Stop me if you’ve heard these before:
“It doesn’t really get good until episode six!”
“If you can just make it to the second season, you’re in for a treat!”
“The wait is worth it, trust me!”
“It gets better! Really!”
I’ve heard them all a million times. And I’ve said them all a few thousand times. But it’s becoming harder to hear it these days without a good deal of eye-rolling. It Gets Good In Six Episodes? Great. Now let me get back to the 37 shows I’m still trying to find time to binge that I’ve heard are already good.
Shows taking time to become good is just the way TV works. Occasionally, you’ll find a Sopranos or a Cheers or a Mary Tyler Moore Show that arrives fully-formed at the peak of its powers, but most shows are evolving organisms, where the creators need a while to figure out how to best tell their stories, use their actors, work within constraints of budget or schedule or network, etc. Patience is required to see which shows live up to their full potential and which never get there; sometimes you get a Parks and Recreation (which went from mediocre to great after its first season) or an Americans (which went from good to great during that same second year transition), but other times, you might spend a season-plus waiting for a sitcom like Up All Night to stop being somehow less than the sum of its talented parts, only for it to be canceled before that happens.
My wife dubbed the practice “hope-watching,” and I’ve done plenty of it over the years as both amateur couch potato and professional. As satisfying as it can be to watch a Cougar Town successfully pivot away from the terrible premise of its title and become a charming hang-out comedy, it can be maddening to then try to convince people to give it another chance, or to ask them to endure the relentlessly bleak first season of The Leftovers (which I love, even as I understand why many do not) in order to get to the crazy brilliance of what came after.