ChrisMaverick dotcom

Do Your Research… the world didn’t start in 1997

All you damn kids, get off my lawn!!!

The thing I love about the internet: Anyone can say anything. Millions of voices, all having the potential to reach worldwide. My tiny stupid little blog has had readers from literally every continent. Including Antarctica. I can rant about comic books or movies or politics and rather than just talking to a bunch of people I know in Pittsburgh, I can talk to… well, a bunch of people I know in Pittsburgh and some guy in Nigeria. And that’s awesome. And what’s even better is that I’m not special in this respect. Everyone in the world now has international publishing access, from a tiny computer in their pocket… twenty four hours a day.

The thing I hate about the internet: Anyone can say anything. Millions of voices, all having the potential to reach worldwide. And often these millions of voices don’t really think things through. I have no delusions that i am the ultimate purveyor of truth in anything… even the stuff that I’m theoretically an expert in. I know I act like it. But that’s mostly just because I’m an asshole. But what does make my tiny stupid little blog better than everything else is that believe it or not I actually do research for the things I say. I’ve spent a lot of time and money on going to grad school and trying to be a “culture expert” and I try to put that to use here. I don’t expect everyone to do the same. In fact, I don’t want everyone to do the same. If they did then I wouldn’t be special! But for HOVA’s sake, at the very least put a little bit of thought into the articles you write. We’ll all be better off for it.

Case in point, yesterday my friend Jason shared a ranker.com article with a tag headline that said “Dexter had the most disappointing season finale in TV history. Agree or Disagree?” Yeah…. I disagree. The history of TV is a LONG time. NBC and CBS went on the air in the United States in 1941. There have been a fuck ton of television shows in TV history. And going to the actual article, which is actually titled “16 Beloved TV Shows With Terrible Final Seasons“, one finds that the OLDEST show on the list is Roseanne which premiered “all the way back” in 1988 and was cancelled in 1997. Twenty whole years ago!!! The only other two shows that are even from the 90s on their list are The X-Files,and That ’70s Show. Every other show on the list premiered in the 21st century and ALL of them (except Roseanne)  were cancelled after the year 2000.

Ok, fine… Dexter‘s ending was kind of controversial. I didn’t hate it; in fact, I thought it was an interesting choice. It was certainly loads better than what Roseanne did (which is so awful that they’re apparently just ignoring it for the show’s revival). But really, can’t you just dig a little deeper than Lost and The Vampire Diaries? Nearly 80 years of TV series finales and the examples all come from the last 20 (really 15, not including the outlier)? And the writer of the article knows what she is doing. Because the first line of it is “vote up the final TV seasons so bad it would’ve been better if they ended in a snow globe.” This is a reference to the controversial series finale of St. Elsewhere from 1988, wherein we learned that past 6 seasons of quirky and convoluted medical dramedy had all occurred in a single day in the daydream imagination of a 14-year-old boy with autism who had spent the day staring at a building in a snow globe. I personally thought it was brilliant. A lot of people hate it. But it’s worth knowing about. It is a cultural touchstone that still affects the way television (especially finales) is produced today. And if nothing else, it gave birth to the Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis, which is one of the most fascinating things to debate in the history of television… even to the point that it means we have to doubt our own worlds and contemplate the nature of existentialism. But instead, she just references a snow globe in the first line, never explains it and lets everyone go on to debate Lost vs. The Vampire Diaries.

And looking around with a quick google search for “worst TV show finales of all time” I get the same basic list from so many sources: LostHow I Met Your Mother, Roseanne, Dexter, Sopranos, Seinfeld, FriendsBasically, the most critically acclaimed and popular shows from the 2000s, and maybe throw in a couple of high profile geek shows.There was a world before the millennials… and it had a lot of bad TV in it!

There’s SO many more options here… Soap, Dinosaurs, Enterprise, the original Battlestar Galactica, Married With Children, Quantum Leap, Mork & Mindy, Charlie’s Angels, Sledge Hammer, Dallas, ALF, Little House on the Prairie. And that’s not even going to the black and white days. All of those shows were in color. Do you know how ALF ended? They sent him off to be dissected by the government. Do you know how Little House on the Prairie ends? They blow up the fucking town! Seriously! Even if you want to stick to just 21st century shows, does the list have to be the obvious choices that you know were watched by the stereotypical geek faithful that you’re trying to clickbait into reading your site? Having some of those is great. But why not mix in some new information that might inspire people to learn about something different. Do you know how Felicity ended? For 79 episodes it was the charming soap-opera or a college co-ed with cute hair trapped in a love triangle between two boys… and then for the last 5… time travel epic with witchcraft. Seriously… that’s what happens… she uses witchcraft to travel through time. And if you’re going into the black and white world? Try watching the final episode of The Andy Griffith Show and try to explain how it serves as a way to wrap up that series OR even to really to prepare the viewer for Mayberry R.F.D. which it is supposed to be a backdoor pilot for.

