With the preponderance of “reality” shows, game shows, and just poorly written primetime soap operas masquerading as sit-coms and ‘dramas,’ it’s getting increasingly difficult to find more than a couple of shows worth watching. Even I (who used to have the TV on all day long while I ate, did homework, exercised, and even had the VCR recording while I slept) have been forced to watch just a couple of new episodes a week and fill in the rest of my media lust by watching (and re-watching) old shows and movies. I don’t even have the option of camping out on a news network like CNN while I wait for another good show to come on because all the so-called news networks fill their air time with gooney talk shows instead of news.
After the loss of 30 Rock, only a handful of shows I actually enjoy to some degree remain – and not all of them are even fictional narrative shows. For the late-night comedy slot, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show & The Colbert Report are the safest bet. Stewart can occasionally be a tad cranky and Colbert sometimes takes the jerky aspect of his character too far, but they do an astoundingly great job for shows that need to crank out new content four nights a week. Also, the bologna surrounding Leno and Conan a few years back put me off of the other ones.
In the arena of real news, as far as I can tell, Moyers & Company is the last holdout (although it also uses the talk show format).
As far as narrative fiction, I’m the most partial to USA Network’s Psych. Despite the facts that every episode is essentially a parody of existing media, and that they did the whole “shipping” thing to a point that shark-jumps most shows, it continues to avoid the pitfalls of predictability and excessive emotional tragedy that most shows fall into. White Collar jumped it sometime around the end of the first season when the protags began their lying tug-of-war, but I’m still watching in hopes of a recovery. What? It happens. . . rarely. Castle is still okay. The banter between the protags and the father-daughter dynamic have diminished some, but the actual stories are as banal as ever.
Outside of those few, it’s down to reruns and movies.
Admittedly, I still keep some track of shows I don’t like as well (just so long as they aren’t actually unbearable). TV is a kind of a cultural lingua franca and I want to be able to talk with others on their own terms if I can. Also, it allows me to be fully armed when debating why certain shows suck so much.
I’m starting to think that asking where all the good TV has gone is about like when we started asking MTV where all the music had gone. Prove me wrong, Television! I charge thee!