Sunday, February 14, 2010

So, Do You Think Babies Will Change My TV Viewing Habits?

I think we can all agree that the answer to this will be "yes." Only the most naive person would think that having twin infants won't change daily life. And television is a part of my daily life.

In the long run, I'm not sure that I want my children to see me just watching TV all day long. Not that I do, but I can, if bored or not feeling great. I certainly want them to watch cartoons and other shows, but I also want them to engage in actual activities, as well.

But first, they'll be just infants, and they won't be watching much of anything beyond their parents and caregivers. Maybe each other. TV will be little more than a noisy box to them. When they're first born, I'll probably spend most of my time feeding and changing them, and trying to get some decent naps. Not much TV in that scenario. I've been told that when they are still so young that I can watch TV while getting them to sleep or just rocking them. We'll see.

But I'm sure what I won't give up TV altogether. I spent some time this weekend wondering what shows I will try to watch, and what shows will get kicked off the DVR save list.

I first divided the shows that I save on DVR into categories. Roughly, they are:

- Shows with prominent arcs. An arc, of course, is a storyline that crosses, or arcs, from one episode to the other. The most famous shows with arcs include the Buffyverse shows and my current favorite, Lost. If these shows are not watched in order of airing, the viewer can be mightily confused. Unlike soap operas, which are prominent arc-series, these shows are too complicated to just not watch for a couple of months and just pick back up. Current shows I've saved on my DVR that have prominent arcs include Lost, Dollhouse (though now cancelled), Mad Men, Damages, and Fringe.

- Caper shows with background arcs. I call them "caper shows", because they usually involve a caper of some sort, often in an furtherance of protecting innocent people. Some of these caper shows have background arcs that rarely take center stage until the final episode or two of the season. A prime example is Burn Notice. Each episode could essentially be stand-alone, with Michael, Fiona, and Sam (sometimes with the help of Maddy!) help someone who is being victimized by a powerful group or person. They use their spy, gun, and special ops skills to save the person, often without pay. The background arc is that Michael was a CIA agent until he received a "burn notice" that he was no longer in the service. Michael has spent some time every episode either investigating who burned him or trying to get back into the spy business. You can skip a number of episodes without being too confused to enjoy the show. Other shows saved on my DVR that are caper shows with background arcs include Chuck, Leverage and White Collar. I suspect that Human Target will end up being a caper show with a background arc, as it seems to have started developing one.

- Procedurals. A procedural is a show that follows a certain pattern. The two best examples of procedurals are now franchises: Law & Order and CSI. I have neither franchise on my DVR list. The only procedurals I do have on DVR are Bones, The Closer, The Good Wife, and House. Bones and The Closer are about solving crime. The Good Wife follows a new associate in a law firm. House is about diagnosing a patient. Most procedurals have bare hints of arcs in their storylines, whether it's Lenny Briscoe's alcoholism and troubled relationship with his daughter, or Temperance Brennan's attempt to find and then bond with her family. The arcs are not prominent, and most episodes can be watched in any order with little to no confusion on the part of the viewer as to what is going on with the main characters.

- Reality competition shows. You might be surprised to know that I do not have The Biggest Loser on my DVR. I only catch it when I can. But I do have Project Runway and Top Chef on the DVR. A reality competition show is pretty much what it sounds like. Semi-amateurs or unknown professionals compete in a season-long competition to win a title and some nice prizes. You don't have to watch these shows in order, but it really makes sense to.

- Comedies. I don't watch a lot of comedies. The only traditional comedy I save is Community (which I think is really funny), but I also enjoy The Office (some times) and 30 Rock. You could argue that The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is a comedy, and it certainly is, but it's not very traditional. Maybe it's a late night show? Whatever, Stewart is definitely on the DVR.

- Finally, miscellaneous. There are two shows I watch that don't fall into the categories above. One new show I've started saving, though I'm not sure for how long, is Life Unexpected. This is one of those shows I watched because of one of the credited actresses: Shiri Appleby, formerly of Roswell. The other I've mentioned on the blog before: Men of a Certain Age. This is more like a buddy tv show than anything else, with life-long friends in their late 40s or 50s navigating middle age.

So what to keep and what to throw away? Well, I've heard many jokes from people that it's a good thing this is Lost's final season, and I must agree! This is one of those shows that has made it to my "pantheon" of favorite shows ever, joining the Star Trek franchise and the Buffyverse shows. I will greatly miss Lost, but better to have loved and Lost than to have never loved before.

