Now that the 2012-13 TV season is “officially” over, I thought I’d get some folks together and talk about a bunch of different things that happened between September and May. This is the 2012-13 season wrap roundtable.
Cory Barker: There has been a lot of discussion this season about the glut of good TV. Alan Sepinwall wrote a piece voicing his frustration on the matter back in April, and I wrote something similar last summer. Although this is one of the biggest first world problems of all-time, it can be exhausting trying to keep up with all the “important” shows, the new shows, and the shows you just enjoy, no matter the quality. This is the first television season since I started watching “seriously” where I simply couldn’t keep up with all my desired interests. Some of that has to do with my schedule, but a lot of it has to do with A.) The increase in the number of interesting projects and B.) The decline in quality in many shows I probably would have kept with anyway had I found myself with more time. Therefore, there are really two things going on here. Did you folks feel this same kind of weight pushing down on you, and/or were there shows that declined so dramatically that you reached a point of no return?
Noel Kirkpatrick: I feel a bit more pressure to watch things than I used to now that I’m getting paid to review a couple of shows and contribute to inventory-type features for TV.com. (Hell, if I weren’t writing reviews for teh_monies, I likely wouldn’t have bothered with getting cable in my new apartment.) In any case, Friday nights — because I don’t have a social life — became OnDemand nights as I caught up things from that week, or even weeks ago (and sometimes would have to be, as channels (FX!) would sometimes put shows on an 8-day delay).
Shows like Archer (conflicted with Elementary), The Americans (was too busy writing Arrow reviews), Last Resort (30 Rock was on…or something…), The Middle and Suburgatory, and Revenge (The Good Wife > Revenge) were pushed to Fridays. And it felt like such a chore. I would even work from home some days just to clear out that build-up of shows sometimes. It’s probably why I never bothered to pick up Scandal despite all the nice things I was hearing. This is to say nothing of the four or five anime shows I stream (and the other five or six I want to catch up on) or the fact that I haven’t watched a single second of tennis or soccer all year — the only two sports I enjoy watching.
And yet I didn’t drop all that many shows. Revenge became convoluted and boring, and I steadily stopped catching up on it. I had already decided I was done with Doctor Who before this new set of episodes began. I never finished those last three episodes of Last Resort, so I have no idea what happened to that doomed crew. I stopped watching The Vampire Diaries not out of boredom — though I had started to find it tedious — but because the person I watched it with got so busy that we never had time to catch up on it, and now I’m told that it was probably for the best. I liked Go On, but like Revenge, it just gradually faded from my mind as a show I was missing.
Les Chappell: Without question, this is a problem for me. This was the first official TV season where I’ve been writing about TV in a professional capacity, and having to spend the time watching multiple shows and then write about them has burned me out to the point that once I get done with that, I might want to watch something that I don’t feel obligated to catch up on – or, shockingly enough, do something that isn’t watching TV. This hasn’t been a season that’s led me to give up on too many things, but it is a season that’s led me to backlog a lot of things that aren’t Sunday night cable dramas, and say I’ll get to it at some point. Off the top of my head I’m six episodes behind on The Americans, five episodes behind on New Girl, three episodes behind on Elementary and eight episodes behind on Orphan Black and a full half-season behind on Raising Hope, all shows I genuinely like and just can’t find the time for. And this doesn’t even take into account things like Top Of The Lake and Rectify, which I gave up early on keeping up with regularly because I knew they’d be coming to Netflix and I could watch at my own leisure after that point. I try to not remain more than a few weeks behind, but for many things this year I’ve become more reliant on reading reviews first to be able to participate in the conversation.
As to the shows that declined so dramatically I had to drop them, the worst offender was Community. I know this is a regularly debated issue, but my two cents? I hated, hated, hated every episode of Community I watched this season – and admittedly I only watched the first three or four, but each one felt like the sitcom equivalent of someone wearing the face of a beloved family friend as a poorly stitched flesh mask. On a less vitriolic side, I lost track of Go On thanks to the midseason break, stopped watching Happy Endings midway through the season, quit Revenge after four episodes, and quit Don’t Trust the B- in Apt. 23 after two episodes. I didn’t hate any of those shows; I just lost interest and (again) had too many other things I could watch instead.
