films. Why am I suddenly thinking in Polkanski? Who knows…

    “Boogie Nights” was really great film, Juan! And I agree, the best that Burt Reynolds ever did. Unfortunately for him, he will always be associated with the fanfare of “Smokey and the Bandits.”

    Mosha and Trish would be glad to pass on film/series recommendations, for they share similar views….only battle over the profile photo! Ha!

    Don’t you have Nexflix, Juan?? Either delivered, or streamed? Somehow I would certainly think so. Alas, mine is Nexflix Mexico, which means many films that I would like to see are missing. And I mean a bunch!

  3. juan says:

    Thanks, Mosha! Don’t feel like the lone stranger; I’ve seen the film maybe 7 times. I may watch it again tonight. I say, “if it’s a good film, then it’s worth studying.”

    HBO series presented the series with Guinness as George Smiley. Great series, but the Anderson film of the same really takes it the hilt. The only flaw I see in the film is that a viewer really has to have some background information over le’Carre’s stories to know what’s really cooking in the film.

    I am now absorbed in films that have Oldman in it, or that he directed. If you have not seen “Nil by Mouth,” then put that one on your list. Oldman both wrote and directed the film. You’ll even recognize one of the characters in “Tinker, Tailor” appearing there.

    There’s an interesting combination of thoughts working in “Tinker, Tailor.” For example, take note of how strong the male characters are in that film. Is that Anderson? Anderson had deep affection for his father, but hated his mother. Recall the film “There Will Be Blood”; it is almost entirely male centered. In “Boogie Nights,” (one of my favorites) Jack Horner is “the good patriarchal father,” as played by Burt Reynolds (which I think is the only character that Reynolds ever plays exceptionally well over all his films). Anderson both wrote and directed that piece, too.

    Mosha, if you have a film to recommend, please let me know. I love films and TV series … so long as I can evade the commercials. I’m going to have review some of the series John recommends.

    Trish who also comments here, is also a big film viewer and critic!

    Zuckerman? He does home-made saurkraut, and so I’m waiting for the post that he throws out a recipe!

  4. Mosha says:

    trail*…so bad, geez!

  5. Mosha says:

    *free trial, not trial….I never fail!

  6. Mosha says:

    Last month I tried out the 30-day free trail to Netflix, and to say the least, we are now inscribed. I’m hooked! During that first 30 days I was asking around to people about the quality of their service. A few people told me they were so pleased with Netflix that the decided to do away their cable TV altogether. This might be a real option I would consider, also, for I watched very little television, and when I did it was often movies.

    John, we just started watching “Breaking Bad” (in the 1st season), streamed by Netflix. Must admit I?m really enjoying it! It was never offer here on my cable. As to the other series mentioned here, I know nothing about.

    Juan, I saw “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, with Gary Oldman as George Smiley, at your recommendation. A great, intriguing, but very complex film it was! I’ve seen it twice now, but easily need to do a round 3!

  7. juan says:

    Actually….thanks to your blog! Thanks for opportunity to write…..

  8. Fascinating comments, Juan! The 7-minute/4-minute cycles of content to commercials is maddening to me. Generally, now that we have the capability, we record what we want to watch, Even those programs that I find riveting and to which I am “addicted” I do not watch entirely “live.” Instead, I record them and start watching the recordings several minutes in; then, when the commercial break comes, I fast-forward to content again.

    It is the story that’s important; it’s not TV, per se, it’s what TV offers. From my perspective, it offers the same thing as film, though in a somewhat different and frequently maddening format. I started watching Breaking Bad several seasons in, so initially watched on Netflix streaming. I really liked that, as I did not have to endure any breaks. Having done that with several other series, I am awfully impatient. In many respects, I’d much rather just wait until a series is complete and watch the entire thing from start to finish. But frequently, I lack the discipline; I could wait, but when the story is really good, I can’t wait to get back to it. It’s like a superb book; I can’t put it down until I’m finished.

    Television, to me, is a convenient form of entertainment that is too rarely entertaining. The volume of good programs versus bad is horribly out of kilter.

    Interesting discussion you’ve initiated here, Juan. I hope others throw out their perspectives in response to your query!

