Taste is a funny thing. Our judgments—especially aesthetic judgments—can feel like they are coming from pristine logic, when all-too-often they are simply arbitrary decisions birthed fully-formed from an unknown oblivion. For instance, I hate Dr. Pepper. I mean, I really hate Dr. Pepper. If I get Dr. Pepper by mistake at a drive-thru, I have to go into seclusion for a week. Dr. Pepper tastes like evil. When I flung Orson Welles into a future dystopia, I had the air tinged with a scent that could only be that unholy quaff. It hid death. Despite everyone’s apparent love for the stuff, I think it’s awful.
But at least I’ve tried Dr. Pepper.
There are too many things I’ve dismissed on spec, and I’ve often been wrong. I could talk about chili and how I’m still a little angry that none of you told me that it was the most amazing thing conceived by humanity, but I don’t think its too far to say food is almost entirely about taste. Art, or rather, pop culture is another matter entirely.
For years, I would check out when anyone talked about Joss Whedon’s superlative TV series, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. To my memory back then, it was a not-very-good movie that appeared and disappeared from theaters and featured Paul Reubens playing not Pee-Wee Herman. I often got it confused with My Boyfriend’s Back (1993), another film of mildly similar subject matter. The WB (and then UPN) aired it, which put it along other sterling series as Platypus Man and The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer, so it had to be good, didn’t it? Was there anything in that show that I couldn’t get from the summer where I—for lack of anything better to do—watched every episode of Dawson’s Creek?
I was wrong. It’s terrific. From a solid first season that might have leaned a little into the gross over-generalizations listed above, Whedon weaved an intricate and joyful mythology that continues to expand, over a decade after it left the airwaves. And I missed it while it aired, simply because I thought my taste was ever-so refined, and couldn’t be brought down to such a pedestrian and vulgar level.
I know, I’m such a Giles. I’m okay with that.
I would have thought that I have an open mind as years have gone by, but just in the last month or so, it’s become clear that I need to lighten up on the prejudging of the TV shows. I might be missing some good stuff. With pounds of recommendations to guide her way, Lora began to watch This Is Us when it premiered in the fall. I kind of wrote it off. I’m not sure what my reasons were. It might have had something to do with the fact that I have been a little burned out by shows featuring a large cast depicting a multi-generational family since I gave up on cottage industry that is Modern Family. Shows like Parenthood, Life in Pieces flew right past me, and This Is Us was preparing to do the very same thing.
Then, Lora watched several episodes while I was trying to get some work done, and that work never got done. The show takes the very real lives of this family and shucks it through the prism of multi-flashbacks and gradual reveals that made LOST the show it was. And I might be going out on a limb here, but I don’t think This Is Us is going to end with all of the characters re-uniting in purgatory after they die…
At least, I hope it doesn’t end like that. I’ve got a little more hope that despite all of the very real ups and downs, everyone outside of Milo Ventimiglia* will end up in a good place. I’m that fond of these people.
I know, with all of that gushy stuff, I’m such a Toby. As a general rule, find the character on a television show named Toby, and then be like them. You’ll thank me later.
Then there’s my big turn around in the last few weeks. Whenever anyone spoke glowingly of The Golden Girls, I always assumed they were doing so ironically. Now, I’m not against liking something ironically. How would Dave Coulier ever find work if people refused to allow irony to play a factor in their enjoyment of things.
But, man, was I wrong about The Golden Girls. Spawned from the heyday of the NBC sitcom, the adventures of Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia gave several of the legitimate geniuses of the TV comedy their first crack at bat. Christopher Lloyd** (Cheers, Frasier, and yes… Modern Family), Mark Cherry (Desperate Housewives), and Mitchell Hurwitz (Arrested Development) all cut their teeth on the show, and it shows. The Golden Girls is a legitimately staggering joke machine, where most shows were content to hang their hats on more poignant character work or an unhealthy diet of misanthropy.
What kept me from this show for long? I may just be an old grump, but hopefully a lovable old grump. I know, I’m such a Sophia. Or, at least, I want to be Sophia when I grow up. We all should. Any shows that you regret having not picked up since they premiered? Let me know in the comments.
*Spoiler alert, as it only happened this past week, but say what you will about Ron Cephas Jones’ William, but his ending was far happier than most of the life that preceded it.
**No, not that one.