Tuesday, January 21, 2020

2010's TV: THE ESSAY (According to Shawn) Part II

2010's TV

THE ESSAY

PART TWO
For the intents and purposes of these articles, as well as the first part, click here.

Let's dive back in.

Chapter Three: Horror-On-TV
Maybe I didn't know any better or maybe I just didn't notice, but I don't really remember a time on television where there was so much horror on television. There was the Treehouse of Horror episodes of "The Simpsons," There was stuff like "Are You Afraid of the Dark" and "Goosebumps" all geared towards kids. Perhaps due to budget or the content, I don't remember any real or raw horror shows on television. But since the 2010's in TV really became a decade of experimentation, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that we got some this decade. Even though I am a huge horror fan in general, how the horror on TV we got ranged from mediocre to bad in the end.

I spent many of the opening years of the decade fixated on The Walking Dead. Not only was I a fan of the show, but I was also very much into the graphic novel series being written by Robert Kirkman. I liked that blended the survivalism of typical zombie fare but also really focused upon the human nature element. What would happen to us if we weren't bound by law anymore and it was every man for himself? How would we behave? Would we choose to remain moral people or what would we take what we wanted when we wanted? Its a fair question to ask in these sort of stories. I liked the cast brought together and liked the few characters who were independent of the comic book. Alas, I eventually called it quits on The Walking Dead, both the show and the comics, for pretty much the same reason. They just started doing the same thing over and over again. Rick's group of survivors would find a safe haven they really liked, they'd start building a new normal around the zombie apocalypse, then some psycho would come along and ruin it for them. It even makes smaller sense on the small screen. Plus, the newer stuff not in the comics the show invented seemed too wacky to even take seriously (a group of cops hiding in an apartment complex? What?) At least the comic series was smart enough to never kill Rick or Carl. Because, you know, it's their fucking story maybe. That's the same problem that happened to Homeland. Its not edgy to kill the main character, its stupid. I watched only a mere handful of episodes of Fear The Walking Dead, which was a spin-off, but never could really get into that.

I feel like that was the general consensus for my personal taste when it came to Horror-on-TV in the 2010's, it was just never as great as it could have been. I originally loved the idea of Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story, because the possibilities to dissect how America approaches the genre and how urban legends have sprung up in our own country was ripe for something unique. Usually though, I'd watch the first half a cycle of the show, and after that halfway mark, it always went downhill. Every single time. There isn't a season that I watched that I liked all the way through. "Hotel" was the season I hated all the way through though. It seemed like missed opportunity after missed opportunity. I also really enjoyed The Following when it began airing on Fox, and I think the acting chops of Kevin Bacon, James Purfoy and Shawn Ashmore made it watchable. But there were just too many instances where things that would never happen in real life would just happen to simply move the plot forward and it eventually got me to tune out. I think the show could have lasted longer than three seasons if the scripts were just a tad smarter. The Exorcist on Fox tries, but I could never get into it either.

It wasn't all that bad though. I still can't believe Hannibal on NBC was a real thing. I loved every moment of it. Much like "Twin Peaks" in the 90's, it felt like an art film somehow got on national television. Looking at the violence and content of the series, I can't believe NBC got away with the things they did on that show. I also like the supernatural and creepy elements of the police procedural Sleepy Hollow and I was glad that it lasted as long as it did. I also was engaged in every moment of Showtime's Penny Dreadful and fell for the style of the whole thing. Probably the creepiest thing I liked on TV was Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House and the docu-series Haunted, both of those got under my skin in some pretty raw ways. There was also Cinemax's Outcast that was pretty unnerving.

Chapter 4: Reality TV Mostly Stays The Same from the 2000's.
In the 2000's, television changed in all ways and that includes reality TV. To go from "The Real World" to everything that we got in the 2000's, was just so ridiculously amazing because somehow it made itself relevant. Matchmaking shows, cooking competitions, singing competitions, reality-style game shows and also just people getting TV and doing stupid shit. You could find anything in the realm of reality TV and it helped the surge of changing dynamics in 2000's TV really define itself.

