TV On My Terms: Saying Goodbye to Bias
One of my greatest flaws is that I have a tendency to judge a book by its cover.It serves as a hindrance when it comes to delivering objective commentary on television.
As an example, I initially dismissed The Good Wife as a legal procedural that used the notoriety of the Eliot Spitzer scandal and haunting images of the humiliated politician's wife standing by his side as a gimmicky springboard. Given the typical slate of shows on CBS, as well as the early previews for the series, can you really blame me for coming to that conclusion?
Nevertheless, I had heard many great things about the show throughout its first season and finally succumbed to the pressure of friends and critics to check it out part way through its second. I tuned in for "Nine Hours" and instantly I was gripped.
Since then, I've watched every week with growing appreciation, and even went on to purchase the entire season one DVD set, of which I'm now halfway through. I'm astonished by the effective pacing, the compelling writing and intricate performances of this highly impressive cast. Julianna Margulies is stunning as the title character, functioning pristinely on levels I did not at all expect from her.
The supporting actor/actresses are all equally mesmerizing, especially Matt Czuchry, as the possibly ethics-challenged rival to Margulies' character, and Archie Panjabi, who plays the most bewildering, unabashedly enigmatic character on television in years.
Because of my initial bias, I had been missing out on the most riveting, character-rich program on broadcast TV.
Another series I completely misjudged from the start was FX's Justified. After checking out other shows from the bold network, such as Nip/Tuck and Rescue Me, I developed a singular disdain for FX and what appeared to be its brazenly adult programming.
I'm one of the few critics who doesn't enjoy the adult-style of programming offered by outlets such as HBO and Showtime, and felt that FX was trying its hardest to gratuitously up the shock factor by getting as close to crossing the line as standards and practices would allow. As a result, I placed a personal embargo on anything that FX would produce.
A friend of mine strongly suggested I check out Justified, so I relented, and put the first Season One disc into my Netflix queue. I figured I'd watch the pilot episode just to appease him and would subsequently return the disc, losing out on only an hour of my life.
Much to my surprise, I ended up gobbling up those first four episodes in a single sitting, and immediately hopped in my car to go buy the entire DVD set because I couldn't wait two days to get the second disc in the mail. It was just that good.
Over the last couple of months, I've had similar experiences with shows such as Raising Hope (another severely underrated series) and others that are sadly no longer on the air: Battlestar Galactica and Arrested Development. It has definitely opened my eyes to the possibilities of excellent programming which might not initially seem all that appealing to me on the surface.
This doesn't necessarily mean my tastes will change, but I will be much more likely going forward to check out a series first before completely writing it off as unwatchable.
Jeffrey Kirkpatrick is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.