Cameron White: The way this problem manifested for me was rather unusual. There were a lot of shows I liked and that I wanted to keep up with, and I, for the most part managed to do that. However, it made it more and more difficult to keep up with what was happening in each show individually. I don’t say that lightly — I have about as close to a photographic memory as you can get (/humblebrag) and am good at keeping up with multiple stories at one time; I am frequently reading three or more books at any given time with no problem. But the amount of television that I was watching this past year, in concert with my college schedule, was, to put it mildly, absurd, and no lengthy amount of “Previously On” was going to fix that.
But I think that’s a good problem to have for a TV watcher, because it means you have to go on an internal journey to figure out just what it is you watch TV for. I love musically-inclined shows, but I dropped Glee a long time ago because it was too far gone as a TV show for me to keep watching, and I sadly had to drop Nashville this year because, while I was liking it a lot, I simply didn’t have the time to play catch-up or to keep up during the semester, and my DVR has limited space. On the other hand, I wouldn’t give up Scandal for the world; that show alone kept me going through long nights of homework, knowing that on the other side was the white hat and a dark and twisty tale of election rigging. So, it’s a balancing act. Conversely, I also didn’t start some shows that people said were good (like Hannibal) simply because I wanted to have some time to myself whenever I could. I was actually somewhat skeptical when I first saw the title of Alan’s article, but as I read, I realized how right he was; there is a LOT of good TV these days, so I had to figure out what it is I really value in the TV I watch in order to prioritize correctly. That was a good journey to take.
Greg Boyd: I certainly did feel a bit overwhelmed at times, particularly during the spring, when so many shows I like were airing at the same time. Plus, I had a couple of hard classes that demanded quite a bit of time. I perhaps had it a bit easier than most, however, as I don’t have premium cable. What this means, of course, is that I will likely be even more overwhelmed by the sheer volume of DVD catch-ups that are in my future. But for now, it wasn’t as huge a deal for me as it appears it was for others.
That said, there were a few shows I did elect to drop. Among them is Revenge, which seems to be a popular choice, and with good reason. I think I actually stuck around longer than most, but eventually I realized that I have only a certain number of hours here on Earth, and spending one more of them watching a show that simply isn’t very good anymore is kind of ridiculous. I also quit Go On (a show I mostly liked but never came close to loving) and Suburgatory (a show many people really enjoy, but one that has always frustrated me by rarely living up to its potential). I regret this last one the most, but one and a half seasons with only two or three truly brilliant episodes to show for it is enough for me to call it quits. Outside of that, though, I’ve kept up with everything I already watch.
Whether I’ll be able to keep doing that as I progress through my academic career (and as more good shows keep getting made) is anyone’s guess. And adding many additional shows to the equation seems unlikely at the moment. Sorry, The Good Wife, The Vampire Diaries, and The Middle.
Mark Waller: Like all of you, this half-year has been disastrous for me in terms of consuming new TV. Aside from the newest seasons of Game of Thrones, Enlightened (RIP), and Girls, I pretty much gave up on regularly watching any new TV shows. I am pretty sure I can blame The Americans for that, because, as much as I loved the pilot, I could not bring myself to investing in another brilliant-yet-dense show in the midst of watching a handful of other brilliant-yet-dense shows currently on the air AND catching up on those I wanted to catch up on (like Boardwalk Empire). Hell, I haven’t even watched the series finales of lighter-weight fare like 30 Rock or The Office or the season finale of Parks & Recreation and, despite my best intentions, have yet to pick up the new season of The Vampire Diaries since watching the midseason finale in December. So, to answer your question, I basically dropped everything (except for Game of Thrones. And Awkward., cuz Ashley Rickards’ inner monologue faces alone are worth the price of my DirecTV subscription.)
I’ve now come to a crossroads of sorts where I am facing what was once unfathomable: allowing myself to be okay with dropping shows once in a while. Linda Holmes’ essay on this realization in 2011 is a great reflection on the inevitability of not being able to catch everything ever and the general feeling of mourning that can accompany that realization. (Which does not discount my big plans to catch up on all 29 existing episodes of Scandal this summer, because come on.)