The thing about the 2010's is, reality TV mostly stays the same. Sure, there were brand new matchmaking shows, cooking competitions, singing competitions, reality-style game shows and people getting on TV to do stupid shit, but I am not sure we got the next big reality show, not quite I should say. Because we will discuss a couple that stuck out, its just that many didn't stick out the way you'd think. American Idol may had stopped for a bit, but it came back. Chopped, Kitchen Nightmares, Hell's Kitchen and Top Chef remained popular in the cooking competition circuit. The Amazing Race has remained on the air. Pawn Stars remained popular throughout the 2010's. Even though some Real Housewives spin-offs started in the 2010's, a majority of them began in the 2000's and they only added onto each other. We also have to mention how The Bachelor/The Bachelorette shows have remained popular. There really wasn't the next big reality thing to come across. Sure, Fox tried with Utopia, but man what a freaking trainwreck that was.

There were two new reality shows that helped define the 2010's that added some new blood to the reality realm. I didn't think another singing competition could exist in the realm of American Idol but NBC proved that wrong with The Voice. That's one that my wife and I continue to enjoy and we watched from the beginning. Sure, none of the winners have actually become as famous as Kelly Clarkson, and it feels like its mostly exist so the coach's can stroke their egos. But the singers that do come along are strong, they put on a good show. Plus the coaches over the years, including Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, Shakira, Usher, Pharrell, Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani, John Legend, Cee-Lo Green and Kelly Clarkson herself, all have made the show worthwhile with how they feed off each other. The other reality show that made a big splash was A&E's Storage Wars. For the same reasons, the personalities were so out there that it made it fun to watch. Even though there may be some controversy of how much the show was "reality."

Survivor, even twenty years later has remained one I constantly watch. I've been a fan of the show since I was in 5th grade. Even though this second decade the show just ended was vastly different from the first. Also, its hard not to mention that despite my constant watching, I have to admit that their second decade featured some of the worst seasons in the shows run so far. "Nicaragua" was boring until the merge, "Redemption Island" was a blowjob to Boston Rob, "South Pacific" was forgettable, "One World" was mostly hard-to-watch, "Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers" was a mouthful to say and a blatant rigging for Ben. "Game Changers" was the worst all-star season in the shows run. "Edge of Extinction" was an interesting twist that was managed poorly. Despite all of that, there were some notable personalities that made some of those seasons tolerable. "Cagayan," "Philippines" and "David vs. Goliath" were so amazing that it made it easy to forget the bad seasons. "Cambodia" was fun because the fans finally got to choose which all-stars got a second chance, and the fan vote was filled with hype. So it wasn't all bad. Gone though, are the days of new locations, survivalist aspects, exploring cultures, and what to do with the boredom of being marooned. In is the hidden immunity idols, advantages, constant twists, deceit and manipulation. While it does make the show cool, it never was my favorite material. But a new type of fan emerged last decade who loves those things too, so it is just a new show now. I just hope it can continue to build on what works in the future.

Chapter 5: Superheroes...superheroes everywhere
 In the 2000's, superheroes began to rule the big screen in a big way. In the 2010's, superheroes were everywhere that you probably felt like you couldn't escape them. No matter how hard you tried. There were all sorts of superhero and comic book shows on television throughout the 2010's. There were DC comics shows, there were Marvel shows, there were shows based on obscure comic books, and there were a couple of originals that never quite gained traction.

It was the Arrowverse that really got superheroes-on-TV going in the 2010's. We got Arrow in 2012, and that got the ball rolling in a big way. It was a breakout for Stephen Amell, it was badass and engaging and full of adventure. In the second season, there was a backdoor pilot for The Flash and his show followed soon after. Eventually Supergirl from CBS eventually molded into the fold and spin-off after spin-off was created (Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning and the most recent Batwoman) There were amazing crossover events between the shows, and those were always fun. The franchise even had its own "Avengers: Endgame" event in the recent Crisis on Infinite Earths, all the cameos from previous DC shows and even the movies was staggering. (Never would have guessed that I'd see Ezra Miller show up, seriously, they went all out).