  9. juan says:

    Popular Culture:

    There was a time when I had given up television for 12 years, from 1995 to about 2007 when after my divorce (and still holding full custody of my six year old son), I decided to break the abstinence and allow television back into the house. But by 6 year old, my son had not become attached to television viewing, so even after I allowed television viewing, T-Bone still maintains hardly any television watching at all today – probably something like 1 to 2 hours of TV per week that he’s actually doing these days, maybe even less – though he has been given full reign.

    Me? I still remain a basic outcast of TV-Land. But why did I leave “the promised land”?

    I had read a study that the average attention span of the American is about 7 minutes. This is relatively easy to see in my college students, who go “dead-eyes” after about 7 minutes of lecture or anything presented. Norman Mailer in one of his articles claimed that the correlation had to do with the fact that TV episodes work in 7-minute stints before commercial time, which lasts about 4 minutes. That is a scary thought – that our attention span is essentially shaped by TV episodes and hanging suspense.

    Interestingly, even beginning writers reflect something of this culture in the way they write. For example, beginning writers tend to end a paragraph with a question, rather than a philosophical summation, mimicking the structure of TV episodes, as if to create a moment of suspense in their writing – as if the very act of a paragraph break worked with TV commercials in mind.

    John, you know how often I write you concerning the ideas we have and that often you and I are paralleling in thought.

    Interestingly, in my “Psychology in Literature” class, we broke into an “at-will-and-anything-goes” discussion, though tethered to “monsters of popular culture,” beginning from the 1930s to today. The question is this: “How does TV programs or film reflect our culture?” Remember that monsters are creatures we should fear.

    It was easy to determine that films like Corman’s B films on atomic monsters during the 50-60s was based on our fear of atomic fallout,


    One question that came up was “why is our popular TV culture today so caught up on Zombies these days?” Points brought out where ideas like:

    …..Mall-culture or consumers buying mindlessly on massive scale;

    …..Disease, as in something that takes you over and makes you do bad things, like eat brains or eat human flesh;

    …..Politically Dead, as in people interacting with no sense of the world or its machinations;

    …..Mindlessness – or that we are simply mindless and that we interact with each other on a superficial basis. A student mentioned FB as an example and brought up that FB had now plateaued, or that equal numbers of those joining are now leaving.

    Frankly, I think popular culture “is” as popular culture works – in repetition and the trite-fulness of the overtly pronounced.

    Interesting that “Breaking Bad” is the story of an good willed chemistry teacher gone outlaw because he must find a means to pay for familial needs due to his cancer. Hence, he is almost anti-heroic. Why are we writing this or viewing this or find some point of interest?

    Derek on the other hand is a serial killer who only serializes his kills on other killers – so, he’s “kinda good”; hence, more anti-heroic shit.

    Batman is mentally disturbed, but becomes good because he is wealthy vigilante.

    Even Superman — in terms of movies (see “Man of Steel” movie) — has shifted recently from comedy to the twisted super child of a dead culture and people. When you watch this film, you cannot miss that director Snyder tallies up suggestions of Superman as Super-Jesus.

    I have not seen most of the films you mention. I actually prefer to wait for their Netflix appearance when I don’t have to deal with “breaks.” Probably others have done the same, because “what really is TV?” Is TV defined really stories or events

    I am as addicted to stories (film or not) as anyone who has posted here. In fact, I think all of us here, “just like stories.”

    For me (as an age old le’Carre follower), I think HBO’s “Smiley’s People” is good writing and good acting. The fairly recent movie version by Anderson w/Oldman as Smiley is stupendous (also writer/director of Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood!
    But that’s me. I love HBO’s Rome series and own copies.

    What is TV to you, John and all?

  10. Yes, good stuff! Susanne, I have watched several episodes of Doc Martin, but haven’t gotten “hooked” on it. Joyce, I’ve always said you and Pam both have excellent taste!

  11. Joyce says:

    Pam and I became hooked on Downton Abbey last year and spent one weekend getting caught-up. So sad there are only 2 more episodes this season and then the long wait until next year. It is probably the only TV show that I absolutely must watch. Welcome to the club, John.

  12. Susanne says:

    The writing is well done on Downton, and Maggie Smith is the comic relief. Have you seen another British show called Doc Martin? Also good entertainment.

  13. Larry Zuckerman says:

    We are fans here. Well done period piece, good story lines and character development. A few episodes are clunkers but thats okay too. Great entertainment.

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