A couple of months back filmman did a post on several movies that he couldn’t understand why they were considered classics. Inspired by that, I’ve decided to start off a similar discussion on TV series and have listed a couple of acclaimed TV shows whose appeal I’ve largely missed. I could’ve listed more but decided to limit it to ones that would be known internationally.
Curb Your Enthusiasm –Despite the enormous critical acclaim and cult popularity it has received and despite me being a big fan of ‘Seinfeld’, it took me a long time to getting around to seeing this series. Indeed, the fact that Larry David was the star and creator of this show made this more appealing as I felt ‘Seinfeld’ went into dismal decline in its last couple of seasons once he left.
I eventually got around to watching Series 1 (made in 2000) recently and while it did have some inspired moments, overall not only did I not find it particularly funny but at times it was an ordeal to get through as David’s character is either such a obnoxious dolt or he is put in such painfully awkward situations that it’s painful to watch. Sure, you could argue similar things about ‘Seinfeld’ but imo they were a lot more entertaining to watch.
Even the genuinely funny moments (such as the obituary in the ‘beloved Aunt’ episode) were usually based on a Borat-style shock humour instead of genuine wit and cleverness.
If I’d watched this when it was released back in 2000, I would’ve said it was a vastly inferior, lazy retread of Seinfeld and would never catch on. So much for what I know.
M*A*S*H – There’s probably no other series from the 1970s that has endured as much as this show did. Here in Australia, it has been repeated constantly on both free-to-air and pay-TV since it finished its run over 25 years ago and continues to have a strong following. It was enormously popular with critics over the course of its tenure, being nominated for multiple Emmys in each of its 11 seasons. And today, it’s probably considered the highpoint for American sitcoms in the 1970s.
But for all that, while I’ve enjoyed aspects of the show it’s never been a show I’ve particularly admired. In part because most of the characters were tediously one-note; Frank Burns was almost always obnoxious and stupid, Sherman Potter is always shown to be wise, Hawkeye Pierce always is rebellious yet does the right thing, etc… Even by sitcom standards the character behaviour I found regularly telegraphed and that made the show rather deadening for me.
The other reason I’ve never really taken to the show is in relation to the 1970 Robert Altman directed film that it came from. That film had a much more harsher tone and with more layered, believable characterisations. The heroes of the movie Hawkeye and Trapper John almost venture into ‘anti-hero’ territory in that while they often attack those who deserve ridicule, they on occasion can be abrasive and cruel. These ‘anti-hero’ elements were absent from the TV version (perhaps not surprisingly considering the medium) and on occasion heavy-handed moralising took its place (especially in the latter seasons of the series). In that context, it’s no surprise that Altman apparently hated the TV series.
Today the reputation of the M*A*S*H TV series has probably surpassed that of the movie, which is understandable in a way because – having gotten rid of the rougher elements of the film – it became a much more agreeable package for a wider array of people. But imo the film is clearly the superior effort.
Anyway, feel free to add your ‘classic’ TV shows over the years that you think are overrated.