Heather McLendon: Reading through everyone’s responses shows me just how many shows I’ve never started (and thus don’t feel the despair of falling behind or even starting). For instance, I haven’t seen Girls, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead or Parks and Rec. I don’t have cable, so I primarily watch shows on the major networks, Hulu, and Netflix. This also means that I’ll be catching up on GoT and Archer over the summer, along with Orphan Black, Copper, The Bletchley Circle and Top of the Lake. With all that being said, I still had to give up certain shows and time-shift nearly everything else due to time constraints and other viewing / writing commitments.
I kept up with Revenge until its unforgivably long hiatus. I honestly think I would have kept with it (I still love Revenge — I don’t care what everyone says!) had it not been for that break. The same thing is true for Once. Once Upon a Time returned this fall with an incredibly strong premiere. It had fixed its weaknesses from its first season, and it became a fun, thrilling ride in the first half of its second. Then they had the mid-season break, and it lost momentum. I tried returning to it, and I just couldn’t be bothered. I hung onto The Good Wife but just barely. That Kalinda storyline really tested my resolve, and I let a few episodes slide here and there. Elementary is another I dropped this season, though I plan to catch up over the summer. I lasted through one episode of Revolution, and half-picked my way through The Carrie Diaries. I may check in on the latter next season, but I probably won’t unless I’m in dire need of a 80s fix.
As I look at all the shows I’ve either given up or never started, I’m finding that I’m ok with those choices with few exceptions. Because there is so much good television out there, I’ve been forced to create my own criteria for watch-worthy TV (something I’ve briefly written on before). I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I no longer watch a show because everything else is watching it. I may be one of the handful who loved and watched every single episode of Bunheads (via Hulu), but that didn’t matter. I had wonderful conversations with the other folks watching that show, and it provided a lovely balance amongst the heavier shows I usually consume.
Emma Fraser: Like everyone, I’ve also had a hard time staying in top of all the new shows I wanted to watch and old shows I’m still enjoying (and writing about). The first to go for me was Bones, I was never bothered by the whole will they/won’t they aspect of the show and at the end of last year I found that I was doing other things rather than paying attention to an episode. I’ve caught the odd bit of an episode this season, but considering how much I enjoyed this show in the past I don’t miss it at all.
Revenge got lost in the crazy Sunday night shuffle and I realized that I was done with it when I would rather tidy than watch it (when cleaning is more enticing that is a bad sign) and really that Declan and Jack story was so dull. They took everything that made it fun and tried to give it some huge backstory that really seemed unnecessary. I did watch the finale and that last scene MIGHT bring me back in for season 3 (though I’d wish they’d change what night it is on).
New shows like Nashville I wanted to love and while I enjoyed the few episodes, it just wasn’t enough to hook me. Especially as all the male characters are indistinguishable from each other; if it was just Connie Britton then things might be different. Elementary is another that I figure I’ll just get when it comes out on DVD as I just haven’t had the time to watch them all.
One new show I almost quit on more than one occasion is The Mindy Project and the (shallow) reason that I continued is thanks to Chris Messina. I’m glad that I did as it has improved, and with a bit more tweaking, I think next season could be pretty great. I also feel like I have the theme song equivalent of Stockholm syndrome as the last episode used a cut down version and I missed the whole thing.
I think the one show that I wanted to drop many times this year (and I have a feeling others will agree) is Gossip Girl but I couldn’t as I had writing commitments. Though I’m glad I stuck it out, as that ending was truly ridiculous.
Once again, I am reminded that I really need to start Scandal. Hopefully the summer will provide the time (while I also catch up on all the other watching/reading/seeing people in real life).
Sabienna Bowman: I’ve definitely felt the time crunch this season. There are just so many projects from so many different outlets now that I simply can’t watch everything I want to watch in a timely fashion. While I have jettisoned a few shows, my way of dealing with the too much TV conundrum is to save everything up for marathons. The days of watching things live are long gone. In fact, if I watch something live it should feel very special. The only shows to earn that distinction this season were Justified, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Bunheads, Call the Midwife and, oddly enough, The Big Bang Theory (which is now better than Community—what kind of crazy timeline is this?).
