There’s a pretty clear line between TV shows that are socially acceptable to enjoy watching and shows that it’s cool to hate on, at least among a certain type of discerning comedy fan. 30 Rock, Louie, Community, and Eastbound and Down, for example, are all pretty much just accepted as being amazing. Meanwhile, Two and a Half Men, Outsourced, Mike and Molly, and $#*! My Dad Says are considered universally terrible by people who watch the “good” shows. But here’s the thing: how many people have actually seen those “bad” shows?
I’ll admit it: I have never seen a single episode of Mike and Molly. Yet I’ve talked shit about it. What gives?
Part of the problem is that there’s just too much comedy out there for anyone to possibly watch. So when it comes time to pick the handful of shows you’re going to regularly watch, it’s easier to simply choose the shows that you think you have the highest chance of enjoying, and the shows that you know your friends are watching.
And you tend to learn quickly what shows you want to avoid once you’ve been burned by bad shows. A new comedy on CBS has a fraction of the chance of getting a shot from me compared to a show on NBC, just based on the choices each network has made in the past. And if a show was created by Chuck Lorre, I’m not going to even consider watching it, as I feel like I know what his style is, and I’m not interested.
But that seems unfair, doesn’t it? Maybe not the Chuck Lorre avoidance, because come on, but to avoid shows that you’ve never even seen.
I stopped watching new episodes of The Simpsons a few years ago, and since I stopped, having not seen a single episode from the past handful of seasons, the idea that it was just unwatchably bad became cemented in my mind. After all, it’s popular to talk shit about it on the internet, and the longer I went without watching it, the more justified I had to feel in my avoidance.
But the other night, I caught a late-night rerun of a recent episode I had never seen. And you know what? It wasn’t bad! No, it didn’t live up to the early seasons I was obsessed with when I was a teenager, but literally nothing on television right now does. It made me laugh out loud multiple times, and the entire thing didn’t feel like it was an insult to what the show used to be. And it made me think: have I been missing something good because I assumed it was bad? Because the overall opinion of it was that it was bad? And what if that overall opinion mostly comes from people like me, who have no basis in holding such an opinion?
I’m not suggesting we all start watching $#*! My Dad Says – I’ve seen that one, and you are perfectly justified in avoiding it – but I do think that there’s a vicious cycle of shit talking going on. And hearing that something is bad from someone who has never seen it is no reason to not give a show a shot.
So when January rolls around and the new mid-season shows come on, give a show a chance that you have already formed an opinion on without having seen it. Sure, it might be terrible, but if you give the first couple episodes a shot, at least you’ll be able to talk shit about it with some authority. And who knows? Maybe it’ll be great.