Everyone has dysfunctional relationships in their life. Mine are on TV.
I’m in a terrible relationship. I’ve been hoping I wouldn’t be the one to have to end it, but it’s getting out of control.
I have to break up with HBO’s Entourage.
I got home late on Tuesday, after a long day of work, and I had the TV to myself. As much as I wanted to check out Showtime’s The Big C, I was just too tired to think. I wanted a show requiring no brainpower, no commitment, just frivolous fun. So I ended up watching Entourage; TV’s booty call.
When I first started seeing Entourage in 2004, I knew this was not the right match for a long term commitment. The relationship was purely physical. Entourage looked hot and sounded sexy. But it was nothing more than Maxim Magazine as a scripted comedy. The plots were silly at best, the characters two dimensional and the jokes corny. Even when Entourage was at its best, it was uniquely able to be great without ever being good. Calling Entourage’s plot and dialogue "cartoony" is an insult to the talented men and women who write for animation. Entourage was meant to be a fun fling, two seasons at most, but it wasn’t marriage material.
So why do I continue watching Entourage? Instant gratification? No, there’s no gratification anymore, instant or long term. It's the memory of instant gratification. When the Entourage credits roll, I feel ashamed. I've not only lost respect for Entourage; I've lost respect for myself.
It’s just a TV show. Who cares?
I do. Because when I look across the TV landscape, I realize that we are about 3 years into the next great scripted renaissance. It’s easy to miss, because it’s not compacted within 4 broadcast networks. It’s spread across at least 20 channels - FX, USA, AMC, TNT, TBS, Adult Swim, A&E, MTV, TV Land, Showtime, HBO, and SyFy, to name a few. Sure, there’s mediocre shows making it to air, more than ever before, but mixed in with the bad, there’s a lot of great programming worth watching.
So to really enjoy everything TV has to offer these days, what we don’t watch is equally as important as what we do watch. The television spectrum may seem limitless, but our time is not. And my bad relationship with Entourage is holding me back from the next great show that I’m currently not watching.
This is not my first bad relationship. I stuck with Smallville for 7 seasons. Las Vegas was a fun summer romance that continued for three years. If I had gotten out earlier, I would have had time to court new relationships with series that my friends were starting falling in love with, like The Wire or Friday Night Lights.
That’s how I am with relationships; I make you work hard to earn my trust, but once you have it, you have to do a lot wrong before I finally walk away. By the last season of Friends, I had more of a commitment to finishing the series than the cast did, and I didn’t even like the show anymore.
I’m not crazy. Sometimes my loyalty has paid off. I stuck with the miserable season 4 of NBC’s West Wing and was hugely rewarded in the brilliant 7th and final season. My commitment to Saturday Night Live has lasted 29 years. Other than immediate family, it is the longest standing relationship in my life. My loyalty to SNL is so core to my being, that when I hear the notes to the closing theme are played on the piano at 12:55am, something stirs within me so deep; pure emotion. I don’t feel like a fan of SNL, I feel like I am a part of it.
Why keep watching mediocre programming, like Entourage? Because there’s a comfort in seeing old, familiar shows, like Entourage. I’d love to get involved with USA’s Covert Affairs… tomorrow. But I’m not in the mood to meet someone new tonight.
Watching new TV shows is like going on a series of blind dates. Blind dates seem like fun if you haven’t been in the dating scene for awhile, but any single guy or gal will tell you, it’s a lot of work. Sure, I could do a series of 5 minute speed dates with each new show. Isn’t that what a lot of people do? But I’m not that kind of guy. I respect them too much not to give one full episode a shot. No wonder I didn’t even record ABC’s Scoundrels.
Five years ago, I’d date any new show at least once. Even if I heard the show wasn’t very good, I’d still have a perverse desire to see for myself. There was something sexy about “new”, even when “new” wasn’t very good.
Today, I’m only looking for commitments, not one night stands. It’s not that my standards are necessarily higher, but my fear of disappointment is. I want a show to love, not to mess around with.
Looking for commitment on a first date is stressful. If I like TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles but don’t love it, do I give it a 2nd date to see where the relationship goes, or cut it off right away? I gave the first season of HBO’s True Blood 2 episodes before pulling the plug, and in retrospect, everyone said it was the 3rd where the series really took off. Did I walk away from my next great love?
A few weeks ago, HBO announced that Entourage is going to wrap up at the end of next season. So of course, I want to just watch the final season and be done. What’s 8 more episodes? I’ll never be happy with my answer, because I’m asking myself the wrong question. What I should be asking myself is, “What shows will I end up not checking out because I was watching Entourage instead? What great love might I never meet?”
I have to be strong. I can’t wait until the end of the next season. If I want to live in a TV utopia, I can’t continue to be part of the problem. I have to break up. Now.
Well, not "right now." I mean, this Sunday is the season finale. I might as well finish out the season.
I'm doing it again!
I don't know if I'm strong enough to break up on my own. I’m going to need help from one of my close friends. I’m going to need my buddy TiVo to step up. How? More on that in the next post…