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TV: What Do You Watch?

I’m on a tight (self-imposed) deadline to get my WIP revised before I go on vacation in two weeks, AND I need to rent a car and get my hair cut and buy a bathing suit and 25 other things before then, so this week I have a Q4U: What TV shows do you watch, or have you watched in recent years, that you would recommend? Here are my favorite shows in the past ten years: The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, The Office (British and American), Extras, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Wire, Dexter, Big Love, Mad Men, Rubicon (lasted just one season), and Breaking Bad. I’m not into medical dramas, I prefer dramas to comedies, and my favorite shows of all are ones I have to “figure out” (who the Cylons are in BSG, who the killer is in Dexter, what the hell is going on on Lost and Rubicon). The Wire was probably my favorite of all of these, and I am anxiously awaiting the return of Breaking Bad on July 17. Not that I have time to watch TV with two small kids and a work in progress, but it’s nice to have an hour per week to put the books and computer away and zone out. It’s a great way to battle depression and to learn valuable storytelling techniques. What about you? What are your favorite shows? Do you have any you think I’d like?

167 comments to TV: What Do You Watch?

  • You might like Firefly. Sadly it went off the air, but they did a movie, Serenity, as a follow-up. My wife and I loved BSG, and we're part way through watching The Wire. Yay Netflix 🙂

    • meghancward

      I'll check out Firefly. Thanks for the suggestion! My brother also suggested Damages, but I was bored during the first episode and gave up. And yes, yay Netflix!

  • mainecharacter

    The only TV I've watched for years has been LOST, Battlestar Galactica, and Mythbusters, so I'm not much help, but I do appreciate yet another suggestion that I check out The Wire.

    Three writers can't be wrong, can they?

    • meghancward

      I do have one writer friend who said she couldn't get into The Wire, but she prefers comedies. (I love love love The Wire.) Another show I've heard great things about from many writers is Deadwood, but I watched one episode and wasn't crazy about it.

  • I agree with Gene. Yay Netflix! And Firefly–one of the great sci-fi series of all time. Of course they had to cancel it. I also LOVE Torchwood. I hope the new Starz version will be as good as the Welsh one.

    I'm like you–I prefer dramas, and they have to be smart. Six Feet Under is probably my favorite US show of the last 10 years, with MadMen and Dexter tying for second. But I don't get all those premium channels. I get them on Netflix, so I can watch when I want and it only costs 10 bucks a month. With Netflix, I've discovered all sorts of great British TV shows I'd never have a chance to see otherwise, like the UK version of Life on Mars, and all sorts of yummy period-piece things like Lark Rise to Candleford (ultimate feel-good historical series)

    Good luck with the bathing suit buying. Ugh. My most unfavorite thing.

    • meghancward

      Thanks, Anne, for all these suggestions. That's two votes for Firefly, which I've never heard of, so I'll definitely check it out. I've never heard of Torchwood either, or the UK version of Life on Mars (I've never even seen the US version). Lots of good stuff. Thank you!

      I hate bathing suit buying, too, but it's got to be done.

      • Doctor Who was/is aimed at kids, but the more recent episodes (2005-) are sometimes a little darker, and there are some romance sub-plots, and can be enjoyed by all ages.

        Torchwood is a spin-off of Doctor Who, and is definitely darker and more violent. I've heard it compared to the X-Files (which I never watched) and a sci-fi CSI. I enjoy it sometimes, but my wife finds it generally too violent.

  • Kristan

    BSG was up there for me, but my other faves don't seem in line with your taste. (Grey's Anatomy despite the rocky middle seasons, Nikita, and So You Think You Can Dance.) I've been watching Friends reruns every afternoon to (a) relax while I do housework, (b) laugh, and (c) learn how to write more casually and lighthearted.

    • meghancward

      I have to admit, I've seen one reality show in my life and it was the first season of Project Runway, and I never watched it again. (I'm assuming So You Think You Can Dance is a reality show?) But I loved BSG so much that I sometimes daydream about watching it. I guess all good shows have to end, though.

