We watch... so you don't have to.

TV That Doesn't Suck

Russian roulette, TV-style:

  • Get 50-bullet revolver.
  • Insert 49 hollow-point, cyanide-coated bullets.
  • Close.
  • Spin chambers.
  • Point at head.
  • Pull trigger.
Did you end up with an enormous, gaping hole where your brain used to be?

Welcome to TV in the late nineties.

TV sucks. But if you're reading this site, you already knew that. When it comes to the stuff on the tube, what isn't insulting is lazy, and what isn't lazy is pandering. For a medium that has spent so long staring into the abyss that the abyss has gotten bored and wandered off, the level of crap that is bulldozed onto the air each and every hour of each and every day is simply astonishing.

And, even more astonishing, is that nobody seems to be doing anything about it. The players dance and pontificate and then go back to their business of making the same twaddle over and over and over again.

Twice a season, down at the network primate house, the people in charge scoop up freshly produced gobs of shit and throw them at the audience, just on the off chance that something might stick. It's automatic, even instinctual: produce, air, produce, air. Occasionally hoot and screech.

Is the next monkey over on the cover of Entertainment Weekly? Then he must be slinging slightly different shit! Throw that kind of shit from now on!

The mortality rate of new shows would embarrass a third-world country. The Light Brigade could justifiably send sympathy cards after each new roster is cut into bloody ribbons. Fifth-graders with the same success rate are held back until they learn not to eat the paste.

And yet, nothing changes. Demographics and focus groups drive the creative process. The target is the reptile brain stem. For a show to survive past a dozen episodes, public response must be instantaneous and enormous. The lowest common denominator is considered too highbrow.

At some point -- even through pure, random chance -- someone must consider making a quality program as an approach that might -- just might! -- work. For any executives who don't have a dictionary handy:
Quality, n. - degree of excellence; superiority in kind.

Even now, after the tomb of the Golden Age of Television has been plundered and the creative promise of a once-new medium has been picked dry, there are people out there who are trying this daring approach.

For every 49 impromptu abstract-impressionist wall murals the TV clicker makes out of the contents of your head, you can stumble across one show that doesn't make you want to shower after watching it. They exist. We've seen them. The few, the proud, the enjoyable.

Think of it: Good TV. Fun TV. TV that doesn't cause your throat to constrict! TV that does more than simply numb you and pacify you, that does more than give you something to do at night other than read a book.

TV that makes you think and laugh and feel. Honest-to-God, for-real, bite-me-NBC must-see TV.

What separates these shows from the rest? What goes into them, and why can't anybody else seem to manage it? What, in other words, makes good TV?

We have no idea.

But we know people who do. So we asked them.

Additional contributions to this article by: Greg Knauss.


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