What Immediately Draws You Into a New TV Show?

Farscape, Firefly, Star Trek, Stargate SG-1, Supernatural, Battlestar Galactica

There has been a lot of discussion recently of how long people wait before deciding if they will continue watching a new TV show. Everyone has a different metric for this decision, but some people make the decision based on just one viewing while others give it longer.

With that in mind, lately I have been trying to quantify what exactly grabs me when viewing a new TV show. Why do you think that some shows just pull you in right from the first viewing, whereas others take a while to grow on you, and of course still others just never gel for you? Let’s explore what makes a person like a show from the word go as opposed to having to watch for a while before committing to it.

Point of Reference

D'Argo, Sun, Rygel, Crichton, Zhaan - Farscape

Human beings tend to like the familiar. In fact, a couple of years ago while reading about genre I noted that the tropes everyone complains about are actually quite important and useful. Most of us prefer watching something we have some familiarity with. Now don’t get me wrong, this does not mean that we must always watch the same formulaic programs. But, something familiar in the program – setting, characters, events – help improve our enjoyment of a show.

And of course using myself as an example, I like shows set in outer space, but have never been there except in my dreams. However, I have read a lot of books, seen a lot of movies and watched a lot of TV, so by this point, there are many familiar elements that tend to draw me in. This was certainly true with Farscape, which started out with a familiar point of reference – a modern day astronaut. When he was pulled into an unknown part of the universe via a wormhole, the fun began!

Not Too Gritty, Not Too Dark

USS Enterprise - Star Trek

I am at heart a hopeless optimist. I want to believe that there is hope for humanity, and that things will get better. It is very popular to portray the future as a dystopia full of low life characters. But, for a show to catch my attention from the get go, I need at the very least to have some characters that basically have a good heart. Now, this does not mean I do not watch shows about a dystopic society – it just takes me a bit longer to get into the show!

Putting this into the context of sci-fi which is my favorite genre, I had an instant affinity for shows like all the Star Trek and Stargate shows and spin-offs, where the present and future are portrayed as positive. Sure, there is conflict; that makes a good action adventure show. But, in the end, good triumphs.

Interesting and Memorable Characters

Supernatural 1

It is very important for the characters in a show to be interesting and memorable. I need to be able to keep them straight and remember them from week to week, or season to season, especially with the extra long hiatuses common now. And, as I said previously, I prefer characters that have a good heart, even if circumstances sometimes force then to do things that are against the law.

In addition, some shows can have too many main characters for me to comfortably follow. I have trouble sometimes distinguishing faces, and when there are too many main characters, I cannot follow the plot line of the program because I get confused as to who is who! These conditions are filled by the show Supernatural, which focuses on a few main characters with recurring and other guest stars.

Why Care?

Firefly cast

It is hard to get fully invested in a show if you do not care about the circumstances occurring each week. The main premise of the show and the plot lines of the stories can make a huge difference for the show drawing me in or my becoming totally disinterested.

I was pulled into Firefly because the plots were immediately engaging and the circumstances the characters found themselves in were entertaining as well as thought provoking. This is also one of the main draws to sci-fi for me. Modern dilemmas are presented in an off worldly context giving new perspectives to our lives and world events.

Friends and Family

Stargate SG-1 and Battlestar Galactica Casts

This summer I have been watching a lot of new shows. Some have really caught my imagination. Others, not so much. In fact, I almost stopped watching one of the new shows after the first episode, and then read a glowing review and saw some advertising calling it “one of the best shows of the summer.” I decided to reconsider – maybe I was missing something? So, I am giving it a little longer before making a decision. And here I thought I was immune to advertising!

In addition, I can state with certainty that recommendations from friends and family have a much greater chance of turning into shows I love. This is probably because they know what I like. It was friends that recommended I watch Supernatural, Firefly, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Justified, and The Walking Dead; my son who got me into watching Stargate SG-1 and my daughter who encouraged me to watch Battlestar Galactica, all of which I loved from the beginning.


What do you think helps determine which shows become instant hits in your mind? Do we share any characteristics in common? Please let me know in the comments section below!