      • Kristan

        Oh dude, SYTYCD is SO much better than regular reality shows. (I don't watch any of the others.) None of that trashy drama, just young people who want to dance and are amazing at it. But it's only good if you like dance, lol.

        • meghancward

          I've always been tempted to watch Dancing With The Stars, but I just don't have time. How is SYTYCD different/better? I bet I'd like it.

          • Kristan

            SYTYCD is for aspiring professional dancers. DWTS is 10 pros paired with 10 celebs (who mostly suck, though there are always a handful who can actually dance and get better over time). One is truly about showcasing dance, the other uses dancing as an excuse to gawk at celebs.

      • Kristan

        Oh, Bones, Bones, Bones! The individual episodes are formulaic (like CSI or Law and Order, there's always a case to solve) but the characters are great.

  • TV is " a great way… to learn valuable storytelling techniques."

    Now that's something we don't hear very often!

    Just as with books, while much TV is undeniably formulaic and predictable there are some shows which excel in the fine art of story-telling, and have much that novelists can learn from.

    Most TV (and especially the big commercial successes) seem to be written by teams of writers.

    I think for commercial fiction collaborations are an ideal way forward in the digital world.

    We are looking at the possibility of maybe four of five authors team up to write a commercial series of books, using author numbers to bring speed of production, and their multiple viewpoints and skills to ensure good storyline and editing.

    Imagine it – five competent authors writing 12000 words each and we have a 60k novel. Sure the royalties split five ways is a pain but consider this: trad publishing offers you 15%. If this group of five authors self- pubbed on Amazon and took 70% we’d still get 14% each.

    Establish a successful series formula and we could be bringing out six books a year in the same time it would take to write one. Plus five promotion arms to help get it out there and noticed.

    Sure, it won't be Shakespeare, but as with television, sometimes people just want something to chill out to.

    • meghancward

      Mark – should we form a writing team? Oh wait, you already did! 🙂 And it seems to be working quite well for you. Have you blogged about this, by the way? (Comparing TV to commercial fiction collaborations?) And don't tell me – you don't watch TV at all? No great UK suggestions for us?

  • Not sure yet how a big team writing a novel will work compared to a pair of writers as now, but optimistic, and with e-pub experimentation is an option.

    It's actually true – I haven't watched TV at all for the past eight months since moving to West Africa. Sadly it doesn't appear to have made much difference to my word output.

    UK TV is mostly American re-runs to be honest. A few gems like Dr Who and Torchwood, and of course the costume dramas, but by and large just zombie fodder.

    I'm going back to UK briefly later this month and dreading the thought that whoever I stay with will have the TV on non-stop.

    • meghancward

      So Torchwood is British? I would have thought they'd have some good comedies. Sorry you're stuck with all our crappy TV programs. And every time you mention West Africa, I want to see pictures of where you're living. Do you have any on your blog? (I'll look)

  • Mark's idea has been stolen! 26 authors collaborated on the new thriller, No Rest for the Dead. Article in today's Telegraph….

    Oh, and another show I adore that nobody got to see: The Riches with Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver as a family of Travelers trying to pass themselves off as some dead rich people. Marvelous dark comedy like Six Feet Under.

    • meghancward

      Oh, interesting, Anne! And in the news just today! But 26 authors – holy cow. That's a big collaboration. The royalties will be pretty thin by the time they parcel them out.

      And how do you pass yourself off as a dead rich person? I'm intrigued. I love Eddie Izzard, but have only seen his stand-up. I'm going to have to make a list of all these shows.

      • Turns out the 26-author book was a charity stunt and each writer wrote a chapter having never seen what the other authors had written. More a themed anthology than a collaboration.

        There's hope for my plan yet!

  • I like Friday Night Lights, believe it or not. It's not really about football. I liked Parenthood, Treme and Entourage. If you're doing Netfilx, you could check out Slings and Arrows. Arrested Development was good too. We have 2 seasons of Breaking Bad on dvd. Now that Treme is over and FNL ends this week, we'll need to get into BB finally.