This is not me railing against new television. It’s not me railing against millennials. What I don’t like is the way the internet tends to assume that there is no cultural memory whatsoever. Like what you like. Hate what you hate, but don’t do it in a vacuum. Think things through. Not everything has to be the best show or the worst show ever. For instance, I hear a lot of people complain that Iron Fist is the worst superhero show ever. It’s not. It’s arguably the worst on Netflix. People say the same about Inhumans, which again… certainly was not in any way shape or form “good.” But the worst ever? I mean, it’s only been two and a half years since people were trying to “save Constantine.” And yeah, I have a personal beef against Constantine…  but say you like it… fine. You do realize that Powerless was only cancelled in April, right? So Iron Fist and Inhumans by definition can’t even be the worst superhero shows of the year 2017. And ever? You know what I was watching when I was a kid? Manimal! Fucking Manimal. And Streethawk. And Automan. None of these were “good” but they were what we had. And we liked it! We liked it fine! We loved it! We also watched The Greatest American Hero which ALSO had a horrible series finale!

So what I’m saying is, I love that everyone has opinions to share. I love that everyone has a forum to do it in. But wouldn’t it be great if people used that forum to share opinions that weren’t just the same thing that they knew their audience was already thinking? Wouldn’t it be great if the audience sought out opinions that weren’t just the ones they already had? These articles are all just think pieces. They’re conversation starters. But why not actually THINK and start a conversation that hasn’t been had over and over again… advance the discourse. Learn. And then apply those lessons to the rest of our interactions with the world.

PS: Don’t diss Manimal! I’m allowed to diss Manimal. You are not!

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73 comments for “Do Your Research… the world didn’t start in 1997

  1. avatar
    November 29, 2017 at 8:29 am

    At one point Playboy sent a poll to a bunch of musicians asking for the top songs of the last millenium. Thompson took it as a serious question, providing a list including Summer is Icumen In, Dido’s Lament, Shenandoah, etc. Of course, to Playboy, even Cole Porter’s Night and Day was too old for what they wanted, which was a rehash of Beatles/Stones/Dylan/Michael Jackson/James Brown/etc. So they ignored his choices completely.

    Thankfully he decided to record them and release them, from Summer is Icumen in up through Oops I Did It Again. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1000_Years_of_Popular_Music

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 8:33 am

      Right… i have no problem with saying “give me the best songs of the last 20 years.” That’s a totally useful and relevant thing to write an article about…. but if you’re going to say “of the millennium” then you damn well better start in 1001.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 8:55 am

      Richard Thompson is the best.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 3:41 pm

      How could you leave Douce Dame Joliet off of a CD like this?

  2. avatar
    November 29, 2017 at 8:30 am

    Obviously you’re right, but you do realize they stick to the past 20 years because that’s what their primary viewership is familiar with, right? I was born in the 1940s and then frozen, so I don’t count, but most people haven’t actually watched The Carol Burnett Show, The Dick Van Dyke show, or The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. If you don’t stick to Vampire Diaries, they won’t have a frame of reference.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 8:39 am

      Sure… I understand that. That’s my point. And as I was saying to G. Sumner Hayes above, there’s nothing wrong with doing an article about the past 20 years.

      But if you’re really going to do “of all time” then take that opportunity to actually do all time. Hell, there’s no reason that she had to stop at 16 shows… the internet is unlimited. Go for 32 and then have 16 from post 2000 and 16 for the 60 years combined before that… even that would be more useful.

      My the same token, I’d have just as much problem with someone saying “The Greatest TV shows of all time!” and then only Picking stuff from between 1941 and 1966. I love the Burns and Allen show… a lot! I’ve literally written grad school papers on the Burns and Allen show. But it doesn’t serve it to pretend that it’s better than Breaking Bad by simply ignoring Breaking Bad.

      My entire point is specifically that having a worldwide 6 billion person publishing platform is an opportunity to expand the frame of reference.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 9:57 am

      Fair enough. So your complaint really boils down to “they used the wrong title, and should have called it Most Disappointing Season Finale in the Past 20 Years.”

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 10:41 am

      Yes. Or they should have written about twice as many shows and really done all time. Either or. The second is better.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 5:28 pm

      …or maybe by going beyond what their primary readership is familiar with, the readership will take an interest in watching something outside of that. If you write something great about “Twelve O’clock High”, someone from that group will go and check it out.

  3. avatar
    November 29, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Excellent blog!