I must admit there are plenty of shows sitting on my DVR that I will probably end up deleting just so I can assuage my guilt over not watching them. Case in point: Homeland and American Horror Story, two shows that I think I’m supposed to like, but which are actually a chore to get through. I did mercilessly cut newbie Nashville and whatever is left of How I Met Your Mother though. I finally gave up on the latter when it was renewed for another season. Others like Community and The Walking Dead have been back-burnered until I can work up enough enthusiasm to finish them.
My hope is to catch up on some of the stuff I missed out on (Scandal, Rectify) this summer, but given how many shows are set to debut in the next three months, it’s more likely episodes will keep piling up until my DVR dies from exhaustion.
Kerensa Cadenas: Oh, I totally felt this all season. I still haven’t watched Homeland, The Americans, Rectify, amongst many, many others. I’m also bad about half watching–I’ll start watching something to try to get it off my DVR and then fall back off because of something else more regular–this happened with Top of the Lake, Pretty Little Liars, RuPaul’s Drag Race even Downton–I still haven’t finished. I only have a few shows that I kept up with regularly throughout the season–Enlightened, Girls, New Girl, Nashville, Parks and Rec (I know I’m missing some) and as of late Mad Men and Game of Thrones. Some of these, though, I try to keep current on just to avoid spoilers.
I initially kept up with some shows, like Revenge, Glee, 90210 until they just became too much to deal with. I’m super proud I finally quit Glee! And others I might have stuck with, until my DVR just stopped recording–sorry How I Met Your Mother. I, like Emma, almost quit The Mindy Project multiple times but Messina always saw me through. But even though I’ve quit many shows, I still feel like I keep getting more and more to watch even as the season ends. But Scandal has TOTALLY been worth it so far.
Eric Thurm: I’m a big stickler for watching everything week to week, so this hasn’t been a huge problem for me since I’m not watching more than at most seven shows any given week. That does mean I’ve been doing a lot of binging to catch up on things when I start following them (like the first five episodes of The Americans), but it also means I’m slightly saner. I’ve even become less attached to immediately watching the things I watch every week. Case in point: I realized last Tuesday I still hadn’t watched Mad Men, and reacted with a shrug. That might be at least in part because of the problems I’ve had with the show this season, but I can’t remember being that blasé about missing any show on my list for two days last year.
Andrew Rabin: I definitely should give up some television. I definitely should cut things I watch. But these are also my long-term relationships. No matter how dull, how unfunny, how ridiculous, I need to know what happens to Jim and Pam, Ted and Robin, Meredith and Cristina, Leonard and Sheldon, Rachel and Kurt. Community? Yup. Revenge? Still there. Heck, I’ve seen every episode of Smash. I just can’t give up on shows. And I have to, because otherwise you don’t get the payoff. You don’t get to meet the mother, you don’t get to see a hated character die, or see a beloved one return.
So I adapted a rule this year. If I didn’t like the first episode of a new show, I was out. Vegas may have had star power, Hannibal may have rave reviews, Chicago Fire may have improved, and Mob Doctor may have a complex back-story and a Terriers-esque confusing title, but the pilots didn’t do it for me, so I was out. And when my DVR forgot to record Nashville one week, and I just didn’t care, I was done with that too.
And I also stopped checking in on things. I haven’t liked The Middle over three seasons, trying a couple episodes in the fourth wasn’t going to change it. Same with Raising Hope. And I advanced nowhere in my attempt to catch up on things. I still have seen only six episodes of The Wire, and six fewer episodes of Breaking Bad and Justified and Downton Abbey and The Sopranos and Deadwood. So instead of cutting out television, I just added less.