    • meghancward

      Risa, thanks for these suggestions. I loved the original Parenthood movie, and watched the show a few times because it's set in Berkeley, but didn't love it. Arrested Development is a great show, but I've only seen a few episodes. People seem to love Thirty Rock, too, but that was another show I lost interest in after a couple of episodes. I think I'm just not as into the comedies (except Ricky Gervais's shows) as the dramas.

  • sierragodfrey

    It seems like I haven't watched much TV in the past 5 years, but here are some: Daily Show and Colbert Report, almost always. Grey's Anatomy regularly. Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (UK version on BBC A) and Graham Norton Show (on BBC A). The 5 ingredient Fix on Food network.

    And most recently, I've been drawn (like a train wreck) to My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding which is a fabulous British show about gypsies and there outrageous weddings and young marriages, and Louie on FX channel, which just started and features comedian Louis C.K. It's very much like Curb your Enthusiasm and it's fantastic.

    • meghancward

      Didn't you mention another British show on your blog, Sierra? What the heck was it? My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding sounds great – is it a reality show? I've never heard of Louie, but it sounds good, too. I do love The Daily Show and the Colbert Report, but I just don't have time to watch more than an hour or two of TV a week, if that. Since the Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Dexter seasons finished (months ago), I haven't watched any TV at all. And I've never seen a cooking show either.

      • sierragodfrey

        The Office? Little Britain?

        My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding is a reality show, and it's a real guilty pleasure.

        Louie just started, it's on Thursday nights, the third episode is this week. It's great.

        I'm a heinous cook, but a few cooking shows help me out. I've actually made a few recipes and they've worked out!

  • I was a big BSG fan, so I watch Caprica, though it's not quite so compelling. I don't watch much other TV drama. i did watch Lost faithfully and am still angry about the crappy, no-answers ending. Other than that, it's Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, 30 Rock for me, plus MSNBC. And Whale Wars on Animal Planet.

    • meghancward

      I haven't seem Caprica. Somehow it just didn't interest me that much (then again, it took me a while to give BSG a chance and I loved it.) I've heard good things about BIg Bang Theory, but haven't seen it. 2.5 Men is Charlie Sheen's old show, right? And they replaced him with Ashton Kutcher? How is it without Sheen? And Whale Wars! Never heard of it. Thanks for the suggestions!

  • Risa

    Oh! I forgot one: Community!
    It’s hard to describe, but last season they sent up every film genre you could think of. Very clever.
    I agree with you about Parenthood, but they dealt with some realistic themes. Not much of a Berkeley flavor to the show. Maybe a reference to San Pablo Ave. Or Tilden. Lame.

  • margosita

    Already mentioned, but definitely Friday Night Lights and Firefly!

    • meghancward

      Thanks, Margosita. I definitely need to check out both of them, especially Firefly.

  • lindseycrittenden

    Storytelling techniques: absolutely! Mad Men is glorious for character development, everyone raves about the dialogue for The Wire, etc. This got me thinking about how a fellow T.A. back in grad school showed an episode of Brady Bunch to teach conflict, crisis, resolution in a beginning fiction class. Hm… I've got an idea here for my own blog post… But as a "great way to battle depression," I disagree. In my experience, depression knocks out the pleasure receptors for anything, even (especially?) great storytelling. Have a great vacation, Meghan! & good luck with the revision.

    • meghancward

      Lindsey – I was quoting the research Anne Allen posted about deep thinking aggravating depression, and lightheartedness helping to alleviate it, but I agree, if you're really depressed, the funniest comedy won't make you feel any better. And I can't wait to read your blog post about using the Brady Bunch to teach fiction! I love the Brady Bunch. "Ahh – my nose!"

  • […] Ward’s post this week on her blog, Writerland, got me thinking.  She asks readers about favorite TV shows, names a few of her own, and mentions […]

  • Ani

    A friend at work suggested Men of a Certain Age ( and I have to say it is really good. It's currently available on demand from xfinity.