  4. avatar
    November 29, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Bonus points for shouting out the Dinosaurs finale.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 9:08 am

      Thanks. The hardest part about writing this one was that it was basically impossible to research because of exactly the problem I’m complaining about. I had to pick crappy finales from memory because googling for them only brings up the same shows.

  5. avatar
    November 29, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Having seen almost all of those shows through reruns or actually being alive way back then, I still say Dexter has the shittiest most disappointing season finale of them all. Was it worse than the Fonz jumping the shark? Was it worse than Dallas undoing a whole season and bringing Bobby back because it was all “just a dream”? A resounding YES. It was that bad. There were so many shitty plotholes that even led up to it, and to have him (SPOILER ALERT) plow full steam ahead into a hurricane, leaving his boat in wreckage pieces floating scattered in the water, only to resurface as a lumberjack in Canada is so insulting and lazy. Nevermind that he sent his infant son to live in Argentina with another serial killer. Loose ends galore. Another reason that is it so disappointing is that the first 5 seasons were golden. Then they changed writing staff and got progressively bad. But most of us were already too far in it-kind of like TWD nowadays-that we had to finish the ride. Had they put Dexter in a leather jacket jumping a shark, I would have appreciated it so much more, knowing they were intentionally being that bad. Instead, they just want us to accept that steaming pile of shit and call it a series. Nope.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 9:10 am

      I mean. At least that’s a conversation. I disagree with you. I don’t think it was worse than dinosaurs, Little house, Alf or felicity. Not by a long shot. In fact I think the Roseanne final season is abysmal and way worst than what happened on Dexter.

      But the point is, that conversation can’t be had if people don’t even know about the other shows.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 9:19 am

      Mav fails to mention that not only did Alf send the alien off to get dissected in the finale, it ended with a big “To be continued…” that never got resolved. The Dinosaurs finale wasn’t so bad that it stuck with me for almost 30 years, but Alf definitely was.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 9:21 am

      There’s a follow up Alf movie from years later. None of the cast returns. It’s apparently pretty bad. But I’ve never seen it.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 9:22 am

      Most of those shows I didn’t follow that much if at all, and I certainly didn’t set aside an hour to tune in. Most of those shows, people watched simply because they were on. If you’re tuning in and keeping up with felicity, then you deserve more disappointment, which explains why you’re numb to real disappointing season finales. Haha. All joking aside though, Dexter was so disappointing because there was a time when it was SO good. And a finale like that was a slap in the face to their loyal fan base. It’s a deserving title on so many levels for that show.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 9:35 am

      Chris Maverick Project Alf has Martin Sheen at his finest. A few of the ancillary cast return, but none of the Tanner family.

      Paul Fusco returns as ALF. He’s had quite the varied career: he obviously did a lot of ALF shows: ALF, ALF: The Animated Series, Project ALF, ALF 2006 (pilot), ALF’s HIt Talk Show, ALF Loves a Mystery, and a couple of ALF video shorts.

      But he also appeared on a bunch of non-ALF shows, including Mr. Robot (as ALF), Blossom (as ALF), Matlock (as ALF), Jimmy Kimmel (as ALF), Love Boat (as ALF), and Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal: The Movie (as ALF).

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 9:51 am

      My brother and I were contemplating an ALF musical at one point, with songs like “Will Willie or Won’t He?” when Willie is struggling with turning ALF in to the authorities, “When Lucky’s Luck Runs Out” when ALF daydreams about finally eating the cat Lucky, and musical staples like “In a Melmac Minute” and “Lynn’s Song (Moon in the Valley)”.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 10:53 am

      Miguel: so that’s the thing. That’s not really true. People like a lot of this shows. Little house on the prairie is still one of the most successful shows ever. It’s not just that “it was on” because there’s a lot of stuff that was.

      This is precisely why I want them in the discussion. The internet, and especially in he geek subculture has this way of canonizing certain media as though it’s the only thing that matters and ignoring everything else. Millennial subculture does the same thing. And genx. And academia. The point I’m making… the whole point of my career really… is to look at the whole so that we can actually see the cultural undercurrents that permeate us.

      I liked Dexter, btw. And I kind of liked the finale. Lots of people did. And lots hated it. That’s why the discussion is important. I have reasons that I could go into for its analysis. But that’s another post (or a show… Wayne ?). The point I’m making here is that it is in no way that definitive of an answer for “of all time” but for the fact that it’s just a recent show. It was polarizing in the way that breaking bad was. It was not as reviled as Lost or The Sopranos ended. And I could defend those too (and I kinda hated Lost)

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 11:04 am

      I said most(italics, bold text) of those shows. Little House was very successful and ran for way too long. I think by the time it had its season’s finale, nobody cared anymore and little Melissa Gilbert was already on Dancing with the Stars. I have no idea what you could like about the Dexter finale. The way he casually strolls out of the front of the hospital with a dead body covered conspicuously with a sheet and nobody notices because windows need hurricane boards? Or the rest of the stuff I mentioned. From scene one till the credits roll, it’s a slap in your face pack it up we no longer care shit show. I wouldn’t watch it again even with your eyes.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 11:15 am

      I liked the finale.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 11:29 am

      I liked that it was finally over.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 11:52 am

      I think you’re overestimated the response to Dexter critically and popularly… or that is conflating your personal experience with it with the reception overall.

