The TV Equals Mailbag #6: Binge Watching, Parks and Rec, Rake & More

Rake (Fox) Episode 1 Serial Killer (8)

Normally, I would start this column with some goofy introduction that sounded good in theory, but probably didn’t correlate to anything that came after it. Today, we’re changing the tone to a full on shill-fest for the TV Equals Mailbag.

As regular readers of the Mailbag may have noticed, we’ve struggled a bit to get off the ground over here. The questions come from similar sources (although we have a new one this time!), and I may be clogging up your twitter feeds on Mailbag weeks asking for questions. It’s not an attempt to draw pageviews or improve our Google pagerank. I sincerely love writing this column. Without a doubt, the Mailbag has been my favorite column to write since I was doing them before my editors were kind enough to give me this platform to do them.

The Mailbag is very important to me for a number of reasons: First, with television constantly fracturing into smaller and smaller niches across the dial, it becomes tougher and tougher to strike up a conversation about television. Long gone are the days when 30 million of us would sit around a television and all watch the same thing on a Thursday night (Pour one out for Must-See TV). Now we’re all over the map, watching shows at different times, consuming them through different media, and viewing them in ways that make us rethink what we mean when we say “TV show”. The Mailbag gives a voice to all segments of the television universe. We are a big tent. If you want to ask a question, express your frustration with your favorite show, or take shots at The Following, we are happy to receive you. However, the column can only be as good as the participation of the readers. So, if you want to be involved, fire off a tweet to me. If you want something in longer form, drop me a line over here. It’s time we blow this thing up, but I can’t do it without you.

Q: Who does the selection for filming outside scenes and how do they secure permission to film there?
-Duane, Savannah, GA

I can always count on a technical question from Savannah. The work for securing locations falls to the appropriately titled location scouts. Most location scouts have a database of locales they like so they’re ready when requests come in. However, most locations are determined after the writing staff and production team have a good grasp of what scenery will be needed for certain scenes.

Location scouts are usually in charge of negotiating the filming rights. A contract with all of the expected jargon is drawn up with the property owner. Once location scouting reaches this stage, it is rare to see a change. Apparently, the process costs A LOT of money. Granted, networks don’t seem to be against throwing money at things that will never work (see the entire pilot process), but locations don’t seem to be one of those things.

Q: Are you pro-binge watching? And if so what shows have you binged on?
-@sljbowman, The Tweet World

I’m not against binge watching as a practice, but I do believe some shows are more conducive to binge watching than others. Because of time constraints in my own life, I’ve ended up binging on all different types of shows. For me personally, the binge watching that has done the least damage to my metaphorical TV waistline are usually lighter fare. Shows like The Mentalist, Burn Notice, and other crime-fighting, pseudo-narrative dramas have all been consumed by me at a rapid rate. I’ve also binge-watched Breaking Bad and Mad Men, but watching too many of those in a row makes me want to lay in bed and cry for a day.

However, if I had the capability, I would watch all shows as they aired because of my aforementioned love of the conversation. I like to read the reviews of critics I respect. I like to talk with my Dad about what’s going on, and I like to debate a show’s merits with people I respect. Watching a show 6 months after it aired doesn’t leave me many people to talk to about it. People can consume television however they wish, but I’ll always be partial to the week-to-week tracking of a television show.

Q: How do you feel about Parks & Rec getting a 7th season? The show is amazing, but it seems like it’s been losing steam. I don’t know if the writers could ever match the comedic gold that was season 4 and most of 5, but do you think they can get the show back on the right track?
-Matt, Atlanta, GA

I touched on this topic a little bit in yesterday’s comedy roundup. As Matt says, Parks and Recreation remains a delight to watch. However, there does seem to be a need for the show to make some changes. I’m optimistic about what Chris and Ann leaving will mean for the show. They weren’t hindering the show, but the cast was far too large to fully service all of its outsized characters. If nothing else, the show now has more airtime to give to April, Andy, Donna, Tom, rotating guest star X.

From a larger picture perspective, the show has really been hinting at big things for the future of Leslie Knope. It will be interesting to see where the rest of the season takes us, but I think we’re headed for Leslie Knope in a state office somewhere. Considering some of the shows finer moments both emotionally and comedically came during Leslie’s previous run for office, I imagine hilarious hijinks would ensue if we got the band back together for one final run. Parks and Recreation remains terrific, but it has positioned itself as a constantly forward-moving comedy. Suddenly, everybody seems stuck in neutral. As much as I enjoy the residents of Pawnee, it’s probably time to move outside of the city limits.

Rake: Were the Fox execs flipping channels, see some random House reruns and just figure “Screw it, let’s run it back”? By the way, I’m not complaining.
-Scott, Atlanta, GA

You certainly don’t have to look very hard to see the similarities between Rake and former Fox hit, House. However, I need to see a little bit more. The thing that made House enjoyable was that his boyish self-destruction was counterbalanced by his incredible skill as a doctor. On television, it’s far easier to make someone look like a great doctor as opposed to a great attorney. I’m not even certain we’re supposed to think Keegan Deane (horrible name by the way, though I do like “Key”) is a great attorney. This show could be so many different versions that it’s impossible to project what the show is going to be. What’s easy to see is Greg Kinnear’s easy charm. If the show succeeds, it will largely be his ability to carry a cast of milquetoast people to a high level. I guess that does sound a lot like House.