Much like anyone growing up in the 80s (or the 70s, for that matter), my evenings were dominated by endless hours of watching TV. Or at least, my parents watching TV: I don’t really remember a whole lot of what was on, just that it was on.
These days there’s a lot more vying for our attention, and given that most of my shit goes on online, that is inevitably where I wile away the hours as a means of recreation also.
But I think as a result of distancing myself from TV, I’m able to appreciate the things I do enjoy from that medium a lot more. And, upon closer inspection over the last few days, I think I can nail it down to two different (albeit broad) categories of televisual entertainment that I’ll actually watch.
Disclaimer: This is just how it works for me. In my head. My thoughts and feelings towards the relevance or importance of any particular show or genre is not to be taken as any kind of authority on the matter.
Biscuits are great; they taste nice and fill a hole. In a figurative sense, some TV shows do that too!
These are shows that keep you entertained. They usually need good acting and character development. Some kind of coherent plot that doesn’t have so many holes as to sink a cruise ship. Basically, at the end of it, you feel kind of content with what you’ve seen: four out of five, would watch again.
Some good examples of biscuits are Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica. You feel engaged with the goings-on on-screen and you connect with one or more of the characters – sometimes even with the ones you probably shouldn’t (typical anti-hero figures like Tony Soprano, for example).
I enjoy these shows. They are the bread and butter of my TV viewing. I usually walk into it with some vague idea of what to expect, but with mild trepidation following much hype (and I hate hype), but I end up finding it rather enjoyable and look forward to more of the same, tyvm.
This is a whole other kettle of fish. These shows don’t just leave you satisfied: they leave you broken. Named as such because they pick you up by the weltanschauung and give it a good shake. Sometimes some stuff falls out.
I have, to date, only had this twice. It feels a little cheap to have it in its own little group, lauding itself over the other ‘good’ TV shows, but there it is. If you’ve experienced this from watching something, you will most certainly understand.
I suppose I should qualify this with examples similar to those above for Biscuits.
The first was Six Feet Under. And it did break me. I quite literally broke down into a puddle of tears at the end. Even though I sort of knew what was coming. I couldn’t be prepared for it. I still can’t. It still breaks me a little every time I see it. They weren’t all sad tears either: there were tears of happiness, and tears of confusion and frustration in there too.
I immediately sought out a hug from my then-housemate, because I needed it. I also proceeded to force her to watch the whole thing because in my eyes it was that damned good that I could easily start from the beginning immediately after the fact. And we did. And it had a similar reaction.
More recently, and indeed, the catalyst for me thinking of these things and eventually writing about them, I watched an anime called Steins;Gate. I knew it would tackle more mature concepts than most anime stuff, and I knew it had something to do with dimensions or whatever (the ‘gate’ tipped me off on that one). And, well, it sort of does, but its more about parallel world lines and time travel.
But I digress. At the end of this show, I just lay on my sofa for an hour. I needed a hug again. But there was nobody to hug. I did cry a little, but mostly I was just the regular kind of broken – useless to the world. I tried shrugging it off, and figured I’d be fine in the morning. I didn’t sleep well, and I was a zombie the whole of the following day. Not because of the lack of sleep, but because I was still thinking about the show. I couldn’t really muster the energy to wax lyrical about it (or to do anything, really), or to go into details about why it made me feel this way because spoilers. I settled instead by trying to tell people who might listen that it’s a really good show. And that’s as far as I got until now.
I infinitely prefer the Weltanshakers to the Biscuits: existential crises brought about by television watching! But Weltanshaker sounds cooler.