Well, it’s that time of the year again: no more lazy, carefree evenings basking outdoors in the dappled sunlight. It’s time to get serious, buckle down and adhere to a strict routine. I’m speaking, of course, about the advent of a brand-new fall TV season.
I write this during a delicious week for a television fan, trembling on the cusp between the Emmy Awards ceremony and the series finale of “Breaking Bad.” And more importantly, after I spent the summer desperately binge-watching both “Orange Is the New Black” and the entire 2008-10 run of “In Treatment,” the season premieres of all my favorite series are finally starting to roll out this week.
For me, keeping up with returning shows requires dedication and discipline, largely because I’m too loyal to abandon even a sinking ship. When I become a fan of a television program, I am invested to the bitter end, even when my guilty pleasures offer all of the guilt and none of the pleasure. I stuck with “The Office” well past its quality expiration date, watched every episode of “Smash,” and (this one is painful to admit) I’m the only one I know who’s still watching “Grey’s Anatomy” (even my sister-in-law, a former GA fan, snorted in disbelief when I inadvertently let that fact slip out over Thanksgiving dinner…and that was two years ago).
With all of this faithful viewing, I don’t have time to waste on new shows, most of which are either derivative, terrible, or—my personal curse—addictive and prematurely cancelled after a crazy cliffhanger. No, with the wisdom of my advanced years, I’ve learned my lesson: never start a new TV series until it has stood the test of time. No matter how much tempting buzz a show receives, trust me—wait until the inaugural season is complete, make sure the show is renewed, and watch it over the summer as a lead-in to its second year, which was my strategy when “Lost” premiered. Or, better yet, wait several years until the entire series is over and its diehard fans assure you that the ending was satisfactory, thus avoiding Severe Finale Disappointment (which SHOULD have been my strategy with “Lost”).
Just to keep things a little interesting, I make an exception each fall, allowing myself to try one new series. Last year, I took a chance on the drama “Chicago Fire.” I got lucky on that one, although it wasn’t much of a stretch that I would enjoy a show about emergency responders (Daring rescues! Tear-jerking endings! That guy from “House”!), set in my favorite city in the world.
This year, to balance the universe, I decided to try a new comedy, and the sentimental choice was the new Michael J. Fox show (cleverly named “The Michael J. Fox Show”). Like most people who were young adults in the ’80s, I have a soft spot in my heart for the diminutive star, and I am intrigued by the fact that he is embracing his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in the show. (After watching the premiere episodes, the jury is still out; the pilot was much better than the second installment, but I’m planning to give it a few more weeks to find its groove.)
Luckily, my steely resolve to resist any additional new fall programming is immune to advertising. Superlatives such as “Critics are saying that [insert the name of every single new show here] is this year’s most riveting new drama” have no effect on my determination. But this year I underestimated the most powerful force of all: peer pressure.
It started with an innocent late-night Facebook post by a distant acquaintance: “Did anyone out there watch the pilot of ‘The Blacklist’? It was a great show!” I shrugged and almost moved on, but my fatal flaw was to check out the comments on her post, where her friends agreed that the show was terrific and gushed about the always-compelling James Spader. Before you could say “pop culture junkie,” I had whipped out my ear buds, opened up the NBC app on my iPad, and let myself get sucked into the show’s vortex of implausibility.
Was it good? Sure, if you like “The Silence of the Lambs,” disturbing violence, adorable children in extreme danger, and creepy antiheroes. In other words, against my better judgment, I’m all in.
Welcome to a new fall season. Just remember to proceed with caution…and if “The Blacklist” is cancelled just as it starts to get good, you know whom to blame.