      That is to say, I liked the show. A lot. But it didn’t have the popular appeal or the critical appeal you’re attributing to it. Its final season was actually the HIGHEST rated at like 6million and only like 2.8 in initial TV viewing. For most of it’s run, it’s like half of that for both numbers. And since it was a Showtime show, it had shorter seasons. There are only 96 episodes over 8 years.

      It also didn’t have the transformative critical appeal of a Breaking Bad, Sopranos or Lost. I happen to personally like the Breaking Bad better, but probably prefer Dexter to the other two. But I know that they’re more influential in the grand scheme of things.

      That’s kind of the point here. There’s certainly a conversation to be had over what the most disappointing finale was. And I’m sure as hell not going to argue that Dexter s08e12 is a perfect hour of television. It is not. I liked it ok.

      But to pretend that it is some universal marker across the entire history of television does a disservice to the conversation.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      So what you’re saying is because I watched it from the start and didn’t wait until it got popular like the majority who caught up to it by the last season, and because it never quite got enough popular or critical appeal, my argument is void. And that because I feel, like apparently MOST people do, that the finale was the worst ever, I’m wrong. And because I haven’t seen every horrible season finale in existence, for some reason i don’t have enough data to rationalize that a show that was once great (in my eyes), and had lost a lot of what made it great when the writers were replaced (in my mind), and produced an awful finale, some would even say of all time, that I need to rethink my stance of it being the worst finale ever. And because it hadn’t occurred in the previous century, it shouldn’t even be considered.

      Eh, I’m still going to sleep tonight comfortably with my notion of Dexter’s finale being the absolute worst finale in the history of terrible finales.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      Most people? You really don’t understand statistics if you think that most people think it was the worst ending ever. Heck, it might not even have a plurality that believe that. Possibly most professional, media savvy top 10 writers believe that, though even that is unlikely. More likely is that a very small handful of such lists exist and most of the writers researched (plagiarized) off the earliest writer(s), giving the opinion of a very small number (possibly one) excessive value.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 12:30 pm

      For some actual numbers, here is the voting for worst TV finals from the Watchmojo fans. Dexter rates high but primarily comes in second place to HIMYM in almost every poll.
      http://watchmojo.com/suggest/Top%2010%20Worst%20TV%20Finales

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      And according to the list that Watchmojo made (presumably editor choices since it doesn’t match voting, the results were:

      HM: Dinosaurs, Mad About You, Big Love

      10. Seinfeld
      9: Quantum Leap
      8. How I Met Your Mother
      7. Sopranos
      6. Alias
      5. St. Elsewhere
      4. Battlestar Galactica
      3. Dexter
      2. Roseanne
      1. Lost

      So there is another example where Dexter doesn’t come in #1

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 12:42 pm

      Miguel says:

      “So what you’re saying is because I watched it from the start and didn’t wait until it got popular like the majority who caught up to it by the last season, and because it never quite got enough popular or critical appeal, my argument is void. ”

      No… not at all. I’m saying just the opposite. You’re arguing for YOU (which you should… because that’s how conversations work) but you’re sort of presenting it as if it is a universal truth, or at least a very popularly conception. And it’s not… in fact, it appears that just the opposite is true.

      Most TV shows fall in popularity over time. Hence getting cancelled. Dexter premiered to 1million viewers with a season high of 1.25. Its series finale drew 2.8 million with a season low of 1.9. So if anything that implies you are in a minority. The show found a way to draw viewers in over time

      ” And because I haven’t seen every horrible season finale in existence, for some reason i don’t have enough data to rationalize that a show that was once great (in my eyes),”

      Yes…. you do… absolutely. But you seem to be not only rejecting other possibilities but trying to justify it by some imagined statistics that MOST people agree with you. If it’s “in your eyes” it really shouldn’t matter what MOST people think.

      Strauss: Hmmm… the watch mojo polling is interesting. Certainly not scientific… and obviously has not only selection bias with their audience but also the flaw of only being able to choose from the choices given. But it’s still interesting to look at as a trend.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 12:50 pm

      I think that respondents can suggest a show, thus the reason that some shows appear multiple times. But I agree on the rest (and I am not entirely sure on that first part).

