Sunday, 21 August 2011

Confession: 21 TV Shows I Missed

Sunday, 21 August 2011

For much of my teenage years and early-twenties, my viewing habits were more focused on specific TV genres and a preference for movies. Consequently, there's a wealth of TV shows I never saw. I'm also human, so it's impossible to watch absolutely everything that's broadcast every single week, for years on end, and sometimes you're so far behind with something it becomes too much effort to catch-up.

Below is a list of 21 embarrassing blindspots in my TV viewing, a brief statement about why I missed their original broadcast (or never made an effort to acquire them), and a quick note on the chances of me rectifying this in the near-future...

30 ROCK (2006-present) I watched the first three episodes when it began, but they weren't really strong enough for me to become a loyal viewer. It's since gone on to be a notable US comedy of the '00s, and part of me wishes I'd stuck with it. I see clips that look funny, and I really like Tina Fey. Catch-up? I won't go out of my way by renting box-sets, but I'd watch a repeat run of double-bills if they were timed well.

ANGEL (1999-2004) Owing to how Buffy failed to put me under its spell (see below), there was no chance I'd even consider watching a spin-off starring her hunky vampire boyfriend running a detective agency. Catch-up? Nope, unless a very positive Buffy catch-up inspires it.

BIG LOVE (2006-11) I remember hearing the premise and thinking this would make an interesting show, but it wasn't treated well in the UK. Only now, many years later on Sky Atlantic, is the show being given the respect it deserved. But for me, that was too late. Catch-up? Very unlikely.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1997-2003) To be fair, I watched the first season when it aired because I'd seen the Kristy Swanson movie and a TV adaptation intrigued me, but I thought it was pretty dumb and never made it to season 2. More fool me, as Buffy went on to become one of the '90s biggest cult hits and is now fondly remembered as a little masterpiece. I caught occasional episodes friends forced on me (like "Hush"), maintained a crush on Sarah Michelle Gellar, and loosely understand the show's evolution through pop-culture osmosis, but Buffy just didn't clicked quick enough for me. I always saw it as something primarily appealing to teenage girls who own David Boreanaz pencil cases. Catch-up? Maybe one day, but there's such a lot to get through it's a very daunting prospect.

DEADWOOD (2004-06) My general aversion to Westerns is well-known, so is it any wonder I didn't take to this show? Oddly, many recent Westerns have impressed me (3:10 To Yuma, Assassination Of Jesse James..., True Grit), so maybe it's about time I reconsidered my attitude. I can evidently enjoy a Western if it's done well and doesn't rely on hoary clich├ęs, but it's still not something I'm especially drawn to. I saw Deadwood's pilot when it aired on Sky1, but turned it off during the first ad break and never looked back. Shocking treatment, I know! Catch-up? Unlikely, but there's an outside chance. It helps there aren't too many episodes compared to other shows I fell behind with.

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (2004-12) I did watch a chunk of the first season. I liked its format and murder-mystery angle, plus it rekindled my love for Lois & Clark's Teri Hatcher. I can't remember why, but I fell behind mid-season and never did catch-up with it. Then I heard that season 2 was a travesty and washed my hands of the show completely. Catch-up? No, although I do sometimes wonder who killed the narrator.

ENTOURAGE (2004-present) It's a show you mainly hear about from US sources and the occasional British fan, but nobody I know ever watched it. There are aspects of it I find intriguing when I hear about them, but ultimately it doesn't appeal. Catch-up? Um, no.

FRIENDS (1994-2004) A genuine comedy phenomenon of the '90s that crossed generation gaps, but I just never found it funny. I can't get past the dull premise and unrealistic idea those people would live together in a luxurious New York apartment. They weren't characters who reflect anything about me, so I found it tough to care about them. Even those guitar-twanging stings between scenes make me want to claw my face off. Catch-up? There's more chance of me getting a "Rachel" cut.

THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW (1992-98) It was on late-night BBC2, past my bedtime. It was also lampooning a genre of TV (the US chat show) that I wasn't very knowledgeable of back then. The episodes I did catch never snared me, or made me laugh. Catch-up? Unlikely, unless it's repeated on TV one day.

PARKS & RECREATION (2009-present) It's not available in the UK, so I'm with millions of people in never getting into this mockumentary. However, even after getting my hands on a half-dozen episodes of season 2 (I was told, perhaps wrongly, that season 1 isn't worth bothering with), I found it hard to get into. I gave up after a few episodes, sorry to say. I like Amy Poehler, but something about it didn't grab me. Catch-up? I still have those half-dozen episodes, so may try and persevere...

PARTY DOWN (2009-10) They cancelled it just when I was feeling the urge to give it a whirl, so don't blame me! This has never aired in the UK and isn't available on DVD, so options were limited for me. I hear mixed things, to be honest. Catch-up? Maybe, if only because there isn't much to wade through.

