Thinking about starting a new show? With all the awesome new shows coming out lately, it’s hard not to be tempted. Starting a new show is a huge commitment. I found the predicament best explained by Sheldon during the otherwise depressing season eight finale of The Big Bang Theory, “starting to watch a television show that might run for years isn’t a decision to take lightly.” Once you’re so invested with a show it’s hard to just abandon the characters you’ve grown close with, even if the quality begins to decline. I’m looking at you, Desperate Housewives. That’s why it’s important to make the decision early on which shows are worth not having a social life.
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering, what makes me qualified to help you make this decision? Well, for your information, I am an avid TV watcher as well as a shut-in. In fact, of the shows currently on air, I keep up to date with ten. And that doesn’t even include the two cancelled shows I am currently binging on Netflix, as well as one show that I’m trying to catch up on. So if anybody knows what it’s like not to have a life thanks to TV, it’s me.
Here are three very important questions I like to ask before starting a new show:
How many seasons are there?
Maybe you’re a fan of watching shows that have already ended, so that you go in knowing exactly how much of your life you’ll spend clicking ‘play next’ and ‘yes, I’m still watching.’ Or maybe you’re interested in a show that’s currently on air or about to be rebooted and you want to try and catch up before the new season. Or maybe you heard about that really cool new Netflix original that everyone’s been talking about and that you’ll totally feel left out if you don’t watch it, too. Netflix originals are typically the exception to this rule, since they come out yearly in bursts of one season, which usually means you can get caught up over one particularly unproductive long weekend. But with the other two situations, the number of seasons is important to consider, as well as how much time you’ll have to devote to binging those seasons.
Do you have no friends and typically spend Friday nights in bed eating ice cream from the container? Well, then go ahead and start watching all of the shows that make up the Star Trek franchise. Do you perhaps have children or dogs to care for, as well as other commitments that actually require leaving the house? In that case I would suggest staying away from The Office and selecting a much more manageable show like Firefly or Freaks and Geeks. And if you’re trying to catch up to something, remember, it’s a lot easier when there aren’t nine seasons and two movies to get through; curse you, X-Files, for not giving me enough time!
How will you be watching it?
Are you planning on settling down in a bunker and watching a show all in one sitting or are you a normal human being with cleanliness standards who actually takes shower breaks? Are you like a certain someone I know who gets bored of watching one show so that you constantly alternate between binges to the irritation of your girlfriend? Are you the kind of daredevil that waits for an entire season to come out, risking any spoilers that may come your way, or will you be watching on a weekly basis? Is binge watching a solo activity for you, or do you have someone in your life that is hopefully open to wearing matching onesies as you lounge on the couch for hours on end? All of these things are important considerations to make.
For example, if you like sleep and getting shit done I wouldn’t advise starting Gossip Girl on Netflix, because once you do your whole life and sanity will revolve around it. Instead stick to a show that’s currently on air so that you’re forced to watch one episode at a time. For those of you who like to simultaneously binge watch multiple shows, I would suggest you choose two vastly different shows so that you don’t have to figure out if the episode with the preacher who brought people back to life was The X-Files or Supernatural, because I still have no idea.
If you don’t have half an hour to an hour every night to dedicate to your various shows, sometimes a good alternative is to wait for the show to come out on DVD or on Netflix. This is a safer practice with shows like New Girl, rather than The Walking Dead, because it’s kind of upsetting to find out over Twitter that Nick and Jess are back together but total sacrilege to read on Facebook that Daryl died (neither of which are true, by the way, so don’t hate me).
And finally, if you’re making the commitment to watching a new show with your significant other, make sure that’s a promise you can keep, even if it takes twice as long to finish something with them than it would by yourself. Because nowadays “should we start a Netflix show together” is the equivalent of “should we move in together?”
Is it a remake, reboot, spin off, or adaptation?
Finally we come to our last question, to which your answer is probably yes. I say this because at the moment it seems as if Hollywood is all out of original ideas, if the number of familiar titles are any indication. There are remakes, near duplicates of old shows, and reboots, which are more like a reimagining of the source material. Then there’s spin offs, a new show built using characters from an already existing show, as well as adaptations, which can be based on a movie, novel, or comic book. In the past it was generally a given that anything that fit this category would fail. Take Joey, a spin off of Friends, or Melrose Place, the 2007 reboot of the 90’s show by the same name. I’m pretty sure those shows had a viewer base of one, me. They were the car wrecks of TV, so bad you don’t want to look but, oops, too late, now you can’t look away.
But lately Hollywood hasn’t even been able to screw up a spin off like it used to. Nowadays we’re more likely to have a show like Jessica Jones than The Tick. The only question you really have to ask yourself when considering these types of shows is this: how much did you love the original? If your answer is “I have a life size Mulder cutout that I sleep with at night,” then you should be safe. It’s hard to completely ruin something that had such a devoted fanbase; just take the Harry Potter series, the movies suck in comparison to the books, but they’re still worshipped worldwide, simply because they’re Harry Potter.
And if your answer is “I watched the first few seasons, but stopped watching after they brought a character back to life after showing us her severed head,” then tread carefully; there’s a good chance they could bring new life to this show, but there’s also a good chance that it could turn out like Heroes Reborn. And if your answer is “I hated the book, and the movie based off the book, and now they’re turning it into a show,” stay far away (in this case that show is Shadowhunters).
Luckily, we live in the Golden Age of TV and don’t have to worry as much as the older generation did that they would one day grow to resent their favorite characters (unless you watch Pretty Little Liars, which I’m ashamed to admit I still do). So, throw your cares to the wind, add that show you were looking at to your Netflix queue, Google “TV shows coming out in 2016.” And when you find yourself with twenty new shows you’re interested in, you’ll be happy you know how to make the tough choices.