Every TV season the networks hope to lure in viewers for their new programs, and that will require a lot of pre-publicity on the shows. When deciding what you are going to watch, a lot of judgment goes into trying to decide what you are going to watch and what is not worth your time. Over the last three TV seasons, I have come to learn that I cannot trust my initial assessment of shows based on preview material. I can name six shows, two from each of the last three seasons, that I was convinced were going to suck, and now are shows I don’t want to miss.
These shows are Once Upon a time, Grimm, Arrow, Hannibal, Sleepy Hollow, and The Blacklist.
So what was it about these shows that caused my initial dismissal of them, and what do they have that has made them appointment viewing?
Let’s find out.
For the first question, my answer is that I didn’t think any of them would be a sustainable series and be able to get up to nine episodes. For everything, but The Blacklist, a big part of my negative view was due to their being adaptations. Once Upon a Time and Grimm took it a step further, in that they were both shows using fairy tales as their basis, and I figured one would eventually cannibalize the other. In the case of Arrow, it was another superhero show on the CW and so I was expecting another watered down and drawn out story like Smallville. Hannibal was doubted because I didn’t see how a network TV show could possibility go to the dark places that the story would demand. With Sleepy Hollow I will admit that I assumed it was going to be a Twilight like take on the story. Finally, The Blacklist just seemed to be a thin premise that I could not see sustaining a season believably.
Clearly, I was wrong on all counts.
Once Upon a Time and Grimm are nothing alike, I don’t even think of them as having a common origin point anymore. Arrow is not watered down in the least. Watching Hannibal I am regularly shocked at how far the network has allowed this series to push the imagery. Sleepy Hollow, while nothing like the story that inspired it, is not following in the Twilight path. And The Blacklist is a fun series that teases at a greater mystery.
But I think there is more to it than my being wrong in my initial assumptions. All of these shows have two things in common that make me tune in week after week.
First is the fact that there is focus on characters and their story arcs. I am invested in what happens to these people and want to see where they are going. Even the worst written of these six shows (Once upon a Time) has me hooked by this, even for the villains.
The other thing is the overall story and series mythology. Each show is going somewhere and doing it at a good pace. To use Smallville as an example again, they dragged out their main arc, Clark Kent becoming Superman, for 10 years. By the end, it just felt ridiculous. In contrast. Arrow dealt with its main arc (Oliver going after the people on his father’s list in the first season) and wrapped that up; Once Upon a Time also wrapped up its main arc (breaking the curse on Storybrooke) in the first season. Both of these series then went on to have new arcs in their following seasons.
So good characters and good story pacing, really this is what we should want from any series.
And to wrap up, I would like to point out that I am not always wrong. I had bad feelings about both Dracula and The Tomorrow People. I was not wrong. In fact the only reason I am still watching Dracula is to give it a fair shot for when I review it, so you have that to look forward to.
If you have not checked out any of the series I have focused on here, I would recommend giving them a try. Of course, we will have to see how the rest of the season plays out. And maybe we will visit them again after this season is over.