I missed the Emmy Awards earlier this week. I barely knew they were happening, and I didn’t really care, even though I’m a big TV watcher and this year’s broadcast actually attracted many more viewers than the show has in recent years.
I rarely make a big ritual out of watching any of the annual award ceremonies. I’m a filmmaker and a film fanatic, but there are many years when I even have to build up the energy to watch the Oscars. But I was particularly disinterested in the Emmy broadcast this year, and glancing at the nominees and the winners, I realize why: I don’t watch those shows. I watch “bad TV.”
That wasn’t always the case. There used to be a time when “my shows” were the critically-acclaimed ones: The Wire, The Sopranos, 24, The West Wing, The X-Files, Sex and the City. They had relatively large audiences, and they won all the awards. But even after any of those shows lost their mojo, after some of them jumped the shark, I kept watching. I can be a very loyal viewer.
But now, the big hits are Lost on me. (Pun intended: I watched nothing but the series finale of that particular show.)
First of all, I am committed to several summer series, which are supposed to be the worst of the worst, at least on network TV. These are the offerings that didn’t make the Fall lineups and will never get Emmy nods.
Before I’ll watch my DVR’d Mad Men, a big Emmy-winner this year, I’ll subject myself to the derivative melodramatic stylings of ABC’s The Gates, which is HBO’s True Blood, cleaned-up, PG-13′d, and transported from Louisiana to a gated community seemingly just outside Celebration, USA. The Gates isn’t as good (or risque) as True Blood, but I am there every week, and not because I have a particular hankering for vampires, or werewolves, or witches, or anything else, though Buffy the Vampire Slayer gets my idiosyncratic nod for the best TV show of the 90s (and early 2000s).
And The Gates isn’t even the worst show that I watch. It is probably head and shoulder’s above something like NBC’s Person’s Unknown, another summer-time offering that seems Lost-like in its fly-by-the-seat-of-its-pants disregard for any eventual narratalogical destination/closure. And I’ll also catch-up on that show before I get to Mad Men. (And not just because AMC has the nerve NOT to be in HD, at least not on DirecTV. The televisual inhumanity!)
One of the problems with watching these shows, of course, is that they don’t last very long, sometimes not even a full season. Few people are watching them—sometimes, I fear, its only me. And the networks will pull them before they have a chance to say goodbye to fans (or, in some cases, fan).
Mad Men is an outstanding drama, and it is the only current Emmy-caliber show that I watch. I’m sure that most of this year’s other nominees are also very good programs (though I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what all the fuss is about Modern Family.) I’ll just stick with my schlocky summer fare. And I’ll probably gravitate to the worst new shows in the Fall, too. I was one of the 17 people religiously watching FlashForward (before it got cancelled). And I suspect that a similar fate awaits me when I sit down for the series premiere of The Event.