Cult Classics, Or Shows We Liked That Bit It

I think the first time Mary El and I really loved a TV show together was “Freaks & Geeks”. We were absolutely hooked on that show. Mary El completely identified with the high school girl who was the main character (who hung with the “Freaks”) and I was at one with the “Geeks”. I was kind of like their unofficial leader in High School, for all that was worth. One or the other of us, or both, were usually in tears by the end of each week’s show. It didn’t make it through it’s first year.

Thus began our run of Godawful luck when it came to shows we liked. We became the kiss of death for any smart, funny well-written show that came along, all six of them over the past fifteen years. If we liked it, it was doomed to be axed.

We were right about “Freaks & Geeks” too. It was produced by Judd Apatow, and featured actors like James Franco, Jason Siegel, Linda Cardellini and Seth Rogen before they became TV and movie stars. After the show was canceled, Mary El got us tickets for a retrospective at the Museum of Film and Television in New York. We got to watch the whole series with 300 other fanatics and we shook hands with Judd Apatow before he went on to write and direct every good comedy movie made in the last ten years. Before the show became a cult classic, we were on-board—which meant it was bound to be destroyed. We should have apologized to Judd when we had the chance.

But Apatow wasn’t done. He wrote another TV show called “Undeclared,” which was about freshmen in college. It had great characters, spot-on writing, and Siegel, Rogen and Jay Baruchel before he became a movie star too. We absolutely loved it. And now we can watch it once a week on IFC, because it, too, was tagged out before it got out of the batters box, lasting less than twenty episodes. Our “we like it” hex continued.

Then came “Arrested Development”. We thought we were on the right track with that one. By now we were used to completely vetting new shows, to see if they were bound to break our hearts. It was produced by Ron Howard, for mercy’s sake. It had good actors like Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett and Michael Cera before HE became a big time movie draw. It also had David Cross, who portrayed the funniest secondary character since Danny DeVito played Louie DePalma on “Taxi”. It got jacked after two seasons, with wonderful reviews and five people in the country watching, including my wife and me.

Mary El and I don’t watch a ton of TV. I’m not trying to make us sound like one of those fru-fru couples who sit around and read poetry aloud to each other, and don’t deign to put on the television unless Nova is on PBS. We watch our share of schlock, and I can watch the same highlights on Sportscenter three times if I’m not paying attention. But we do have a bit of a taste level as to good acting, directing and writing, since we’ve both spent a lot of the past twenty years paying attention to that kind of stuff. So we dropped, say, “Grey’s Anatomy” pretty damn quick (no offense to GA fans, we couldn’t watch one more episode where two people got it on in a spare hospital room—I’ve been to a lot of hospitals and they’re about as conducive to fooling around as a ceiling mirror).

So when we find a pearl we like it to stick around. It never does. We’ve gone as far as Canada, via BBC America. There was a show on there called “Slings & Arrows” that was about the backstage going-ons at a big Shakespearean theater in the Great North. The cast was impeccable and the writing was fantastic all the way down the line and why am I even bothering with the rest of this explanation since you all know how this ends up. A “season” in Canada is six one-hour episodes. This pearl made it through eighteen such episodes before—get this—the head writer was forced to quit because he had written a hit play on Broadway called “The Drowsy Chaperone”. We went and saw that too and it was brilliant, but say goodbye to our little secret good show. We still watch the DVDs every once in awhile, at least the ones we haven’t lent out to friends to try to get them hooked too.

Right now we are very high on “The Walking Dead”, which is just about to enter into its second season, and an animated show called “Bob’s Burgers” which is still in its first. Watch them now because if they follow form they will be sitting in some studio’s basement before long. Maybe we should watch “Two and a Half Men” or some other drivel with lousy writing and worse acting. At least it will still be on in a year.

    • Kae
    • April 12th, 2011

    Commercial success depends on a show’s attraction to an audience’s lowest common denominator, although sometimes good shows do appeal to a wide spectrum.

    I don’t watch much TV, either, because most programs nowadays simply don’t entertain me. (I’d probably watch more of the History Channel, and other worthwhile networks, if I ever knew what programs were on and when.)

    I love The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but find I can watch their videos on the internet and be satisfied. I do like to watch David Letterman on TV. And the Yankees!

  1. Aw, Kae. I’m sorry but I have to discontinue your subscription to this page. I was very clear when I told WordPress that Yankee fans were not allowed through the velvet rope.

    On second thought, you’re one of my only regular commenters, so…let’s go Jeter!

    • Joel Flowers
    • April 12th, 2011

    I still like The Office and Community Rec, and Forty Roc. The rest all seem to go “over the top” at some point, and become – well, just strange, losing whatever appeal they originally had.

    • Karen Mills
    • April 12th, 2011

    The TV at our house has become simply background noise while I read a book. We cut down the cable to the minimum, which pretty much means 2,4,5,7,11,13 and, get this – the wedding channel??
    Oh – and Bri, granted, I have not been in many hospitals, so I can’t speak on that, but ceiling mirrors……..when I was young and shapely……had a certain appeal.

  2. Of the mainstream shows we watch 30 Rock and The Office as well, and we’re big Bones fans. Other than that it’s Masterpiece Theatre.

  3. Karen, I did not know that about you! Unfortunately, I am well past my “shapely” stage. A cieling mirror was the single worst thing I could think of…

    • Kae
    • April 12th, 2011

    Brian, thank you for the exemption! I would be so sad to lose my subscription to your blog.

    You know how these team loyalties are. I established mine when I first started watching baseball. And who can’t root for Jeter? He’s a mensch!

    I need to cast my vote for The Office and 30 Rock, also. I’ve caught a little of Parks and Recreation and thought it was pretty good. I’ve been pulled into The Big Bang Theory net, as well, because of Sheldon.

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