20 Questions About the 2012-2013 TV Season (Part 2)

We’re smack in the middle of America’s favorite end of the season television article series on the internet. In case your new to the format, I (or some frisky commenters) suggest questions from the TV season that need to be discussed. If you missed it, you can go back and read part one. Let’s get on with part two.

With Lori Grimes dead, who is now The Worst?

One of weird things about watching fictionalized stories told by moving pictures is the very real emotions you develop towards certain characters. Over the years, characters have inspired feelings of love, lust, anger, rage, and pure hatred. Without a doubt the weirdest of these emotions is hate. Certain characters inspire strong reactions from fans of the TV show that can range from a hearty dislike to wishing death upon their character. The 2012-2013 figurehead for this kind of hatred was Lori Grimes of The Walking Dead. She was such an unnerving force on the show that people wished for undead beings to consume her flesh. You could practically hear the cheers erupting from around the internet when Lori was taken out after giving birth earlier in the show’s third season.

While we are all thrilled she’s gone, she was forced to abdicate her title of The Worst. The remaining candidates for the title can only dream of being as horrible as Lori Grimes, but there still remains a standout among the bunch. In a female dominated-field (the state of women on TV debate can be saved for later), the winner is Catelyn Stark. Take a look at her resume:

-She started the chain of events that got her husband decapitated.
-She constantly rooster-blocked her son.
-She released the Kingslayer.
-She sits in the corner and sulks while knitting dreamcatchers.
-She admitted to desiring the death of Jon Snow.

Add it all up, and it’s time to make it official: Catelyn Stark is The Worst.

Why does TV hate happy couples?

The short answer is “because they’re boring”. This response could not be more lazy. For whatever reason, television writers everywhere struggle with the concept of the happy couple. They mistakenly believe that there constantly has to be some sort of conflict in order to keep the couple interesting. What results is often ridiculous plot decisions that make our one or both characters look like worse people than we’re supposed to think they are.

There are several examples of shows doing it right (Ben and Leslie on Parks and Recreation spring to mind). Unfortunately, these couples have become the exception rather than the rule. This television season is littered with examples of writers creating conflict between couples where none need exist. I respect the idea that conflict needs to exist for storytelling to occur, but it doesn’t have to happen between two people who are supposed to enjoy one another’s company.

On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you for the final season of Breaking Bad?

I’m a solid 14. Yes, the show’s decision to go 8 and 8 spread out over two years isn’t the best way to go out, but at least the show will have an opportunity to end it sort of on its own terms (cut to Matt Weiner counting his money). With the events of last summer, the show promises to be a mad dash to the finish. Bryan Cranston himself has taken to calling it a “roller coaster ride to Hell”. Still, it will probably end as most wonderful things do these days: It will be fantastic and logical, but the internet will attempt to troll us all by complaining about it. We’ll grouse about it for a few days, and then settle into the second stage of TV grief: reverence.

The end of Breaking Bad is not only an important moment in television history, but it signals the end of an era. It’s ending coupled with the exit of Mad Men next year starts the long wave goodbye to the era of male antiheroes. No, we haven’t closed the antihero business for good, but when compared to the early 2000s, it’s remarkable the sudden dearth of those shows. In addition, the official crown for Best Show on TV will be abdicated. After 2014, it will be completely up for grabs. Considering Mad Men premiered in 2007 and Breaking Bad in 2008, different dramas will have a chance to seize the crown for the first time in 8 years. It’s sad and exciting all at the same time.

Who’s hanging on too long?

I’m looking at you, Community. You can bring back all the old writers you want to, but it’s just not going to work anymore. The show suffered noticeably from Harmon’s absence. It looked like the same show, but it never felt like the same show. While Harmon’s voice would probably help the show, his odds of recapturing the old magic are very slim. Ever the underdog, it would be something if Community got to end on its own terms. And it’s probably for the best.

What constitutes a successful television show in 2013?

With the shift in viewing options and constant eroding of the network television audience, it’s pretty tough to put an accurate definition on “successful television series”. A great example is the “meteoric” rise of Scandal. In it’s second season, the ABC drama blew up culminating with the season finale that drew… 9.1 million viewers? Even the dragging final season of NYPD Blue (another 10 PM ABC drama) drew consistently over 10 million viewers in 2005. How can we consider Scandal such a massive success?

Determining the success of Scandal (and a lot of shows) requires a heavy dose of objective and subjective reading. On the objective side, the show has a nice DVR pickup of 33% in its total viewership in the Live+7 ratings. In addition, the show’s finale alone garnered over half a million tweets (kudos to the guy who counted) and showed a massive spike compared to its season one finale. These facts cannot be argued.

That being said, there is a great deal of subjectivity when it comes to determining what TV shows are “hits”. Television series always point at different things when trying to sell their series on new viewers. We all know about 18-49 demos and DVR adjustments, but shows will tout nearly any positive ratings number (“We’re #1 in males ages 27-27.5!”). Meanwhile, what one network considers a hit would be a loser to another network. It’s the reason why we can call Revolution and its 6.5 million viewers a hit, but Elementary and its 9 million viewers is ho hum. I’m not arguing that either of those statements are right or wrong. I just think we should acknowledge the weird math we do to evaluate shows in the year 2013.

Do you have different thoughts about these questions? Let’s talk about it in the comments. While you’re there, feel free to suggest some questions for rounds 3 and 4.