Recently, Clark Gregg went full-on troll on us by declaring that people who dumped Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at, well, any point were not true fans who understood that it took time to make a TV show that was incredibly awesome. While it’s not surprising Gregg is a wee bit defensive of something he’s helped build, it was a pretty weak excuse. But it’s a common defense, and it’s not alone. Here are five excuses for bad TV every nerd has used, and why they need to stop.
You Need To Give It X Number Of Episodes!
You usually find this with either new shows, or shows that didn’t pile up a lot of seasons before they got canceled. The worst part about this excuse is that about half the time, it’s not entirely wrong; there are plenty of shows, like Dollhouse, that took a few episodes to actually get to their premise. But by the same token, is it really too much to ask that the first few episodes of a show, or a season, not be a slog? There’s a difference between a show finding its voice and getting better and a show just screwing around and not getting to the damn point. The former is growth; the latter is bad TV.
It Would Have Been Better, If There Weren’t Production Problems!
Another excuse that is, on some level, fair, and on another level, kind of a B.S. excuse. It’s absolutely true that producing quality television is like juggling glass balls with your feet; it’s a complicated, fragile enterprise and the slightest problem will wreck everything. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean the episode gets a free pass, either; if they have to go with the shot where the set looks like cardboard or the CGI resembles PSOne era graphics, it’s going to drag down the episode.
It Was Historically Important!
By far, the most common victim of this “defense” is Star Trek, especially the original series. Fry had it nailed when he summed the series up as “seventy-nine episodes, thirty good ones.” Nobody would deny that Plato’s Stepchildren was groundbreaking for the interracial kiss, but most Trekkies haven’t even seen the episode more than once, and with reason, because it’s the show at its most mediocre and dull. Yes, it’s great Star Trek broke barriers, but that doesn’t mean we have to watch the whole episode.
It Lays The Groundwork For…
No. Stop. The greatest television episode (or season) of all time does not make the bad TV that preceded it somehow magically better. Especially when, more often than not, the set-up is completely unnecessary. Sometimes, padding is just padding.
It’s All About The Subtext!
First of all, this one essentially boils down to “You think this is bad TV because you’re stupid.” Secondly, how we view art is a deeply personal thing interpreted through a lens we craft over the years through formative experiences, developing personal tastes, and critical thought about the art form. Which is a fancy way of saying that basically insisting that a TV show deserves a pass because it’s using aliens to talk about a social issue is oversimplifying it a bit.
In short, sometimes, any show, even our favorites, have a bad day. But, hey, at least most great TV doesn’t have this problem.