It has become quite commonplace in the past decade or two for people to complain that there is nothing on TV. I hear it from my parents frequently.
Hundreds of channels and not a single thing worth watching. It’s a pet peeve of mine to hear this, and it makes the speaker sound ignorant. To those people, I say “nonsense!” There is plenty on. They just have to know where to look.
For some people, it’s become a badge of honor to deride television, proclaiming it an inferior form on entertainment. While many of the popular shows of previous decades may have been only entertainment, not for the “thinking man,” the modern era has gone in a different direction, getting into heavy drama, and expanding the limits of what makes it on the air. Suddenly, we have plenty to celebrate and honor on our sets.
It’s true, the vast majority of the channels on your cable lineup broadcast drivel. They are full of reruns of shows from the 1980s (edited down since we have more commercials now), reality junk, and talk shows. Does anyone ever even turn on the music channels, of which we all have dozens? Yes, I agree that all of this is a waste. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing on TV.
Let’s be clear about my definition of what constitutes a good television show. Competition and game shows don’t qualify, nor do most shows with a host, save The Daily Show and a couple of others. I also hate sports, and shows that follow the “real housewives” or a “celebrity” around. I enjoy scripted series, with great acting and smart writing. As a fiction from way back, I want my TV series to contain interesting story arcs week to week, and characters that grow, meaning, most procedural crime shows don’t do it for me.
Even within those guidelines, though, there are quite a few choice programs. Between my two TiVos, I can record 450 hours of HD, and I’m at 95% capacity right now. That oughta tell you something. If you look for it, there’s plenty of good stuff out there.
One issue could be that there is basically nothing on TV except between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. For those of us with TiVos and other DVRs, this isn’t a problem, because we record programming during those times, and then view them later at our leisure. So if you do not have a DVR, you’re actually hurting yourself, and no wonder you think there’s nothing to watch.
As for channels, it used to be the only good things were on ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX. And there are still some decent offerings on these networks, though there are also a lot of primetime duds. The key is to know the difference.
Grey’s Anatomy, nine years in, has never been better. The Office, Community, New Girl, The Big Bang Theory, Nashville, Grimm, Parenthood, Arrow, Once Upon a Time, Bones, Elementary, The Good Wife, Happy Endings, How I Met Your Mother, and Revolution are among the broadcast series I am watching right now.
The best stuff is on AMC, HBO, and Showtime. From Dexter to Game of Thrones to The Walking Dead, each of these has award-winning, high quality stuff. They also offer Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Veep, Californication, The Big C, Hell on Wheels, Shameless, and many more.
There’s also fantastic stuff on FX, TNT, and USA, like White Collar, Monday Mornings, Justified, The Americans, Archer, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Louie, Psych, and Royal Pains, to name just a few. With the recent launch of Vikings, History Channel is entering the fray, too after its success with Hatfields and McCoys. That means there are more and more players in the scripted game, and more and more worthwhile shows to choose from.
Yes, that leaves us with maybe a dozen channels, out of the hundreds in a typical cable package, that are worth paying attention to. And some of these cable channels I list only air new fare one night a week. However, there are nights like Sunday, where one can record at least 10 shows in a good week, and that provides plenty to watch during the slow nights.
Reruns can be a problem for some, as there is little more disappointing than turning on your set ready for a new episode, and finding a repeat, or so I remember from the dark days when I used to watch live TV. But if you have a TiVo that holds a bit, you can record and store, as there are plenty of nights too much airs to watch all at once, so you’re good to go on any night of the week.
The expansion of cable means that even summer is not a wasteland anymore. Last year, HBO’s The Newsroom, USA’s Suits, and TNT’s Falling Skies were among the many series delivering fresh episodes during the hot months. So even if NBC and ABC are taking some time off, there’s something out there to find. Not to mention, anything left over from the spring season can be caught up on then. I still had episodes of Private Practice from April and May to watch in August last year.
And I didn’t even mention Netflix and other streaming services, which are great for shows everyone still talks about, now gone off the air, that you haven’t gotten around to watching yet. It’s never too late to pick up Lost or The Wire. Netflix is also jumping into fresh content, with House of Cards and the upcoming new episodes of Arrested Development, so it looks like there will soon be even more on TV.
The point is, the next time someone says there is nothing good on TV, they only have themselves to blame. There’s plenty out there. They just need to make a slight amount of effort to find it. And if you don’t want to do the hunting yourself, just follow my reviews and twitter feed. I’ll tell you what I consider good on a daily basis, and since, being a reviewer, I watch a lot of shows, surely we’ll have some common ground.