Just because I was impressed by what the Arrowverse (or is it Flarrowverse) accomplished, I overall wasn't in love with every show. Arrow had two goddamn amazing seasons, but it quickly slumped into circular plots. Laurel dated Ollie, then they broke up, they'd get back together, they'd break up. Felicity would date Ollie, they'd break up, they'd get back together, they'd get engaged, they'd break it off. Laurel's father would hunt down Green Arrow, then be his ally, then hunt for him then become his ally. Green Arrow's team of superheroes would come together, break apart, come together, break apart...catch my drift? I think 2020 is a great stopping point for the show. I think Legends of Tomorrow and Black Lightning are both hot and cold, but ultimately fun shows. Not great shows, fun shows. I never watched Supergirl. I will say my favorite of the bunch has been The Flash. It seems like every season gives Barry Allen a new challenge and they've been vigilant in being different each season.

The 2010's felt like a decade where Marvel was unavoidable and the biggest piece of fun they introduced was the idea of TV shows taking place in their movie universe. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. definitely had a shaky start, feeling more like NCIS with superpowers. Once "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" happened, and the show became what it always should had been. Still, the show was riddled with missed opportunities, and I never think it quite touched the greatness it could have. (Agent Carter, also on ABC, was a really cool show and I wish we got more than two seasons of it.) Ultimately, same can be said with the Netflix Marvel shows. When Daredevil came out in 2015, it was like a bomb going off and represented a measure of greatness to come, which continued with the first season of Jessica Jones. As Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Punisher came along though, the flaws of the Netflix shows became easier to see. Pacing was the biggest problem these shows had, as they dragged more often then not. The team-up mini-series entitled The Defenders featuring all the title characters from the Netflix shows should have been the biggest slam dunk ever, but it just didn't live up the hype, and end up being surprisingly disappointing. I think out of all the Netflix shows, Daredevil was the best of them. The Inhumans was also on ABC, but the one and only season was dumpster fire, and I never watched enough The Runaways or Cloak and Dagger to make an informed opinion on them.

Easily the coolest show of the 2010's comic book era was Legion. It was such a farcry from anything we could expect from a typical comic book show. It was so strange, so quirky, so experimental and yet, seemingly played by the same rules as the other comic book shows. It stood out in a big way and it remained my favorite. I think The Gifted tried to do the same but didn't do it on the level that "Legion" did. DC created their own app exclusively for DC-related movies and shows and they created some original content. I haven't really dug into that content yet, except for Harley Quinn. Oh my freaking god I love that show. Remember, adult animation is my Achilles Heal, and I love this warped DC world the cartoon takes place in. I know Disney probably won't but I'd love a warped version of a Marvel universe in adult animation form. Ever read "Old Man Logan?" There is some material in that storyline that is ripe for some dark humor. Imagine if Spider-Man cheated on Mary Jane and that love child married Hawkeye. Imagine if Hulk had an incestuous relationship with She-Hulk and their family became some backwoods hicks. I can see it happening, and I'd love to see if Marvel tries to do anything more adult on Hulu or FX in the new decade, Harley Quinn proves it can be done.

There were a couple shows that didn't belong to either big comic book company that definitely stood out to me. They both can be found on Amazon Video. The Boys and The Tick were two of the best comic book shows of the decade. I've been a fan of the Tick since the cartoon in the 90's. I loved that this version was a bit darker, but still retained that quirky sweetness that the cartoon had. I can't believe it only got two seasons, I would have killed for more. The Boys though will have to do though, a pure deconstructionist look at what if the heroes we see protecting us were actually protected by a corrupt company? It's an interesting idea, never been done before and the first season was amazing.

That's it for this part. I'll be back tomorrow to discuss Revivals, Dramedy, and why FX was my favorite channel in the 2010's.

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