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      Miguel, here is another list, that appears to include voting. Each entry includes an exact percentage of how many loved it and hated it. Dexter is #3 on the list.

      http://www.eonline.com/photos/10012/the-best-and-worst-tv-finales-of-all-time/441905

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      (Minor point, Chris, but surely ratings in the last season were driven by things besides quality. Like, for instance, press about it renewals and then not renewal. The last seasons did suffer, possibly because different writers, possibly because it shouldn’t have gone on as long. I liked the finale, though. Enough.)

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 12:58 pm

      Matt: I mean, it’s impossible to say. But I wouldn’t think it was JUST quality, No. And unlike what happens with broadcast shows, ratings are less of a driver because it isn’t reliant on advertising revenue. They still matter, of course… But I don’t remember any massive letter writing campaigns or anything.. In any case, it is pretty unique in that it sees a steady rise in viewership throughout its entire run. Not even bell curve. It just kept going up.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 1:11 pm

      But, as you say, there are conversations that can be had, preferably knowledgeably.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks, Michael. I watched like 3 episodes of Girls, and didn’t like it, so I can’t speak on it. I’ve never seen the Good Wife, so that also disqualifies me, but I see there is a 3% difference between the ranked worse and Dexter. I have seen Dexter and for a few seasons, I felt Dexter was the best show on TV. I can still feel comfortable with feeling it was the worst finale ever.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 1:18 pm

      Given that it didn’t end on a “To be continued…” that will never be resolved, I think, objectively, that really isn’t true. But I understand it as a subjective belief. The only thing is, and Mav has mentioned this, too, I can’t tell whether or not you understand your belief is purely subjective. You seem to talk about it like it is settled fact across all humanity, rather than simply your semi-educated opinion (don’t be insulted by “semi-educated”… the vast majority of people are only semi-educated on this topic).

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 1:34 pm

      Also, I wonder about your standard. Dexter may have been the best show on TV for a brief time, though I don’t think, when people look back at history, it will fall among the absolute best of the best (certainly didn’t end up in TIME all-time 100 or TV Guide’s top 50). However, at least two of the other shows posited at points in the discussion are in both of those lists (Seinfeld and Roseanne) and St. Elsewhere makes the TV Guide list.

      Yet despite the amazing quality of those shows and the fact that they have finales that are considered to be horrendous, you don’t give any of them the same respect. These aren’t just shows that were briefly the best on TV. These are shows that are considered some of the best ever (Seinfeld is literally #1 on the TV guide list). That seems to make your standard of a huge drop in quality even more true for these shows than Dexter.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 1:36 pm

      Yeah, based on all of the shows that I’ve seen, and all of the griping that I’ve heard over the course of time through friends or social media or just through different formats about the finales (including that link you just sent), I’m still fairly confident Dexter is the worst. It certainly is to a very biased me. Is Girls really the worst? Was the Good Wife really worse than Dexter? These horrible finales all occurred within the last decade you know. In fact, Seinfeld is the oldest show ranked. And I bet a lot of people that rank Seinfeld so lowly is because it was such a fantastic show with such a great run, that the finale, while not bad and certainly not one of the worst of all time, was such a letdown compared to the rest of the show. I would watch it again. Especially because it brought back and featured a bunch of previous characters (Soup Nazi!). I heard an awful lot of complaining about Alf earlier. I remember almost never tuning in to see that show. There must’ve been something better in my mind to watch on the other channels. Or I just never found Alf funny. So how can a show that doesn’t catch or keep my attention sway my opinion? I’m bummed that Six Feet Under is on the list because I had hoped to eventually finish that show. Maybe I still will, and maybe it’ll take Dexter’s place as worst for me. How ironic would that be, because Michael C. Hall would still hold the title. Haha.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      Honestly, I’d even posit Wonder Years as a show that might deserve the title of worst ending ever. It was an incredibly great series that had a painfully bad ending.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 1:39 pm

      See. I actually liked the wonder years ending.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 1:40 pm

      If anything my problem with it was that it was too rushed. They basically wrapped up several lives in like an hour.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      It’s okay if you wonder about my standard. You have the Legend of Billie Jean as your profile pic. Different standards for different people.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 1:43 pm

      That is because I have incredibly high standards

  6. avatar
    November 29, 2017 at 9:10 am

    I personally loved “Birds of Prey,” but I will admit that show makes a strong case for worst (live action) superhero show ever.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 9:12 am

      Still no. Powerless is REALLY bad. And if you don’t want to count that as a superhero shows, fine… but then you have the likes of “No Ordinary Family” or “My Secret Identity”

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 9:13 am

      “Powerless” was amazing. I’ll give you “My Secret Identity” (even if it was also a show I enjoyed as a kid).