I love shows with prominent arcs, so I know that I will continue to watch Fringe. You may remember that the relationship between the Bishops is one of the joys of watching TV for me right now, but I'm also fascinated by the relationships between the other characters and the concept of an alternative time line - you know, the one Peter's from. He just doesn't know that. Yet.

Mad Men and Damages are not traditional prominent arc shows, and you might argue they belong in a different category. Regardless, however, I plan to keep Mad Men on the list, for several reasons. One, it is one of the few shows that B and I actually watch together. We definitely have disparate likes when it comes to TV, so any commonality is worth maintaining. Plus, it is one of the best and most interesting dramas right now that doesn't involve a science fiction plot or procedural. The characters are well-drawn and acted, and the story lines never fail to produce a lot of thinking on my part. Damages, however, will not remain on the list, despite the great work of Glenn Close. I just don't enjoy it enough to keep watching it.

Of the caper category, I think I will only keep Burn Notice and Chuck. I really like the work that Jeffrey Donovan has done as Michael Weston, and any show that has Bruce Campbell should be supported by many. Chuck is another delight for me, with a great set of characters and fabulous actors to make any night's episode enjoyable viewing. And Adam Baldwin's Casey is turning into one of my all-time favorite characters (granted, a long list, I'm sure, but still, Casey belongs there).

However much I'll miss the antics of Timothy Hutton's Nathan Ford and his merry band of do-gooding thieves, I think Leverage is one of those shows that will be easy to catch up on with re-runs on TNT or somewhere on the internet. I'm certain I'll stop watching The Human Target, despite the appealing presence of Mark Valley. Since it is on Fox, it will most likely have to succeed for a number of seasons (up to at least 100 new episodes) to become a staple on cable TV (see Law & Order and Bones on TNT), so it may be that I'll never see the show again if it ends too soon.

Procedurals would seem to be the easiest of shows to give up. They rerun well, and the arcs are just not that complicated or interesting to keep up with. However, while I see myself giving up The Good Wife, I just can't see giving the rest up. But how can I give up David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel, Hugh Laurie, or Kyra Sedgwick? I only watch these shows because of these actors. Their shows all have a few flaws, but the actors and the development of the characters they play just keep me coming back for more. At least The Closer only airs a few weeks a year. If I must, I'll give up House and Bones, but they will be the hardest to give up.

I think I can give up on both Project Runway and Top Chef. They are both interesting to watch, but unlike the procedurals above, the characters (and they are characters) don't last more than a season. It is hard to get attached to the characters. Plus, I don't tend to watch every moment of these shows, usually focusing on the results of the contestants' work. Top Chef might be a little difficult to give up, simply because it is another show that both B and I watch together. But we'll see.

I'm also certain that I can lose the comedies, with the exception of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. And of miscellaneous, I've threatened two out of three weeks to drop Life Unexpected, so I'm comfortable saying good bye to them. I think I'll also sign off Men of a Certain Age, though Andre Braugher's work here is just top notch.

So, how much did I get rid of? Let's do the count. I reported eighteen shows that I watch on a regular basis. I did not count Lost or Dollhouse, since they are essentially over. I dropped (more or less - and only in my mind, since the babies aren't here yet!) 10, and hope to keep 8 (assuming all 8 are renewed). That's not bad, for me. How realistic that is, I've no idea. I'm sure it will be an interesting story, one way or another.


  1. I watch more TV now that I'm a mother. Not at the beginning. I did watch TV during middle-of-the-night feedings, but it is hard to watch anything of substance when your brain is the consistency of mashed potatoes. I think I watched a lot of HGTV. Once she got to be about 3-4 months and was esentially sleeping 12 hours a night (7-7) with only one short night feeding, I picked up watching more TV than ever. This is because I was actually home every single night as opposed to making dinner plans, having some sort of school/work obligation, etc. I was home, she was asleep in her crib, TV was on. And it's been that way for almost 3 years now! So, if you can get the babies into the habit of going to bed at a reasonable hour, you do not need to sacrifice as much TV as you might think.

  2. Yeah, I thought of you when I typed up this long note. It is possible that I'll actually have more time for more television. I don't know. But for some reason I just feel the need to plan for all possibilities. Not just with TV, which, when you think about it, is probably the smallest of issues I'll have coming up, but with everything. TV is just one thing. And since it is what I blog about...well, here it is!