I’m sure you all know how frustrated I’ve gotten with television as of late. Not only is there nothing to watch, but when I’m busy, I just don’t want to devote my time to subpar TV. And in recent weeks, I’ve been watching the shows that I enjoy get either pushed to weekend dead-end spots or go gradually down the tubes (take that as a toilet or TV pun — whichever you’d like).
Most recently, I’ve been frustrated with the latest and greatest trend: TV stunts. With sweeps week coming closer and shows desperately trying to grab an audience no matter what, we’re getting pounded with more and more stunts. Consider Community, which used to be my favorite comedy on TV. With its recent puppet/musical episode, it ended up being more painful than entertaining — and ultimately, it felt like the whole purpose of having the puppets in the first place was to advertise them so people would watch. It’s a stunt. And it flunked. I mean, think of other successful episodes of Community that didn’t try stunts. The musical Christmas episode where they were part of the glee club. The one with six different timelines (or was it seven?). They didn’t advertise that they’d be doing these, and heck, they were good. It’s almost as though creativity served the purpose of the show instead of just doing it to grab viewers.
An even more recent example is that of The Office, which has been desperately trying to ignore its downward spiral into oblivion. They’ve recently announced a team — perhaps an entire league — of guest stars for its one-hour season finale. Seems to me that if you’re signing off such a fan favorite, it may make sense to bring back some familiar faces. But bringing on nine additional names for no other purpose than to announce it half a month before the big finale? It all seems like a stunt to me and a desperate plea for attention. I can’t imagine sticking nine unrelated characters into a one-hour finale will really give me any sort of closure I need for the show (though to be fair, my closure came with Pam ran up to Michael Scott and gave him a final hug in the airport).
And really, do we need to emphasize the big stunts? Guest stars are a bane to my existence, especially when it seems like every other episode gets some other familiar face to join the cast. I’m sure Modern Family has had a few, and don’t even get me started on Big Bang Theory. They may use them effectively, but at some point, I just want to know that a show can stand on its own two feet.
And how about advertising a dog as a wingman in a promo for HIMYM? Stupid storyline? Or ridiculous publicity stunt?
Personally, I have the highest respect for those shows that really do want to feature their own cast doing something as simple as acting. Consider Happy Endings and New Girl. True, both have had some guest stars from time to time but for the most part, we’re getting the same group over and over. Of course, take that what you will. Happy Endings is still sitting in a hole, burning off episodes on Friday night. So clearly, stunt-free isn’t being appreciated.
Perhaps I’m just being too harsh. Or perhaps I just expect more from my comedy. What do you think? Are you interested in stunt-free programming? Or does the idea of bright and shiny faces, ridiculous premises, and silly antics grab your attention the way the networks want them to?