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Friday, 16 of April of 2021

I was sick, so I watched a lot of TV

Sick lolcat

This was me. I was just as adorable, too.

I was sick this past weekend. I had a sore throat that made it difficult to swallow even saliva, let alone food. I was, paradoxically, suffering from both a stuffy and a runny nose, I had chest and head congestion, I had a fever, and by Saturday night, was pretty much unable to maintain a lucid conversation with someone over the phone. I had somewhat improved by Sunday, thanks to different over the counter medications, though the fever remained.

As is the case with some people when they’re sick, I turned to television to be my nursemaid, particularly on Saturday during the worst of it, to keep me company, to tell me that I was, very likely, not going to die as a result of teh_sick. Typically my habit is to watch stuff I have on DVD, with my normal standbys being Sports Night and Batman: The Animated Series. Both shows are comfort foods of mine, and I know the episodes by heart so that if I zone out or fall asleep, I haven’t “missed” anything.

But thanks to advances in technology since the last time I was this sick (which has easily been at least 5 years), I didn’t have to drag my sick and feeble body off the couch or out of bed to change the discs of whatever I was watching. I could just hit ‘Next episode’ on Netflix and remain curled up in blankets, cats, used tissues, and mugs of tea.  It. Was. Wonderful.

So here are thoughts about what I watched over the weekend. I watched, by the way, entirely too much stuff. Really. It’s kind of pathetic.

Supernatural – Season 3, season 4

So I had started season 3 of Supernatural much earlier in the week, and thus my sick viewing started with “Fresh Blood” (episode 7) and this carried me all the way through the season 4 episode “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester” (also episode 7). So, yes, I watched a ton of Supernatural. And it pretty damn fun, but even with the cold meds, I was still able to tell that season 3 was something of a mess while season 4 seemed to be on much surer footing going forward.

This isn’t to say that season 3 was completely worthless,  but that with the WGA strike looming, the show never seems able to fully commit to any of its particular ideas and the season’s larger arcs (Sam’s demon side, demons waging  a guerrilla war, getting Dean out of his contract, Lilith as, well, a threat) feel half-baked, as do the season’s attempt to integrate Bela and Ruby into the narrative (neither of whom ever really worked for me, despite the show’s best efforts).

I dug the idea of demons working as groups and not just random terrors as it upped the ante for the Winchesters, as well as the idea that there was a power struggle following Yellow Eyes’ death and that the demons just aren’t sure what’s happening either. Sam’s role in all this remained far too murky for me to trace, so I was rather glad that it took a back seat to figuring out, however little momentum there was on it, to figuring how to break Dean out of deal with the Crossroads Demon.

But the lack of actual action on that front didn’t bother so much since the tension it created between the brothers was significantly richer, and continues developing the relationship between them. It had to change and grow in light of Dean’s deal and because of Yellow Eye’s death. Their motivations have shifted, their reasons for hunting have shifted, and the show has to account for this, and I feel it rather successful at mapping out why they’d keep hunting.

Season 4 seems stronger off the bat, though I suspect this is the benefit of still having Lilith around and kicking and the introduction of Castiel and heaven’s interest in the boys. While the Ruby stuff is still decidedly murky (the actress change doesn’t bother me), the concerns over Sam’s demon powers don’t feel old hat given how much they mattered through seasons 1 and 2. The angels and releasing of Lucifer give it a new context, one that’s very exciting.

Episode highlights: “Bad Day At Black Rock,” “Mystery Spot,” “Jus In Bello,” “Ghostfacers,” “Monster Movie,” “Yellow Fever,” “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester”

Cheers – Season 1

Saturday night was the Cheers night. I was a bit burnt out on Supernatural and wanted something that I could easily dip in and out of (read: I wanted to be able to fall asleep), was only a half-hour long, and was completely different from the brotherly angst I had been enjoying. I also did a few episodes on Sunday, so in total I watched 9 episodes*, in order, from season 1.

*This being said, I have absolutely no memory of “The Tortelli Tort” and “Sam at Eleven.” According to Netflix, I watched both of them, but I can tell you that I was asleep for them both.

Cheers is one of those shows I’m familiar with, but I haven’t seen every episode, and I don’t think it really matters that I haven’t. I know that I love the show’s rhythms and the characters, I love the hell out of the main set perhaps more than any other standing set on a show (it’s just so perfect, with doors, stairs, extra rooms, and lots of room for extras), and even in my haze, I feel the show is still funny and smart and quick. Indeed, it’s a show that I think exemplifies my contention that the problem with multi-cam sitcoms isn’t the format but is an issue of writing and acting.

Both the actors and the scripts are attuned to the rhythms of set-up/punchline while still telling engaging stories. Indeed, their plots aren’t any more complicated than many single-cam sitcoms; they just tend to be located around the bar as the location. While this may limit the “scope” of the action, it also encourages more creativity in execution.

Episode highlights: “Any Friend of Diane’s,” “Friends, Romans, Accountants,” “Truce or Consequences” (which played really well since I had never seen it before, and honestly wasn’t sure if Carla was telling the truth or not).

Downton Abbey – The Christmas Special/Season 2 finale

This past season of Downton Abbey has not been great. We were warned by those who watched it while it aired in Britain that it was subpar, scattered, and uneven. And it was all those things. (I’ll direct you to Alyssa Rosenberg‘s really thorough breakdown.) The melodrama was often poorly executed or too quickly executed (the potentially Fake Patrick being, for me, the most egregious) to matter, and it instead felt that the show was electing to riff on societal cracks without really and fully engaging them.

The gestures toward rich melodramatic tropes — medical issues, vengeful spouses, jilted lovers, and, of course secrets — made the season feel all the more like so much unrealized and scuttled potential. This, really comes full force in the Christmas special/finale in which the compelling aspects of the season, namely the relationship struggles of Matthew/Lavinia/Mary/Richard, had the room to breathe a bit that I wish these dynamics had felt more fully realized throughout the season. (Admittedly, the finale likewise engages in quick plots of no consequences with Rosamund’s potential marriage, so it’s guilty of the sins of the season as whole, too.)

And, yet, despite the fact that the show wasn’t as engaging as season 1 was, I never considered not watching it, be it live or on PBS’s Web site. I still found small pleasures, like Jim Carter’s Carson (the show’s MVP), that kept me coming back to the show. I still felt an investment in these characters and their stories, and despite the messy and overstuffed narrative of this season, I am still invested in the show. It was disappointing, not outright frustrating, which I think explains why I’m still looking forward to (a hopefully streamlined) season 3.

The Good Wife – “Live From Damascus”

I don’t have much to say here. The episode was fine, I guess, but nothing particularly compelling, beyond promising even more Eli-Stacie-Vanessa in the future (even though this plot just promises to keep Eli out of A-plots even more). While I know that Josh Charles isn’t just disappearing from the show for the rest of the season, I’m curious about how they intend to keep him circulating in the show’s plots. Likewise, I’m wondering how the office politics will play out with Will gone. Will Julius or David Lee try and make a power play to get their names on the letterhead? And what’s in those Kalinda tax files? And when will Cary realize he should just start his own firm?

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