SEINFELD (1989-1998) Like Larry Sanders, atrocious scheduling killed this comedy in the UK during the '90s. It bounced around the midnight timeslot on BBC2 for years. I remember catching a few episodes and finding them quite funny, actually, but I always thought Jerry Seinfeld himself was smug and I just didn't like him. I'd have watched a show about George. Is that show Curb Your Enthusiasm? Maybe. But I don't like Larry David as a performer, so CYE has its own issues. Catch-up? Well, I'd be prepared to give it a go in repeats.

SHAMELESS (2004-present) I've actually seen more of the US remake than the original show. How terrible! I missed Shameless when it first started, and when I did watch a few episodes they were from the post-James McAvoy era (i.e. when the show had turned into a stupid, grimy soap), What I saw wasn't great and it soured me toward watching those earlier years, which were apparently fantastic. Catch-up? I really doubt it.

SIX FEET UNDER (2001-05) Another show that passed me by. I don't know, I think I had a feeling that couldn't possibly be that good because the premise doesn't leap out as being must-see. A few years ago I watched the first three episodes, intended to do a big catch-up in the summer, but then Virgin Media dropped the show from their on-demand service! Blame them. Catch-up? One day, sure, time permitting.

SKINS (2007-present) I'm actually annoyed I never saw much of the first few series, which most people agree were the show's heyday. I did catch the odd episode, but out of context they didn't seem to work. I also think I was perhaps just slightly too old to care. From what I hear, I wouldn't bother with series 3 onwards. Catch-up? If "generation one" ever gets repeated, I'll tune in.

THE SOPRANOS (1999-2007) I'd watch this epic Mafia family drama if it premiered today, but for some reason the show passed me by originally. It existed in the days before DVR's and online streaming would have given you more chances to see it. You basically had to watch it on Channel 4 or buy the eventual box-set. I just never saw it on TV (not entirely sure why) and never wanted to risk spending money on the box-sets in case I didn't like it. Catch-up? Yes, if I find enough time.

SPOOKS (2002-11) This drama started a year after the groundbreaking 24 premiered in the UK and I saw the BBC's spy show as an inferior reproduction. Anti-terrorism? Split-screen? It was surely commissioned because 24 was a big hit and 9/11 was a hot topic. Anyway, I stuck with the exhilarating 24 and watched Spooks grow into a well-respected, award-winning show that many people prefer over 24. I don't regret that decision. Maybe I should have watched them both, but by the time I started to wonder if Spooks was worth a go it was already four series old. That meant too much effort to catch-up via expensive box-sets. Catch-up? No, sorry.

STATE OF PLAY (2003) I never saw this BBC serial. I don't even recall it airing. It just escaped me entirely and I'm not sure why. I've seen the US movie adaptation with Russell Crowe, which was alright, but I'm always hearing how the TV original is a drama masterclass. I sometimes get the itch to watch it, but now I know the story I'm not sure if it'll work. Catch-up? Maybe one day, when my memory of the movie has dimmed.

UNDECLARED (2001-02) As a fan of Freaks & Geeks, I should definitely try and watch its spiritual successor (likewise axed after one season). I don't believe it ever aired in the UK, unlike F&G, so I'm excused for never seeing it. Catch-up? I'll seek it out when there's time and give it a go.

THE WEST WING (1999-2006) Much the same story as The Sopranos, although I remember this being more widely talked about. I I began to wish I'd watched it after seeing some season 3 promos on Channel 4, but by then it felt like I was too far behind the rest of the western world. Catch-up? Need some persuasion it's worthwhile in a different political climate.

THE WIRE (2002-08) To be fair, I may have missed this crime drama when it aired, but so did most people. The Wire was primarily a box-set recommendation, often championed by The Guardian. Over the past three years I've rented the first and second seasons, so I'm not entirely clueless about this show. But no, I still haven't found the time or inclination to watch the last three seasons. When I watch The Wire, I'm mostly confused for five episodes, struggle with the glacial pace for about six episodes, then acclimatize and end the season huge respect and appreciation for what it achieved. But, do I love it? Am I desperate for more after every episode and season? No, I really can't say I am. Catch-up? Yeah, most likely, but I'm in absolutely no rush.

Of course, it's not all bad news. I do catch-up with old shows I missed if I find the time. In the past few years I made a 20% dent in the five-season Wire, watched Life On Mars a few months after it ended, devoured the Firefly box-set, caught-up with Community so I could dive straight into season 2, and recently finished the entirety of Arrested Development's repeats on FX—all shows that escaped me first time around.

Anyway, I thought this post could also inspire an associated poll, so below you'll find my biggest blindspots. The question is: which one should I make my top priority to watch from beginning to end? You can also add your own suggestion as an "other" vote.

The poll closes on Tuesday 23 August @5PM GMT. I may use the result to prioritize my catch-ups, if and when they happen.