The new show conundrum – To Watch or not to Watch!

Boxsets have ruined the way I watch TV shows. I have a DVR (SKY+ if you’re interested) and when a new series of any show I find interesting starts, I record the whole series before I even begin watching the first episode. There is a couple of reasons for this; I hate waiting a week for the resolution to a cliffhanger, when I get into a show I like to binge through non-stop, obsessed with catching the rest of the season and finally, and probably most crucially of all, I don’t want to get invested in a show that will be cancelled after one season.

In my week-to-week viewing there are so many cases of shows I loved that got cancelled after I had invested good time and got myself involved in the characters and stories. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is one such case, so is Journeyman and The Event. All three of these shows had their faults but in my opinion were solid series with a decent, continuing concept. I was then gutted when the show was cancelled and I realised I was getting no more of a series I loved.

I actually quite liked this show

Like a scorned lover, I decided never to get myself hurt like that again and now I make a point of leaving a series until it definitely has a second one. Second series means I get just enough to satisfy any interest. It also means I have missed out on shows that looked like they had great potential, including Forever, Constantine and Almost Human.

This is the issue I have though. These shows get cancelled because their ratings are so low but I refuse to watch a show if it only has one season. At times I feel like I’m contributing to the very issue that I am trying to avoid. I am well aware that my viewing habits will hardly change the fate of a TV show but at the same time, if there were many people with my mind-set, we may just be deciding a show’s fate before we have even given it a proper chance.

I have to watch this show week to week

The more irritating aspect with this strategy is that I can’t do it for all shows but the ones I have to watch week-to-week are both the worst for cliffhangers and “must-watch” next episodes, like Game of Thrones, or are shows that are practically cancellation proof so don’t need my regular viewing but demand it because of spoilers (Doctor Who).

It also means that I’m really reluctant to watch shows I know I’m going to love. I couldn’t count the amount of people who have told me to watch Firefly but I see it listed on Netflix with only 14 episodes and I just don’t want to relive that frustration when I watch the episodes of a great series slowly dwindle away.

I can’t bring myself to watch it

I’m not even sure where to go from here. I will eventually watch Firefly and complain pointlessly at it’s cancellation with everyone else. I doubt I’ll change my viewing habits either, particularly with the amount of shows I’m still desperate to catch-up on but I will always wonder, when I see a show that seemed to have a great concept get cancelled, whether if me giving it a chance could well have changed it’s fate.

Overall, I’m interested to see how others view this “problem.” Boxset viewing has become the norm but in doing that are we risking the cancellation of great shows? Should networks give shows more of a chance and allow people to catch-up and realise what a great product they have produced? Or maybe the reason TV is currently being viewed as going through a “Golden Age” is because only the strongest can actually survive.

Could I have stopped this show from being cancelled?

 

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7 comments

  1. Binge-watching is a strange thing. From an enjoyment aspect, it definitely serves shows like Heroes and Teen Wolf better, but I did often have the same concerns as you regarding ratings. It seems more networks are beginning to take DVR views more seriously, but it’s never been made clear to me if even that matters if you’re not a Nielsen home (and how much it matters given that a virtue of DVR is the ability to skip ads). I really don’t know if a the watching habits of regular joes have any affect on ratings these days.

    I don’t think I’m necessarily on the same page regarding short-lived shows, though. Take, for instance, Journeyman. It’s pretty much my favorite show. I’ve said before that it’s basically my Firefly (another show I really enjoyed), and it’s the thing I want to get a US DVD release more than anything. I, too, was heartbroken when it ended, but I’m so glad I watched and got to enjoy those characters for 13 episodes of wonderfulness. I’m so glad I watched it live and got to talk about it with people, when conversation was more involved than “I really liked that show!” — and more often than not these days — “what’s that show?”

    Granted, it helps that Journeyman ended on what felt like a natural act break. There was some resolution to it. Shows that get cut short of cliffhangers, I’m not sure how I feel about that. 2007-2008 were big years for me, because I also really liked My Own Worst Enemy. I have the boxset, but I haven’t watched it yet. Because I watched it live. I got to one of those natural-act-break episodes, but then life got in the way, and built a few episodes of backlog and then it was cancelled. And to this day, I can’t suss out (without being massively spoiled) whether its ending was satisfying enough to watch, or if it was an abrupt cut-off. So periodically I’ll look at my shelf, see its box and think “Man, I really loved that show,” and amid my fond memories, I’ll consider popping it in and giving it a whirl. But I know once I do, I won’t be able to stop where I left off, and will just be opening the door for big disappointment.

    I guess from that perspective, I see the urge to want to wait and binge rather than be caught unawares while watching something live. But at the same time, for me the sense of community that comes from watching live outweighs those fears, and I care more about how well something ends than that it ended short. After all, a lot of shows start out great and get a second, third, fourth or more seasons but never manage to recapture that same magic of the first bits — or worse — become shells of themselves that I’m still compelled to watch because I’ve put so much time into it and like the characters/actors, even if the story kind of sucks now.

    • You make loads of great points here. I definitely see the advantage of watching a show live for the community aspect, which is why shows like Game of Thrones and Doctor Who are week-to-week viewings for me but I also think with the boxset culture we are in, half of the conversation is recommending shows to each other now anyway.
      I also understand the reluctance to finish shows we know have been cancelled. I hate nothing more than a show ending on a cliffhanger and there being no solid resolution. I always think, for purely selfish reasons, that a show cancelled on a cliffhanger should get one more episode, just to tie-up those loose ends.
      It would be interesting to see how much the DVR culture affects ratings and how much it is taken into account. Eventually I see live TV as we know it fading out anyway and people consuming their television through subscription services like Netflix anyway.

  2. great post Ben.

    I too feel the same way as you. Journeyman was such an amazing show and I was also pretty pissed when it got cancelled and left us with too many open questions, but it was worth the “journey” 🙂

    I have gotten fed up with a lot of the formulaic TV these days and watch a lot fewer shows than I use to.

    I actually enjoyed studio 60 better than 30 Rock and based on the fate of both, the rating didnt agree with me.

    I have issues watching new shows for the same reasons as you and I need to like the first few shows in order to continue because I have become so finicky that I don’t give most shows a chance to wow me if they dont right out of the gate.

    Like you, I invested many hours ion shows that got cancelled too early and don’t wanna get bitten again. I also have been holding out on Firefly for the very same reasons as you.

    Nicely done my friend!!

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