McTelevision

I no longer utter, ever, a word about liking a show on TV. Because the moment I start liking something intelligent and complex, they axe it.

The latest victim is “Smash”, a show that is as brimming with talent as anything I’ve seen on TV – a show with a strong story arc, excellent acting, amazing musical numbers, a complex storyline that caters to an adult with a decent attention span. Of course, they nixed it. They probably needed a slot for “Dancing with the Stars.”

Two MarilynsWhen are they going to make some television for the viewers who might want to spend the time allotted to the idiot box actually watching something that is worth the time investment? Am I doomed to BBC America and PBS Master Classics? Is there in America no network or producer strong enough to make something good and STAND behind it?

Smash had two seasons. That sudsy sanctimonious dreck that is a show called “Seventh Heaven”, full of preachy storylines designed to hit you over the head with a clue by four twenty seven times per episode just in case you didn’t get it the first time – that lasted forever and ever. Smash? The one where you had to PAY ATTENTION? Where things weren’t spelled out for you like a nice neat coloring book? Gone. (Ironically, perhaps, the TV show about a fake Broadway musical is about to be made into a real Broadway musical. How very META.)

 I have a long regret list of too-early-cancelled shows. Carnivale. Jericho. Firefly. Jack and Bobby. Bunheads. Alcatraz. The Cleaner. The Human Factor. Wonderfalls. All here, all gone often in the middle, abruptly, just… vanished. Vamoosed, Disappeared. Cancelled. Because God forbid that a viewer actually needs to think, to feel, to connect, to wonder.

It’s instant gratification or nothing doing.

We started watching a new show recently – or a new old show, to be precise. They were re-making  “Ironside”, a show originally featuring Raymond Burr in the title role of the handicapped wheelchair-bound police officer. This was supposed to be an updated version of that, with Blair Underwood , a decent actor who did not deserve this kind of treatment, in the title role.

To be perfectly honest, it was a another cop show – and cop shows tend to have to be really extraordinary in order to hold me these days, This one… was a good and adequate show. I may or may not have stuck with it long term. But be that as it may, I watched two episodes of it and just now learned that it had been cancelled by the network. After – believe it or not – four episodes. FOUR. Dear God, people barely had time to register the fact that the damned thing EXISTED. It may not have been one of the brilliant ones, but my god, Give it a chance! If you thought it was worth making in the first place how can you just throw in the towel after making four frigging episodes? Your viewers haven’t even properly met the character yet.

I’m sorry but this instant gratification thing – I’m talking TV right now but it’s pervasive in the arts with books, too having fallen foul of it in a major way. If a book isn’t a bestseller within a week of release, it is relegated to the garbage heap immediately – this instant gratification thing is foreign and amazing to me. Since when is the human race celebrating having the attention span of a gnat? Are we really doomed to McTelevision, being fed bite-sized pieces of pablum in between a steady diet of buybuybuybuybuy advertising ? I think I see TV-less future for me. Not too long in the future, at that. If I cannot have a decent story, something to engage my mind and my spirit, I don’t need the pap, either.

And while we’re on the subject of television, why why why do they have to ruin something beautiful? This is the flip side of that coin. You already have a show that is great, And then you… I don’t know… don’t have enough ratings? You need more better bigger or something? And so you take an amazing show and you make it “more commercial” and you… you destroy it.

We’ve been re-watching old episodes of Torchwood, and this was a show that was luminous. You were invested in the characters. You CARED. When bad things happened to them, you were on the edge of your seat. The episode “Exit Wounds” was enough to make you weep bitter tears.

When they started the new series, they released it on Starz in the USA, which was a premium channel which we did not get. We knew that it had been somehow… Americanised, transplanted to America, we knew the basic storyline, but that was it.

We finally became able to access the “Torchwood: Miracle Day” series, and fell on it with all the avid anticipation of fans who had been starved of their latest fix for too long.

I cannot begin to tell you how bitterly bitterly disappointed we were.

Americanised, indeed. Instead of the heart and spirit with which the old Torchwood was infused, we got a tired rehash of same old same old – things go boom, things get chased, Bad Corporation, Good American Feds vs. Bad American Feds, too many guns, not enough of anything else. The dialogue was trite, the story line was unbelievable (yes, it’s a fantasy but the best fantasies are believable in context), and Torchwood was burned to the ground for us. We fast forwarded through a couple of episodes hoping that it would get better. It did not. We could not even muster the interest to want to find out how it ended.

What a sad end to a magnificent show.

And why? Because the ‘thinking and feeling’ demographic who watched the original Torchwood series didn’t spend enough money with Our Sponsors? Well I hope they failed miserably at their commercial cash-cow iteration, because I’ll never forgive them for running Torchwood into the ground like this. It was the McTelevision edition of Torchwood, It was adulterated. It was diluted. it was falsely flavored with unnecessary sturm und drang, only brought in because, well, American audiences apparently don’t want to watch anything at all where stuff doesn’t blow up ten times every two minutes.

I have very very few shows left that I will actually watch, that I will admit to looking forward to.

And – like I said – most of them are British.

Cranky and annoyed, I am now going to go and make myself a cup of tea and then go to bed.

There’s nothing on TV.

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Alma Alexander

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