Despite the hype, I have avoided watching certain popular TV shows because, at face value, they did not appeal to me. After watching only the pilot episode of the top five most popular shows of 2017, although not necessarily a trustworthy indication of quality, it seems that sometimes the hype is justified.
Game of Thrones
Arguably the most popular and hyped show of recent years, this episode met all my fears about watching TV shows that I’m dubious of. Moments after I started watching, I found myself wincing at the brutality of the scenes. Unlike Breaking Bad, this show seemed to be no bigger than its plot. The immediate plunge into violence and death was repellent. Moreover, there is no immediate character to grab the viewer’s attention and sympathy. Rather, we are introduced to a whole host of characters in turn, moving from one to the other before anything of consequence is revealed, which makes it more difficult to invest in them. While the story is well grounded in its setting, and the presentation is grand, I could not bring myself to care for it if the story and characters could not work together to reel me in.
The Walking Dead
The first episode of The Walking Dead follows a police officer as he reawakens from a coma to find his town overrun by zombies. As with Game of Thrones, I was hesitant to watch this show because of the subject matter, but found that to be a smaller problem than I first thought. While the episode held moments of engagement for me, I could not help but be diverted by the constant clichés. The predictable reveal of the young girl being a zombie and the police officer hobbling through deserted hallways before the door rattles with monsters behind it were not unexpected images. However, the show presents a core group of characters with a mission, whom you can’t help but root for. The moments of action are tense and never feel forced. Overall, I am glad for the hype surrounding the show, without which I might never have sat down to watch it.
This episode was the one that surprised me the most. Initially, I knew about the basic storyline and never imagined it would interest me. However, I was immediately drawn in by the pace of the first episode. The viewer is thrown into the narrative headfirst: the starting moments present Walter in the middle of the desert with no trousers and a van, with police sirens in the distance. It gripped me because its sole emphasis was on Walt and how he ended up in this situation. Suddenly, the subject or genre of the show didn’t matter as much. This emphasis on the characters, perhaps comparable to Orange in the New Black, is what kept me watching. Even though I only watched one episode, I found myself starting to become more interested in Walter. This episode proved to me that subject matters do not have to be the defining aspect of TV shows. Sometimes, a cast of well-written characters is enough to hold interest.
American Horror Story
This episode was an example of how hype can lead to disappointment. I had heard positive reviews of this show before, and because I have watched horror/thriller shows such as Bates Motel, I thought I would enjoy American Horror Story as well. However, after watching one episode I had no desire to continue. I felt that the story was trying much too hard to be shocking. In its attempts to fulfil the criteria that come with the horror genre, it seemed as if the episode did not pay enough attention to laying the groundwork for a coherent story. As well as that, it felt as though the characters were introduced haphazardly, with not much consideration for development. By the end of the episode, I hardly knew anything about most of them and did not care for any of them.
Rick and Morty
If any of these shows could exemplify my reasons for not watching TV based on general popularity, it is this one. In my opinion, the first episode barely had any substance and seemed to be mainly composed of a series of nonsensical incidents. Moreover, the characters were bizarre, with the professor being particularly painful to listen to for more than a few seconds at a time. While I concede that the story did have a degree of creativity, the show’s style of humour, the repetitive dialogue and the continuous dynamic between Rick and Morty, wherein one is always dragging the unwitting other into mishaps, was not for me. The only aspect I can praise is the show’s consistency in being surreal from start to finish.