I like scary and edgy shows. A lot of people do. Breaking Bad is a runaway success. The Aliens franchise spanned decades. Why would we continue to watch a show that is so intense that it makes us uncomfortable? There are a number of possible explanations. They validate our feelings of good and bad. We experience endorphins and serotonin after all those stress hormones have finally played out. We get to be the good guy. We get to see justice played out.
However, there’s only so much I can take. I don’t enjoy “torture porn”. I don’t enjoy shows like Saw that showcase inescapable acts of extreme pain. I especially don’t like seeing children or women being hurt in real time. I don’t like animal rescue shows that show the hurt animals – I’d rather they wait until the animals have had treatment. Shows that I used to enjoy when I was younger are too visceral for me now: Wire in the Blood, or Se7en. I have joked with my friends that I’d love Law and Order: SVU if they took out all the raping and child-crime. Maybe they can have Law and Order: Forensic Tax Crime? If only crime shows didn’t have to be so violent!
Compare that to Bones. Oh Bones, with your light-hearted banter and cutesy-pie chemistry. The crime is pretty much incidental to the character chemistry. Alright, so there’s a lot of suspension of disbelief and a good dose of silliness in order to make this show work. Well…
Here’s what I came up with: treat your television like you treat your food. Get your serious, intense course of television first, a show like Breaking Bad, and wash it down afterwards with a light bouquet of The Daily Show or even perhaps That 70s Show. Pair up a bitter edgy drama with a nice calming popcorn comedy. You should be left relaxed, not amped up, at the end of the evening. Get a little adrenalin with your first television experience, and chill out with your second. Example:
1. The Fall:
- Gillian Anderson.*
- Extremely well written.
- Fast paced.
- Adult sexual content.
Balance that out with…
- Pretty innocent stuff.
- Gross but not scary.
- Soft and corny humor.
- Good chemistry.
To me, television should exist to modulate your moods and enhance your experience. TV is food. Consume it wisely! I apply the same techniques to movie-watching. Requiem for a Dream was followed straight-up with some Spongebob Squarepants. For this reason I do prefer watching movies at home.
*Gillian Anderson demands an instant “must watch” for me, so I’ll bend my rules to watch her shows even if they are violent.