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 9:16 am

      Of course, this whole conversation is being really polite to all the 70s superhero shows (Hulk, Wonder Woman, Six Million Dollar Man, etc.). Even taking into account the aesthetics of the era, they were mostly weak enough that they failed to keep the attention of my grade school self, even when there weren’t any better options available at the time.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 10:55 am

      Well. I wasn’t trying to do just superhero shows. Yeah that’s also a tangent. But I actually would defend all three of those shows. Especially because they can’t be watched outside of their context. Hulk especially I find holds up really well.

      But yes… production wise they are certainly dated.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 10:56 am

      Yeah, I know the superhero stuff was just a tangent near the end of your blog entry, but as I often do, I ran with it. I did move it to a different subthread so it wouldn’t interfere with more on point discussions, though.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 10:59 am

      yeah. That’s fine. More that I’m acknowledging that I didn’t especially think all that much about that compared to the larger point.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      BoP was so terribly done. I wanted it to be much better. Though the same could be said for Witchblade or Swamp Thing . . . or a show that rhymes with “can-imal” that I’m not allowed to discuss.

    • avatar
      November 30, 2017 at 1:53 pm

      So BoP i felt like was better than it got credit for (I have the DVD collection)… but was by no means good. I need to go back and watch it again. But i really feel like it was nowhere near as awful as we remember it being.

      Witchblade, I wasn’t super into at the time… but in retrospect… at least as it lives in my head… i expect that it holds up way better than I thought it would. Maybe not, I haven’t tried to watch it since it was on.

      Swamp Thing the movie is ridiculously bad but I love it. I imagine the TV show seriously does not hold up. But again, i haven’t seen it in decades and I am almost afraid to look.

      Manimal is a national treasure!!!

  7. avatar
    November 29, 2017 at 10:59 am

    Great argument, the irony here being that digital media and the Internet have made more of popular culture and mass media, from throughout their history, immediately available than ever before. And you also made me realize I rarely made it to the end of the TV series of my younger days . . .

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 11:03 am

      That last part is so true. I can tell you how just about every cartoon series I ever watched ended. But live action? No clue how Perfect Strangers, Golden Girls, Empty Nest, Three’s Company, Family Ties, Charles in Charge, Growing Pains, Family Matters, or the Jeffersons ended.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 11:04 am

      As I understand it, pretty badly for Family Matters

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 11:58 am

      Mark: Alan Sepinwall has a great book called “The Revolution was Televised” that talks about the way TV Drama changed in the late 90s/early 2000s and the shows responsible. http://amzn.to/2neklXq I think a large part of this is the advent of DVD, then DVR and eventually streaming. It made serialized fiction far more possible. Breaking Bad loses meaning if you miss an episode because you have to have dinner with your in-laws. And if you skip two, you’re just DONE! But we have a way fixing that now. In the old days of serialized drama, particularly Soaps, everything had to either reset or be VERY repetitive so that the audience could follow along, which limits the story telling potential.

      Strauss: Ugh! I wish I had though of Family Matters when I was writing it… yes, that show just gets more and more ridiculous and by the end just is completely nonsensical.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      Fascinating book – not all the way through it yet, but great stuff.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 10:41 pm

      Michael Strauss Also, I watched many of these shows in syndication. Syndicated shows did not always seem to keep to the same order and timeline as the release of the original shows. For example, I watched Happy Days a lot in syndication, but I had never seen the episode where the Fonz jumped the shark until I saw it on YouTube. I think the only TV show I remember the finale for is Cheers.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 10:54 pm

      I actually meant to correct that whenever someone else said it. Fonz doesn’t jump the shark in the final episode. He jumps the shark in the third episode of season five. There are eleven.

    • avatar
      November 30, 2017 at 1:05 am

      Chris Maverick I stand corrected about Happy Days. My point was more about syndication not preserving the original order and continuity of the series. Binge watching an entire series was not a thing when we were growing up. Thus, for many pre-Internet shows, determing what the final episode was and how it fits with the series’s overall story arc becomes much more of a research project.

    • avatar
      November 30, 2017 at 3:35 am

      Yeah, Dana touches on what I have been thinking. For the vast majority of shows pre-90s, not many people alive have actually seen the final episode. And just watching a random finale often doesn’t give enough context to judge its quality if you haven’t seen a good portion of the rest of the series.

      Did My Two Dads have a good finale? What about the original black and white Zorro series? Or Captain Midnight? Or Sugarfoot? Or Men into Space?

      Simply put, I don’t know that it even possible to watch half those shows anymore. Odds are that at least one of them has a horrendous finale and we simply don’t know.

