Recently, I did a list on weird things that only happen in film and TV. Most of those things are that list were light-hearted oddities, so I thought I would do a list of things that happen in TV shows that really grind my gears.
Now I am not against music in films or TV shows, in fact I am not against musicals at all. Some of my favourite TV shows have musicals as their core – The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for example. But what I don’t love is when a TV show decides they need to do a musical episode. I don’t like being thrust into a musical without my consent and that is where my problem lies.
And I am going to go against the rest of the world and declare my hatred for what is considered one of the best musical episodes “Once more, With feeling” from the Buffy TV show. I’m so glad that Angel never went down that route, although having said that, the puppet episode was comedy gold. Now that hammer has dropped, let me explain why I hate musical episodes.
Firstly, it seems like many series usually do these episodes near the end of their run. It’s clear that they have run out of ideas, and they need some filler to stretch out the season. They also usually don’t have much to do with the actual story arc of the season (which becomes a handy mechanic so that they can be easily skipped – ED). So you end up watching the whole episode hoping for some new information, only to find you have wasted an hour of your life. Thankfully this is not so much an issue with streaming services, but when TV channels were the only option it was a bitch!
Most of the time, the actors should never have been allowed to sing. They were hired for their acting and not their singing – and when they are forced to sing, it really shows. And what is with the people who write the songs for musical episodes, they must just go to cringe school. Where are all the people that write those catchy tunes?
Lazy time jumps
Where they jump ahead months or even years so you feel like you are watching a whole new show. Now sometimes this can be done correctly. But more often than not it just, yet again, feels like lazy writing. Like they don’t know where to go with the story, so they jump to a new time, so they can make up a new story. I especially don’t like it, when it is done right after a cliffhanger. This for me is up there with the cliché – ‘It was all a dream’. If it’s not beneficial to the story, in that it would make sense, then TV shows should not do it. Don’t cheat me out of a whole arc, just because you can’t be bothered. And definitely don’t do it in a way that I get confused that I have missed an episode, so I waste my time trying to double-check – often going into the perilous land of spoilers.
Similar to this, is the distant finale which if you don’t know, is where they usually have a montage of what happened to the characters after the ending. Usually featuring the characters with bad makeup to make them look older. Yet again, there was no natural way the writers could think to get to that point, so let’s just cram it into a 10-minute bit at the end. Six Feet Under did this at the end of their run, and I have never forgiven them for it.
Explaining the plot over and over again
This tends to happen mostly on American shows, especially if they are procedural TV shows. Which to me, kinda defeats the point, as the story is practically the same in every episode. I don’t want it confusing as something like Dark, where to be honest, I forgot who was who after like the second episode – making it very confusing. But if something has happened 5 minutes ago, I don’t need another recap. Not only is it super insulting, like come on I’m not a goldfish, but it is just a waste of time that could be used for, you know, actual storytelling.
Close-ups of people eating or vomiting etc
There seems to be a thing lately where all film and TV makers are obsessed with forcing us to witness the actual vomiting. Back in the day, we just got the sound effects while they were in the background hunched over. But everything has to be real, so now that means simulated vomiting. Realism is cool and all, but nothing has to be that real. Are we now going to get to see people going to the toilet? I will just quit TV forever if that happens. And there is no place where seeing someone eat or brush their teeth, zoomed in, is ever helpful to the storyline or atmosphere. To me, it just feels like we might as well zoom in on people’s feet because that would be just as distasteful to me. Really it’s a miracle that I could get through Battlestar Galactica, considering that Bill Adama seems to be brushing his teeth every 5 minutes.
Fast cuts in fight scenes
I will never understand why they decide to do this. So you hire a bunch of actors and stunt people to create an epic fight scene then butcher it with editing. I might as well watch a slap fight, as that is just as entertaining. This is especially bad in the Christopher Nolan films, which you can see is done with intensity in his Batman series. I’m not sure if Nolan has created this as a feature of his film along with his terrible sound quality, or just unfortunate editing. (Honourable mention to Lethal Weapon 3, which features martial arts god Jet Li, yet manages to show almost none of his skills in fight scenes due to shoddy fast cuts – ED)
Token characters grind my gears a lot. Not only is it insulting to that actor and whatever section of society they represent but it is insulting to the viewers. I would like to think that audiences are smarter than producers think we are. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I think it would be far better to have deep and rich characters than a token just to fill whatever quota you think is appropriate these days. This isn’t to say that an ethnically diverse cast is a bad idea, but that including a one-dimensional, poorly written character to try and demonstrate your inclusiveness is probably less effective than leaving one out in the first place.
Same event, multiple views
This can be done really well, but more often than not, you just feel like you are watching re-runs. It feels like a device to prop up what is usually a really simple and often boring plot, by jazzing it up. This works more in comedy rather than action films, but unless it really syncs up well, its better left to the professionals than the apprentices.
It drives me insane when they do this. It is clearly pandering to basement dweller men, who get excited by on-screen woman on woman action. But with access to pretty much anything on the internet, it is just trite. And lesbians aren’t there just for the gratification of men. And it is no longer shocking at all, so when TV shows make a big deal out of it these days, I wonder where they have been for the last decade or more. Yes, I get it sex sells for sure, but again this is just falling back on lazy techniques to keep your audience engaged, rather than writing a compelling narrative.
When a comedy becomes serious
This is when a light-hearted show decides it needs to stop the funny and make a serious judgment about the world. Now maybe this was needed more back in the day, but now it just feels so insincere and cringe. Also, again, if I wanted to watch a serious show, I would have watched a serious show. I don’t need my TV shows to try to give me morals, they are probably the worst medium to get them from. My least favourite of the ones I remember, is probably the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air where they decide they need to tell us gun crime is bad. Thanks guys, if not for you, I would never have known!
Gore is the plot
Now I like a bit of gore in my films and TV shows especially in horror. But what I don’t want is where the gore supersedes the plot. If I was interested in watching a snuff film, I would go on the dark web or commit crime or something. If it’s not important to the plot, or at least entertaining, then stop trying to shock audiences rather than writing a good story. This unfortunately happens a lot with horror, as they have to up the game, so they have to create even bigger and badder villains, so go to extremes. Usually ending up with the villain being evil because he’s bored or just likes it – Negan in The Walking Dead anyone?
It seems from this list, that I really hate lazy story telling. But you know, I could watch many of the long-running shows like CSI, if I wanted to see rehashed stories.
What irritating feature in TV shows grinds your gears?