Cory: I fall somewhere between many of your experiences. I never give up on shows, but this year, it was time. When your schedule is jam-packed, there is no need to stress over trying to watch mediocre episodes of Modern Family and Glee (especially when those shows aren’t part of the larger cultural conversation any longer). It also means letting go of problematic shows with straggling compelling elements–Revenge, Suburgatory, Once Upon a Time, Raising Hope, Person of Interest and Hart of Dixie immediately come to mind for me. And as Andrew just said, I found it easier to punt my interest in new shows if they didn’t immediately catch my interest.
However, I do think that with so many great or interesting shows out there, it is becoming easier to not watch and not necessarily feel alienated or missing from the discussions online or on Twitter.
Wesley Ambrecht: I consider myself a completest, but even I managed to fall behind on pretty much every show this winter/spring. Honestly, there was period in March where the only shows I was caught up on were American Idol, Glee, and Girls. Interpret that as you will. Even still, I don’t think my falling behind on things is necessarily correlated with the plethora of good TV currently airing. It was more a matter of me doing 500 other things. Unlike many of you, I still have every intention of catching up on nearly all the things I missed, which includes but is not limited to entire seasons of Hart of Dixie, Rectify and Once Upon a Time, as well as half seasons of Arrow, Parks and Recreation, How I Met Your Mother and Justified. There will, of course, be some things that fall to the wayside. Last Resort, for example, is unlikely to be watched at this point. But, on a whole, I remain committed to the same shows I was always committed to.
Chris Castro: Like mostly everyone else here, I fell behind on a lot of shows and have just stopped watching quite a few. After the aforementioned super-long hiatus, I forgot to start watching Revenge whenever it returned and only realized it had come back several weeks later. So, I had to weigh my desire to continue watching it against everything else I felt the need to watch. Since it was up against The Good Wife, there was no chance I was going to watch Revenge live, so it just kept piling up on my DVR. It’s such a low priority now that I’ve already erased the recorded episodes. I’m behind on Doctor Who as well, but even though I’m just not that into it anymore, I’m still going to watch what I haven’t seen yet because I really like “Clara” and still love Matt Smith.
I stopped watching Suburgatory and never wanted to catch back up because it’s always been so hit or miss and I didn’t like where any of the storylines were going this season. Community was so unpleasant for me to watch I missed, I’m sure, at least two or three episodes and do not intend to watch them. I stopped watching Revolution even before the midseason break (I didn’t even get to see the episode with the train!) but the show was just so boring to me I didn’t go back. I don’t really feel too bad about leaving some of these shows behind. Maybe Nashville, but I feel like an outsider with that show because I like just about every character on there more than Hayden Panettiere’s and everyone seems to think she’s terrific on the show and I have yet to find her believable in the role, much less sympathetic in any way.
Anyway, I have enough great TV shows to watch that I don’t feel like I’m missing much. Hell, I’m currently rewatching Arrested Development and that’s taken priority over all else right now (aside from NHL playoffs. GO KINGS!).
Julie Hammerle: I love the Sepinwall piece because it perfectly captures the futility of being a TV maven. Unless watching TV is all you do with your day and night and sleeping time, there is no way you are going to be able to watch everything. Shows will slip through your cracks (I know, PHRASING). And, really, does it even matter if you don’t watch Mad Men or Game of Thrones or Rules of Engagement? Water cooler shows no longer really exist. I can’t talk about Downton Abbey at work because Cheryl still hasn’t caught up through Season 3. My parents only watch CBS procedurals. I was at a party recently where the conversation turned to TV, and my ears perked up. But all anyone wanted to talk about was The Middle and The Big Bang Theory. And not even current BBT, syndicated BBT. I found one guy who wanted to talk about Game of Thrones(books AND show), so we just spoke to each other and watched as everyone around us, in turn, grabbed their drinks and skulked away.
Anyway, speaking of The Big Bang Theory and shows I decided to drop from my rotation, I dropped BBT from my rotation. And then, on a lark, I picked it up again. And I enjoyed it. Maybe I just needed a little break from Sheldon, et. al. I don’t think I dropped anything else this season, but Modern Family is on notice for the fall. I’ve had quite enough of the Pritchett clan and their antics. I spend most of my time each episode groaning and rolling my eyes, so my quitting Modern Family is, really, for health reasons.
Images courtesy of NBC, ABC, and Sundance Channel.