Kicking the Habit: Why It’s Easy to Give Up on Some TV Shows and Hard to Give Up on Others

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As you may have noticed, I stopped writing about Wilfred a couple of weeks ago, not because I stopped watching, but because I couldn’t bring myself to care enough about it to put my fingers to the keyboard and type 400+ words about it. The show has thus far been a mixed bag. I like the concept, and Jason Gann and Elijah Wood have great comic chemistry, but the execution usually falls flat. For that reason, I’ve voiced my disappointment about the show in various fora, both on- and offline. But to my dismay, in those fora, I’ve been met with the question: “So why are you still watching?”

My knee-jerk reaction, if I’d chosen to express it, would have been, “Why the hell do you care? It’s none of your business why I do what I do.” In many cases, being asked why one is still watching is a way to dismiss legitimate complaints as mindless kvetching from the peanut gallery, and it detracts from valuable discussions of a critical nature.

However, I still think it’s a valid question. Though TV viewers are far from the hyperrational model of Homo Economicus espoused by the mathematically-inclined, they don’t subject themselves to torture for no good reason. It’s therefore odd that so many people watch TV shows and perpetually complain about how awful they are (the cathartic benefit of complaining aside, of course). In the case of Wilfred, I can provide reasons for why I’m still watching: I like the ideas, I like the cast, and I think the show has the potential to improve. I stuck with Traffic Light for its entire run for similar reasons, despite the fact that the show almost never made me laugh:1 I loved its low-key vibe, and I sensed the possibility of improvement in its future (which never came because the show was cancelled. Oh well.)

But what about shows that have been running for a long time, or shows that used to entertain me, but no longer do? In those cases, the “I think it’ll get better argument” doesn’t work as well. I watch a surprising number of series like that. I recently realized that fact when I noticed that three of the series that I wrote about in my “Five Shows That Should Have Been Cancelled” post (henceforth referred to as “RR1”) a few weeks ago were also mentioned in my “Epic Fail” post (henceforth referred to as “RR2”) from last summer. In other words, this past season, I watched three series that I had vowed to abandon. After some self-reflection, I’ve been able to put some explanations for my TV watching habits to words. I can speak only for my personal experience, but I hope that the readers of this blog will be able to relate. After the jump, I’ll take a look at some TV shows that I’ve given up on or tried to give up on, as well as how fandom, critics, and other external factors may have affected my perceptions of those programmes. More

Episode Review: Wilfred, S1E04, Acceptance

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This is probably the last review that I’m going to write for Wilfred. There’s just not much depth or substance to this series. This week’s episode, “Acceptance,” had some good moments, but overall, it was underwhelming, just like the entire show has been thus far. More

Episode Review: Wilfred, S1E03, Fear

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One of my biggest problems with Wilfred is this: it’s wildly inconsistent, even within the span of a single episode. The conversations between Ryan and Wilfred continue to be a highlight, but the show’s side characters are, well, just as annoying as Ryan thinks they are. More

Episode Review: Wilfred, S1E02, Trust

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That was better. Much, much better.

I wasn’t a fan of last week’s pilot episode, but I did express some optimism that the show could improve. And improve it did. This week, Wilfred delivered a far cleverer, more engaging installment. More

Episode Review: Wilfred, S1E01, Happiness

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Wilfred is a very, shall we say, unique show. A remake of an Australian series of the same name, it stars Elijah Wood of The Lord of the Rings fame as Ryan, a severely depressed former lawyer.1 His new next-door neighbour, Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) owns a dog named Wilfred. But there’s a twist: while the rest of the world sees Wilfred as just a regular dog, Ryan sees him as a foul-mouthed, beer-drinking, pot-smoking Australian man in a dog suit (played by Jason Gann). Though Ryan and Wilfred start off on the wrong foot, they eventually form an awkward, drug-fuelled friendship. That’s certainly a one-of-a-kind premise, and in theory, the fact that Ryan sees Wilfred differently from the rest of the world should provide ample fodder for jokes. It’s surprising then, that Wilfred is so formulaic and unfunny. More