    • avatar
      November 30, 2017 at 1:46 pm

      So yes… I was getting into that above where I pimped the Sepinwall book. http://amzn.to/2Ajcfle again, just because I love the book and I also love amazon affiliate links. 😉

      But yes, getting the addition of DVD/DVR/streaming did make serialized TV more possible. In the BeforeTimeTheLongLongAgo, tv shows were all appointment television. If you missed an episode, then you had one more shot at it in rerun season and if not, it was just gone unless you were lucky enough to catch it in syndication. But it essentially made the modern version of serialized TV impossible. Because you couldn’t guarantee that your audience could follow the entire show. If someone missed a key plot element, they’d be lost forever and would simply give up on your show.

      So that left two possible models. Completely episodic. Or soap opera. In the episodic model, the narrative more or less resets every episode so that it doesn’t really matter if you miss anything or what the order is. Gilligan’s Island is like this. So long as you catch the theme song, the details of the episode are more or less irrelevant. The same is true of the Brady Bunch. Honeymooners is famously like this on a weird almost existential level. Episode 24 ends with them losing everything and getting evicted. They’re out on the streets in the cold… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3tbS9QOKaU But at the beginning of episode 25, they’re just in their apartment again as if nothing had happened. Sort of the way Kenny is just alive again every time he’s killed in South Park. So it’s almost as though every episode of the Honeymooners happens in a separate parallel universe, where the previous ones don’t actually matter at all.

      In theory, syndication packages are designed to be aired in order. But since they’re episodic, especially sitcoms (well early ones) it didn’t really matter so networks wouldn’t always do so. This becomes really weird on family sitcoms that feature children, because they change dramatically enough in short periods of time that watching the episodes out of order is jarring.

      The other model is to do soap opera style serialization. Daytime soaps have obviously always been serialized, because the entire purpose was to entertain housewives who are at home during the day, and have the TV to themselves, where they may have little to no control over it during the evening since they’d have to fight husbands and children for access. Hence the heavily female focused bend of the traditional daytime soap. BUT, since producers also had to account for the housewife having an unpredictable schedule (sometimes you run out of eggs on Tuesday and you have to do the grocery shopping), and the fact that she was likely doing other work (cleaning, baby care, etc) and only half paying attention, you had to unfold stories and with TONS of repetition. So conversations will often take all week, with lots of repetition from episode to episode so that if you happen to miss Tuesday, it just doesn’t matter. BUT since she was watching every day, this also meant you really didn’t want to have reruns ever. And these rarely ended up in syndication.

      Even if you look at old nighttime dramas, the episode order doesn’t matter that much. Dragnet is just Dragnet. Marcus Welby, MD, same thing… The more serialized a show became (say Dynasty and Dallas) the more likely it was to move towards a more repetitive format… you also had to start adding “Previously on Dallas…” at the beginning of every episode.

      But none of that means there wasn’t progression. There was. It was just very artificial. A lot of times there was a slow moving season plot, while the actual story arc of the episode was irrelevant. ER does this a lot, for instance. You’ve always got a love story or something that is progressing, but the main medical drama of the day is wrapped up in one hour. Every once in a while this gets super weird. LA Law had the case of Earl Williams, a man who was falsely arrested for murder. Michael Kuzack, one of the main lawyers, spends the whole season trying to free him. Since it takes so long, it’s sort of realistic to how actual trials work. But in the meantime all the other lawyers on the show try like a dozen cases each.

      This definitely starts changing in the 90s, as shows start to think about their life on DVD afterwards, and people have the ability to just record stuff (on VHS and eventually DVR) and realizing they can tell more complex stories. This becomes even more the case when streaming becomes a thing.

      That said, a lot of TV shows were designed to simply be open ended. They’d get cancelled with little warning if the ratings were down and so there was no chance to wrap things up. And for sitcoms… it just didn’t matter most of the time. There was no overarching narrative anyway. Dramas, (or superfan favorite sitcoms that lasted a long time like MASH or Happy Days) would get the opportunity though when they knew they were ending well enough in advance to move towards a finale.

  8. avatar
    November 29, 2017 at 11:44 am

    On a side note related to the headline about Dexter, I’m with you. I actually like the ending. It was unexpected from a traditional point of view, but it was so very appropriate to what Dexter would actually do as a sociopath (or psycopath… there seems to be some confusion as to which he was. I’m no expert). I thought it was pretty neatly wrapped up and left you a bit uneasy about where he went and what he was up to. It was also consistent with how Dexter actually interacted with the children. He cared for them, but his lifestyle did not allow him to be a proper parent and he eventually left them for others to care for.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      Pretty much. Yes, the Dexter vs. the ocean bit was kind of cheesey in execution but the premise was fine. I think one of the real complaints is that people wanted to see him go out in a much bloodier and gorier manner. But he hd simply progressed beyond that as a character.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 3:19 pm

      Part of me really wanted him to redeem himself in some, possibly but not necessarily, self destructive fashion. The double ending was, in some way, unsatisfying. But then I had to admit I had wanted too much from him, and that was interesting.

