It isn’t always true that good shows are difficult to watch, of course. Shows like the Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother are excellent and I have no trouble tuning in and watching all the way through. A show doesn’t have to be super deep to say something meaningful about the human condition or to entertain, and I firmly believe that these are worthy goals. I am not one of those people who dismiss romance as meaningless fluff, and I believe that genre fiction as a whole generally does a better job of making a point or making someone think than literary fiction does, though that isn’t what this post is about.
I was watching Falling Skies and it struck me how often I felt the need to leave the room during it lest I be overcome with righteous anger; not at the writers or actors or producers, but rather at the sheer truthiness of the show. It’s the same sort of anger I see when there’s a political ad on that I violently disagree with (a thing that happens so often that my guy, who is usually the one with the remote, is in the habit of muting or otherwise flipping past them) but not the same exact anger, because it’s a different sort of despair. Instead of my intelligence being insulted or my morality being trampled, I have a burning feeling in my gut that says, I know how this is going to go and I won’t like it.
A good show, though, in an objective sense is going to evoke this emotion from me, and the issue (at least with Falling Skies) is not the predictability. It’s predictable because the point is that even in the midst of an alien apocalypse, people will be people and politics marches on. In large part I feel that is the whole message of the show, after all. And yet, sometimes I can’t help leaving the room. It’s a conundrum because good shows that are difficult to watch often don’t get watched… and then our society suffers from bad television.
It’s no wonder FOX demanded a bunch of sexytimes for Eliza Dushku in Dollhouse, then, and tried to re-arrange the order the episodes were premiered in, but I think the fundamental mistake there in not trusting Joss Whedon is that Joss is a bloody expert in leavening the tense moments with humor without losing the point. Watching Falling Skies makes me respect him that much more… though probably at least in part because I think my politics are a little more in line with the conservative wet dream that is Falling Skies.