The 5 Types of Prime-Time Television - Part 1

I don't really watch very many TV shows. I never really have. I couldn't ever put my finger on exactly why I found them boring/frustrating. After reading an article by Mike Taylor a few days ago and a recent article on Cracked, I know why. There are three things I hate in TV shows and movies: blatant product placement, bad science, and bullshit plots. On TV, the first is nullified by commercials. The last two are my problem with television.

Comedies are an exception to the rule for this. They're allowed to be absurd for the sake of a laugh. That's kind of the point. The same applies to action movies to an extent. I'm fine with a character that is larger than life, such as nearly every character Arnold Schwarzenegger has played. I don't like deus ex machina moments that take me out of the movie. This usually involves the main character in a situation that he/she can't escape, and another character magically appears and saves him/her, usually standing in a "cool" pose as the camera pans up on the savior leading to a one-liner.

There seems to be only a handful of shows on TV that all copy each other.

  1. "Reality" show that involves a group of drama queens who are paid 5-6 figures/year to bitch about each other
    • Real Housewives of New Jersey
    • Real Housewives of Orange County
    • Real Housewives of New York City
    • Real Housewives of Atlanta
    • Jersey Shore, starring non-Jersians who everyone in New Jersey hates
  2. "Reality" shows under the guise of a contest
    • Hell's Kitchen - Seriously, how many years in a row can you watch the exact same thing happen?
    • The Bachelor - A bunch of "pretty people" compete for one guy while people at home wish they were single and/or had confidence.
    • Biggest Loser
    • Survivor
  3. Doctor shows (usually starring surgeons, never nurses)
    • House
    • Grey's Anatomy
    • Private Practice, which focuses more on how the characters' private parts interact more than the characters themselves
  4. Law enforcement shows
    • Cop dramas & Forensic dramas
      • Hawaii 5-0
      • NCIS
      • NCIS: Los Angeles
      • CSI
      • CSI: Miami
      • CSI: New York
      • Criminal Minds
    • Lawyer dramas
      • Law & Order
        • Series ended - replaced with the totally-not-the-same Law & Order: Los Angeles
      • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
      • Law & Order: Criminal Intent
  5. Actual sitcoms
    • Big Bang Theory
    • How I Met Your Mother
    • 30 Rock
    • Modern Family

Only the last category has shows that aren't direct rip-offs and spin-offs of each other. They are the closest thing to original ideas that are offered during prime time.

Category 1 & Category 2

I can't watch the first category. If I wanted to watch a bunch of people bitch about each other about inane bullshit, I'd listen to the conversations people have with each other at my job. I wear headphones to drown that out. Why would I voluntarily subject myself to that when I'm at home?

The second category can be excused slightly in the beginning. It's sensationalist television. After a season or two, find a different gimmick. This is especially true for cooking shows. I'm looking at you, Next Food Network Star. I want to decapitate Bob Tuschman with the spine of Susie Fogelson.

Category 3

House is particularly formulaic. Mike Taylor (same link as above) explained it well.

And there is no way that the viewer can possibly solve the mystery, because the solution is determined by throwing dice. Maybe literally. Maybe the writers roll 1d6 before writing the conclusion to each episode, and decide:

  1. It’s viral, the doctors missed it because something that they prescribed masked the diagnostic symptoms.
  2. It’s caused by drugs, they missed it because the patient lied.
  3. It’s auto-immune, they missed it because the immuno-suppressants they prescribed hid the effects.
  4. It’s neurological, they missed it because the relevant feature didn’t show up on the scan.
  5. It’s cancer, they missed it because they were too busy arguing about their personal issues to notice the tell-tale symptom.
  6. It’s a parasite, they missed it because they didn’t check the patient’s environment carefully enough.

OK, maybe they have a d8, so they can include infection and poisoning.

From what I gather of Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, the doctor part of the show is secondary. The shows focus more on who's-fucking-who and boss-employee hierarchy. Your show doesn't need to be set in a hospital/doctor's office to do this. These shows also mistake "sex" with "meaningful relationship" except when the writers want one of the two characters to be hurt. Then the other character will give the old, "It's just sex. I didn't know we were exclusive," line. When the writers remember that the characters are supposed to be doctors, the plot will be:

  1. Is it ethical to treat the patient? There's a weird situation that a character doesn't want to treat the patient (patient is racist/criminal/etc.). In the end, he/she will begrudgingly help.
  2. Is it ethical to treat the patient? The patient doesn't want help, but a character will overstep his/her bounds so far that, if this were real, the character would be banned from working in the medical field for life.
  3. The patient is inoperable, but luckily one of the doctors on staff has been looking for a solution to that exact ailment. One of two possible complications will occur.
    1. The procedure is completely invasive and may cause death. The entire episode will be a debate on whether or not the procedure will be done. In the end, the procedure will be performed. It will usually be successful. It will not be successful if the episode airs during sweeps week.
    2. The patient can't afford the procedure. The doctor will try to find a loophole to help the patient anyway. If lawyers exist in the show's universe, the doctor will be in trouble.
  4. Everything is boring in the doctor's office or hospital, so something bad happens to a character in the form of a relationship problem, mugging, or rape. This will be all the show is about for the entire season with an occasional episode involving one of the above scenarios. Audiences will mistake this ordeal as character development rather than a one-dimensional character becoming a slightly different one-dimensional character.

To be continued in Part 2...