Before I get into all the old TV I watched last year, here’s a reminder that 1600 Penn, the sitcom set at the White House, premieres tonight at 8:30 (central time) on NBC. I am crazy excited for it, and I hope I don’t end up feeling stupid about that. But anyway, on with the post:
I watched so much TV in 2012, and am looking forward to more in 2013. This isn’t a list of current-season things I watched, but rather a list of mostly older shows on DVD or streaming. And just to be straightforward an honest about it, I’m going to say right now that I crammed 20 seasons worth of TV into a 12-month period. But before you start giving me the side-eye, let me explain! They weren’t ALL full, 20+ episode seasons. Okay, 18 of them were, but still: if you factor out commercials, each episode runs about 44 minutes. If you watch three episodes, you’re looking at not quite 2.5 hours of time. So it’s about the length of one long movie. So, even if you only watch one long movie a week, that still sets you up to finish a season of TV in about a month and a half. If you watch two — one on each day of the weekend — you’re looking at a month per season. Less if you sprinkle an extra episode here and there throughout the week. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m a couch potato, and this should come as no surprise to anybody who knows me.
This is also the last list of the bunch, so let’s get to it.
1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, seasons 1-7 (COMPLETE)
Remember how I didn’t watch any movies in March? This is why. Around this time I stumbled upon the Mark Watches blog — where one guy watches series he’s never seen and knows very little about and posts his episode-by-episode thoughts (I’ve mentioned before that this was the inspiration for the Long Haul project). Reading about the series from a fresh perspective was interesting. I was a latecomer to Buffy, and when I did start watching, I only did so sporadically until the last couple of seasons. Plus, I hadn’t watched any of it since it ended a decade ago, oh my god. But Mark was mostly through season three already, so I had a lot of catching up to do.
After speeding through seasons 1-3 to get caught up, I found that the first five seasons mostly held up pretty well from a story-telling perspective (not so much from a fashion, technology and special effect perspective, but what are you gonna do?). But, much as I thought when it originally aired, season six suffered greatly by comparison. Sure, there were some good (some really good) episodes here and there, but I could only watch Buffy mope about being brought back to life for so long before that got old. And don’t get me started on the shift from Willow’s magic use from a metaphor for sexuality to a sort-of metaphor for gaining and abusing power to a metaphor for drug use and finally “Look everyone! Willow’s a junkie!” literal bad crackhouse magic.
Season seven turned it around a little bit, though I still found the most prominent “potential slayer” to be the most insufferable. The thing that surprised me though was that I remember watching live and thinking that Buffy was just the most unreasonable and the second-most unlikeable character, namesake of the show or not. Time’s a funny thing, because I kind of did a 180 — at least a 160 — on her character this time around. And maybe in a decade I’ll watch it all again and see where everything stands.
2. Angel, seasons 1-5 (COMPLETE)
It’s the spinoff show to Buffy, which I watched concurrently once the spin-off happened. I think it’s definitely my favorite of the two. It kind of went of the rails in season four, but still told an interesting story as Team Angel had to deal with the morality issue of ending world peace when that peace comes at the expense of free will (and that the giver of peace eats people). Seasons five was a glorious thing that took the series in a whole new direction. This is one of my favorite series ever, even if by the end it did bear very little resemblance to its original “vampire detective with a soul” premise. And that’s probably a good thing.
3. Smallville season 2
I’ve been meandering through a Smallville rewatch for a couple years (I’d link you to the season one review at Ye Olde Leisure Time, but there’s some sort of a problem with the site that hosted it). It’s one of those shows where, when I’m watching it, I’m really into it, but as soon as anything gets in the way, I’m just done for months and months at a time. Season two mostly continued it’s Freak of the Week standalone episodes as Clark continues to discover new powers. He went clear through season one without heat vision, for instance. It also introduced the funnest substance of all — Red Kryptonite — and its monster, Red K Clark, which pretty much makes the kind of boring farm boy a bit of a party animal.
But season two is also where the series began taking baby steps into the Superman mythology as Clark begins to learn about Krypton — and maybe why he was sent to Earth — thanks to Dr. Virgil Swann, played marvelously by Christopher Reeve. And this is also where they started working nods to the classic Superman music into the score, so it wasn’t all just the day’s popular alt-rock. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still enough alt-rock blaring around to instantly date the show, but when they move beyond that, it adds a touch of class — and I was so grateful when they changed the music for the closing credits to something that is rivaled only by The West Wing for jarring musical transitions. I’m a few episodes away from closing out season three, so there may be a post on that sometime soon.
4. Bones, seasons 1-3
For a while, I was trying to stick with only watching episode every other day of Angel (and not at all on weekends) along with Mark, and I thought the best way to avoid jumping ahead would be to start watching David Boreanaz’s OTHER series, where he plays FBI Agent Seely Booth who works with scientists, mainly Temperance “Bones” Brennan at the Jeffersonian to solve murders. It’s a really good show, where literally everybody is likeable in some way or another. It’s generally remarkably fun, but isn’t all fun and games. But I kind of stopped caring after the season four premiere, which put Booth and Bones in London and ended up being a whole lot of “Har har! Booth drives on the wrong side of the road! Ho ho! Booth doesn’t understand these weird British sayings! Hee hee!” That got old super fast. I may pick it up again this year, though. I mean, they have to go home at some point.
5. Journeyman, season 1 (COMPLETE)
Love it, which is why I wrote all about it.
6. Castle, seasons 1-3
Maybe I just have a problem with fourth seasons. Because when the premiere of season four aired in 2011, I was so turned off by what looked to be a season of secrets and lies and roadblocks between the two leads who everybody knows will eventually get together that I didn’t watch any more for about three months. Then I came back for one episode that I wanted to see, and ended up getting current on the season (where my fears existed, but fortunately, Castle really likes to ignore its heavy drama arcs for a long time while giving plenty of fun filler episodes in between). And while I ended up sort of enjoying season 4 and generally feeling like season 5 has been pretty good so far, I missed the greatness of seasons 1-3, when everything about the mystery writer who teams up with the homicide detective felt fresh and new. Hence the rewatch.
It’s a little — OK, a lot — formulaic, but there are great cases, great banter, and great chemistry between everyone on the show — not just Castle and Beckett.
So that was my 2012. In 2013, I’ll definitely keep going on my leisurely stroll through Smallville, even though I know I’m heading into the season that kind of had me hating it (also a season 4, go figure). Also, I’m really looking forward to digging in to Eureka, the next series in my long put-off Long Haul project. I’m still mulling a West Wing re-rewatch. I tried about three years ago, took a big damn break at season five and then never quite got to season 7. even though I think it would have been a great show to watch during Election Season. It’s something Mark’s going to start in March after some anime things that mean nothing to me, so we’ll see if I follow along.