I love TV. Especially these days—what with all the streaming services and cable broadcasters improving the landscape. However, it is still television, and television has an unnerving ability to piss me right the fuck off. Indeed, the list of offenses committed by the creators, writers and network executives (let's call them "producers" collectively) of TV shows is too long to squeeze into this column. Here's my top six, in no particular order.
1. Cold Turkey Cancellations: Of all the misdeeds that cauterize my colon, it is the abrupt cancellation of a program without a finale: My Name is Earl, Deadwood, Soap, Awake, Twin Peaks and The Sarah Connor Chronicles are just a few that have disappeared without tying loose ends. I watched six mediocre seasons of The Dead Zone— the last four because I needed to find out what was was going to happen with its little, um, Armageddon problem— and got nothing in return! No resolutions, no closure—no nada!
That was really messed up, man. People need resolutions and closure. We need answers to such burning questions as, "Did Jessica kill Peter Campbell?" "Is Burt going to escape his alien captors?" "Is Benson going to get his own spinoff show?"
2. Rise of the Protagonots: Everyone knows a story needs a protagonist. Lately though, I have noticed an increasing amount of producers that ignore this basic literary rule. Instead they use protago nots —main characters who are inherently evil.
This is exactly why I stopped watching Sons of Anarchy . As raucous as it was, there was no one to get behind. They were all ruthless, murderous, conniving, thieving, drug-trafficking, womanizing monsters. Ditto The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, House of Cards and The Shield— all chock full of unredeemable scumbags surrounded by a few good-hearted redshirts for the protagonots to murder.
Of course, even worse than a show full of bad guys is a show full of good ones. Which is why they cancelled My Three Sons of Anarchy —a delightful romp about a family-operated motorcycle syndicate that runs amok in the neighborhood doing favors and being nice to people.
3: Afraid to Kill Their Babies: The only thing I hate more than when a character I have grown to love is killed off, is when beloved characters never die. Here's the reality, TV producer-type people. If you don't occasionally assassinate central characters, the audience won't worry when you place them in mortal danger.
Think about all the crappy action shows in which main characters don't die: Baywatch, Dukes of Hazzard, Magnum PI. No matter how improbable their escape might seem, the viewer always knows—consciously or unconsciously—that the character is not really in danger. And if the viewer knows the character is not in danger, he or she will not feel fear, which means he or she will not experience an adrenaline rush, which is the reason characters are imperiled in the first place.
I mean, there could be a scene in which The Abominable Dr. Murdergood is holding Higgins captive in an underground bunker, guarded by a squadron of undead Nazis, duct-taped and dangling by a frayed thread over a vat of boiling tar, and you just know Magnum will rush in and— yawn— save the day so you might as well just go ahead and make some Words with Friends moves while it happens.
4. Must Every Car be Pinto?: Contrary to what Hollywood wants you to believe, cars rarely explode. Even if they catch fire—itself a rarity—they hardly ever detonate and I frankly find it insulting that they think there needs to be a fiery explosion in order for me to be jarred by a car accident.
5. Nobody Faces Anybody Anymore: Have you ever noticed how annoyingly often TV characters don't face each other when conversing? It usually happens during serious dialogue between two people. One of them will face away from the person to whom he or she is talking, often gazing into the distance as if about to say something so profound it needs to be heard by the entire universe. But it isn't profound. It's just intellectually lazy writing designed to add dramatic weight to dialogue despite the fact that nobody goddamn talks like that! So stop it! Unless one of the characters is performing a task of some sort—pouring a drink maybe, or driving a car— make your characters face each other fer crissake!
6. Too Much Shark Jumping: For those who don't know, jumping the shark (a reference to the Happy Days episode in which Fonzie water skis over a shark tank) is when producers introduce a gimmick, usually ridiculous, to save a show from poor ratings.
Well would you mind not doing that anymore? It's obvious and it's lame and it rarely works. I say, "Why not go out with a bang?" Instead of jumping sharks, how about go swimming with them? By that I mean, film one last, horrifying series finale in which all the chum-covered main characters jump into a shark tank. Naturally, you'd still be obligated to tie up all the loose ends, but that can happen during the feeding frenzy.
"I'm sorry Jimmy, but you are not the father of my child!" - Chomp!
"It was I, Kristin, Shepard, who shot J.R.!" - Munch!
" Soylent Green is peop . . .î ñ er, that was a movie. You get the point though.