This week’s question is about TV shows – how they are taken more seriously now than ever before, but looking back at what the first show you really took seriously was. I’m not 100% sure what my answer would be. If I’m being truthful, probably The Simpsons – some of my earliest exposure to criticism aside from Roger Ebert was my subscription to Entertainment Weekly (long since lapsed), and since they reviewed TV shows as well as movie, I read their take on The Simpsons when it was at it’s peak creatively. I saw ever episode – repeatedly – and still watch the show to this day. Others around the same time would probably be South Park – which I defended in its early seasons from those who thought it was just smut. King of the Hill was, for a time, the best animated show on television – vastly superior to anything currently on Fox (except the best of The Simpsons). The X-Files would have to be listed as well – as well as Seinfeld and Roseanne (the former needs no explanation, the later was the first time I saw a sitcom that actually had some serious issues addressed, but wasn’t overtly preachy).
But the first show I remember re-arranging my normal schedule around was Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing. A brilliant show about politics that was entertaining, intelligent, well written and well acted. It came on the air the same time as The Sopranos – although it took me longer to catch onto that show, because I didn’t get HBO. Little did I know that rather than introduce a new era of intelligent drama on network TV, it would pretty much be the death knell for it. The serious shows are now all on cable – or at least critics think they are (Hannibal just finished a great first season – better than most shows on cable).
I also have to admit this - I don't watch enough "serious" TV as I probably should. I don't look down on it at all, but the truth is there is only so many hours in the day, and I cannot possibly be an "expert" on anything - so I mainly stick with movies. As good as Homeland, Justified, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones or most other cable shows you can name probably are - I just don't have the time for all of them. I do watch Breaking Bad, Louie, Mad Men and The Walking Dead - those are probably the four I take "most seriously" right now.