      Btw, I was a new father rooting for him to become a real father. He didn’t interact with his son. At all. Babies on tv are usually just props, right? But this was even more extreme.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 3:56 pm

      Yeah… working with babies on tv (or in film) is really hard because the real life baby actors can, by law, only film for 20 minutes total a day. It goes up to 2 hours after your six months old. And then 3 hours when you’re 2-5. Then the production has to provide you with a minimum rest time on set after your performance (1:40 for babies, 2hrs for toddlers, 3 for 3-5yos). Studios work around this by casting twins, but you’re still super limited because 3 hours is NOT a lot of filming time (especially with a performer with a kid brain) even though it sounds like it and 20min is nothing. So mostly you write your script around it so you can avoid doing too much with them until they’re 6+ and you can get decent time out of them.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 4:01 pm

      but usually that brief time is spent with *some* cooing or something. Dexter was entirely, “where’s the sitter?” I guess the law was productive, in that it was easy to overlook his stunted relationship by saying, “but babies are always just props.”

    • avatar
      November 30, 2017 at 1:04 pm

      Oh yeah, he (the character) certainly didn’t relate to the kid. i thought you were specifically talking about the behind the scenes stuff for some reason.

  9. avatar
    November 29, 2017 at 11:51 am

    According to Rolling Stone 58% of the top 500 albums *of all time* were released between 1960 and 1979. Which mainly speaks to the differences in readership and editor demographics between Rolling Stone and ranker, rather than this being the golden age of music – or even rock-n-roll.

    This great blogger I follow had a good article the other day about the way people who kvetch about best of year lists tend to be missing the editorial intent. Do you think that applies to your criticism here? Are you just saying it’s a shitty pandering editorial intent – but isn’t that what people are saying about People? Just less eloquently and informedly than you. Which is another point you raised here, I guess. How do you reconcile these two posts (both of which are great IMO)?

    And as a bit of a tangent, to some degree, these best lists – especially when “most influential” is part of the criteria (which doesn’t apply to the article in question) – have a justifiable bump that isn’t just nostalgia or pandering. Influence has an arc and things that are too new haven’t had their influence yet and things that are too old have been forgotten and have had their influence indirectly through proxies that get honored for their direct heirs.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 12:12 pm

      Good point. I think my main criticism with the People etc. lists is that readers (or really non readers) are only responding to the headline. In particular I saw articles written about how much better it would have been to pick the Rock or Idris Elba over Shelton, completely neglecting that the Rock was the winner the year before and that Elba is specifically one of the people on the list. It’s not a conversation about the issue it’s a criticism that the magazine is doing the wrong thing by not picking what the non-reader wants.

      As opposed to this where I did read the whole list. And I don’t even have a problem with the issues she points out. My problem is more that the tag implies something that the article isn’t. Something valid but misleading and less useful. If Rolling Stone puts an article out called “the top 10 pop stars of the 2010s” then I don’t expect to see Paul McCartney there. Yes he’s alive. Yes he’s performing. But he’s not relevant right now. Same with Michael Jackson or Prince or Bowie. But Taylor Swift and Beyoncé better be there. But if the article is “the top 10 pop stars of all time” and 8 spots are taken up by people currently under the age 30, something has gone terribly wrong.

    • avatar
      November 29, 2017 at 12:29 pm

      While 1960-79 might not have been a golden age of rock-and-roll, it *might* (I’m not doing the research here, but throwing out thoughts from the top of my head) have been a sort of peak, or near peak time for the *album* as a unit of music. No one cares (yes, you probably care, and there are exceptions, but mostly…) about albums any more. When did they stop caring? maybe after 1979, but it could have been on a decline. Even when I was a kid we often cared more about singles, and while a good album was awesome, it wasn’t necesarilly expected to love the whole album, rather than love certain songs. The rise of streaming music has definitely influenced the fall of the album. And in the 60’s & 70s there were lots of albums that were consciously constructed as such. The order was important. Songs had sequals later in the album. Some albums told full stories. I’m thinking of Led Zepplin and Pink Floyd and The Who. Did people care about full albums beyond a collection of songs brought together for release at the same time before that, probably, but in those decades I think it was really A Thing. Even if true, this may have no real relation to that bit of trivia about the list of top albums. It’s probably more about their style bias and demographic focus. But, it might be relevant.

  10. avatar
    December 3, 2017 at 6:19 am

    I loved Quantum Leap back in the day, and I really liked the finale. I mean, I hated that the show was over, but I like the way they left a little bit of an open end.

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