500 Channels and Nothing's On: DaVinci's Demons, This is 40, Spies of Warsaw Strike Out

Actually, it's more like 900+ channels, never mind all the streaming and such. But let me just discuss our Odyssey of attempting to find something palatable this evening.

We started with DaVinci's Demons, which airs on Starz but we sought it out On Demand because we've missed the first episodes. Turns out we haven't been missing much. Thing is, it's such a cool concept. And David S. Goyer has a decent track record. We loved FlashForward (but were apparently some of the only people on the planet who did). Still, after 10 or so minutes of DaVinci, we were done. The show simply tried too hard. Out of the gate it was piling on this conspiracy plot, not letting it build so much as throwing it at us; if it had been a comedy routine, it would have been a pie in the face. Meanwhile, Leonardo's dialogue was some clunky exposition about not being able to remember what his mother looked like. And then, while going through a marketplace, his speech became patently designed to show us how forward thinking he is as he went on about cultures and heresy. Ugh. Why not try developing the characters? Instead of serving them up on platters?

The look of the show, too, with its all too obvious digital effects, moments of sped-up film, over-saturated colors . . . It looked a bit like those old Hercules and Xena shows. And that's not a compliment.

Okay, so we turned that off and moved on to This Is 40, thinking maybe we were more in the mood for some laughs. This is a Judd Apatow movie, one that stars Paul Rudd and got pretty good reviews. Turns out it's not at all funny though. And there's no real plot. It just sort of meanders along as Rudd and his wife face turning 40. Mid-life crisis stuff. Family and money problems. After 20 minutes we realized there were still two more hours to go, and unable to face it, we turned it off.

Last batter: Spies of Warsaw. Because I'll watch David Tennant in just about anything. And this has been sitting on the DVR for a while now. But . . . I just couldn't focus on what was going on. Not in the right frame of mind. Didn't get even 10 minutes into this one before turning it off and saving it for later.

We decided it wasn't a TV night and went in for Trivial Pursuit (Classic Rock version). Which, as it turns out, we play as if Scott were Jeff on Community and I were Annie. By which I mean, he tries to give me hints and I try to make educated guesses, but I'm smart in all the wrong ways for such a game. And he tries not to laugh at me and hurt my feelings, and he pats me on the head a lot. But I won! With a fair number of hints, anyway . . .

Truth is, with so much out there to choose from, television shows and movies really do have to step up their games. I no longer have time, nor am I inclined to waste valuable time on anything that's just "okay." A few years ago I probably would have stuck out something like DaVinci's Demons, if only for something to watch/do. But there's so much out there I enjoy more—better shows, other things to do (like board games, reading, writing, enjoying the weather)—a middling show will no longer cut it. I already watch Game of Thrones; do I really need or have room for something like DaVinci on my schedule? Answer: not if it's not great.

And that's hard for shows to do. A lot of programs get shot down because they don't build fast enough, don't start out of the gate at a run. We turned off This Is 40 for that reason. But then I see something like DaVinci and it tried too hard to grab and go, and that's just as bad as not going at all. It should seem effortless. A show should be interesting in the way a conversation at a neighboring table in a restaurant might be interesting: you find yourself listening in spite of yourself. You come in somewhere in the middle, but you gather just enough context to follow what they're saying, and you're hooked. You almost want to get up and go over and join the discussion. That's what a good television show does to you. If you catch on that the whole conversation has been staged, designed to draw you in—hey, I know a phony when I hear one. That's just bad acting (and writing, and directing, etc.).

As for Spies of Warsaw, I'm sure it's very good. I just don't know if/when I'll be in the right mood for it. Seems like more fall/winter fare. Might try it again then.

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