    • meghancward

      Ani – is that a guy show? We watched FIrefly, which several people recommended, the other night and liked it, although it doesn't compare to BSG (it's hard to beat James Edward Olmos.)

      • Ani

        It's a guy show only to the extent that the three characters are middle aged men and the show deals with what guys of that age go through. And Ray Romano is amazing in the show. You should watch the pilot.

        • meghancward

          Will do! I plan to watch lots of TV while I'm on vacation 🙂

        • RJSquirrel

          I agree! I was afraid it was going to be about three guys whining about middle age but it's funny, sharply written, surprisingly sweet, and has three great actors in the lead. I never watched Everyone Loves Raymond but Ray Romano is really good in this.

  • RJSquirrel

    You gave up on Damages after only one episode? You're more ruthless than a network executive. Your brother was very wise to recommend this show (undoubtedly handsome, too), especially as you like shows you have to figure out. Each episode of Damages reveals just a little more of what's going on and the picture is constantly changing. You should give it another shot.

    Two recent shows I recommend are The Killing and The Walking Dead, both on AMC. The Killing is based on a Dutch show and follows the murder investigation of a high school girl. Again, a show in which what you think is going on is constantly changing, but not in a contrived way. I'm not normally a huge zombie fan (although the original Dawn of the Dead was brilliant) but all the good reviews for Walking Dead drew me in and it was surprisingly entertaining and compelling. And it only ran 6 episodes so you can check it out without investing a lot of time. I look forward to season 2.

    • RJSquirrel


      Did you ever see Freaks and Geeks? Another brilliant but cancelled show that lasted one season on NBC. Produced by Judd Apatow, it's the story of high schoolers in suburban Detroit (based on Mt. Clemens) in the early 80s. Best depiction of high school in television and starred a bunch of newcomers who are now well-known: James Franco, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, Busy Phillips, Linda Cardellini. Your handsome brother probably has it on DVD.

      RE: other comments: I loved The Riches and Firefly. I've never seen Friday Night Lights but have heard so many good comments about it that I'll have to try it.

      • meghancward

        I've heard of Freaks and Geeks because it was my former roommate's favorite show, but I've never seen it. Didn't know James Franco and Seth Rogen were in it! Maybe I can convince my handsome brother to loan it to me. Or better yet, maybe I can find it on Netflix instant viewing.

        I remember some zombie show that used to come on before or after another show I watched (Mad Men? Dexter?) and it may have been The Walking Dead. But I haven't seen it. I didn't like Damages at all. I forget why. I think I kept falling asleep during it. Maybe I'll have to give it another try. Right now I'm liking Firefly (especially Nathan Fillion!), so I'm going to start with that and then watch Serenity and then I'll see from there. I have a whole list now: Men of a Certain Age, The Killing, The Walking Dead, Torchwood, Damages, Friday Night Lights … should keep me busy for the rest of the year.

        • RJSquirrel

          You can't go wrong with that list. Forget all the talk about nothing good on television — there's way too much quality progrmaming for me to keep up with. Some other dramas no one has mentioned: The Borgias and Game of Thrones on HBO, Justified and Rescue Me on FX, a number of lighter but entertaining shows like White Collar, Burn Notice and In Plain Sight on USA, not to mention the network shows, including great comedies like Modern Family, Raising Hope, Big Bang Theory, 30 Rock, and Cougar Town. Oh, and if you like Nathan Fillion, you need to check out Castle on ABC — fun show in which he plays a renowned mystery writer who helps the NYPD solve murders.

          • meghancward

            Thanks for that list! And speaking of Nathan Fillion, our friend who loves Serenity and Firefly told us about Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog online. Do you know it?

  • Without a doubt…Dexter! Best show ever 🙂
    -Jessica & Holly

  • I have to post an update that I have now watched all of The Walking Dead, and I LOVE it. Maybe Torchwood next. Or Hell on Wheels. Or Damages. Or The Killing. Glad to have so many to choose from!

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