The other day on After Hours, I blogged about my love for the TV show Sherlock, and remarked it’s basically the only TV I watch, and like. This is not the first time I’ve made the remark, online or in person, and 99% of the time, people probably look at me like I’m nuts, pompous, or both.
I once had a conversation with my friend about True Blood (I flatter myself that I converted her to the books, even though I haven’t read them), and we had this conversation about me not watching TV. “Wait – you don’t watch TV, I accept it, even if I don’t get it (because there are some damn good shows on TV, Jean, and you’re missing out, but never mind because you’re weird). But you haven’t read the books? How can you read romance and not read the Sookie Stackhouse series?”
Good question, Eva. And looking through my bookshelf, reading history, and preferences, I think I’ve narrowed it down. It’s not series that I don’t do, per se – it’s the serialized, episodic, plot and character development surrounding a central cast of characters over a long period of time that I can’t stick with.
Why? I don’t know. I know there are good shows out there. I’ve seen several episodes of Mad Men, Big Bang Theory, House, Downton Abbey, Grey’s Anatomy, Spooks, Desperate Housewives and 30 Rock, to name a just few modern ones. And I can see why they’re popular and acclaimed. But nothing stuck. Nothing made me want to go on watching them, or go back and watch them from the beginning, even if I really wanted to like them (like Downton Abbey).
The thing is, I used to watch TV. There was a time when I religiously tuned into Ally McBeal, Roswell, Dark Angel, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and many other ones I can’t remember anymore, because I cared. I wanted to know what happened. My life revolved around them.
But it got old. I got sick of the perpetual ups and downs, and twists and turns, and feeling like I’d have to tune in for another hour or half-hour just for another “to be continued.” Yes, there are individual arcs within each episode, beginning, middle and end and all that. But I couldn’t help feeling that the individual investment (time and emotional) was not worth the resulting payoff.
So now, I watch movies, which are longer and which finish when the credits roll around (most of the time). And I read books that don’t feature ten people and all of their different relationships. Sure, I read series books and watch series movies (like James Bond). But I don’t read or watch serials.
Of course, there are several humongous exceptions. The first is Sherlock, which I explain away because a) each episode is 90 minutes, and, therefore, as the individual episode development of a movie, and b) there are few enough episodes so far that I don’t feel jerked around. But if Sherlock hangs around forever, with cliffhangers every season, I’d probably leave.
The second is the In Death series by J. D. Robb. I think at this point, there is little enough character and plot development that most books are starting to read the same. I go back to the books because nothing has changed – it’s like going back in time to a comfort read. Right now, I’m content with that. But realistically, the days are numbered.
The third, to a certain extent, is Nalini Singh’s two paranormal series, the Psy/Changeling and the Guild Hunter books. Despite individual romances in each book, there are definitely serial elements to both series – in the former, the war has gotten a lot more complicated and there are heaps and heaps of new characters; in the latter, Elena and Raphael form the backbone of the changing angelic world and pop up as central characters in several books. At the moment, the world building, book length, and compelling characters make up for the wait between books and cliffhangers. We’ll have to see.
So there’s my reason on not following serials, book or otherwise. What’s your take? How long does a series have to be before it starts to pall? Is there anyone else out there who doesn’t watch TV?
– Jean AAR