People constantly ask me what shows I like. At every party I go to where I mention what I do, I get asked why I don’t watch X show or Y show. From years of watching TV, I’ve begun to realize -or rather be slapped in the face with the realization- that I have a type. There are key elements that I look for in a show in order for me to love it, and those elements came from preferences that I discovered in shows when I first started getting very into TV.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer:
It truly all started with Buffy. As a teenager or young adult or whatever I was when I was too cool for most things, I never found much on TV that I liked. I’d outgrown most of my Disney Channel days but none of the other shows that were out caught my eye. Not to mention, my mom was pretty anti-television. We barely ever had it on in my house. I was a bit late on watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer when it aired but there were reruns that played every morning at 7 am on FX. I don’t remember how I even came across them, but just after watching one I was hooked enough to set my alarm every single morning and wake up to watch them. Anyone who knows how much trouble I have waking up in the morning will know exactly how much that says about Buffy.
What really drew me in about Buffy Summers and the show as a whole was that she was the lead of a show that wasn’t a “girly show.” I got to like a character that kicked ass and fought bad guys. She was the one that got in and out of dangerous situations. She got saved from time to time but she wasn’t the damsel. No one was responsible for saving her, and when her love was doomed to be evil she put a sword through him. I became so passionately interested in all things Buffy, buying all the DVD box sets, even though they were 45+ dollars each at the time, and burning through them. Never had a show caught my interest and my heart the way Buffy The Vampire Slayer did, and never did a fictional character feel so much like someone I wanted to be than Buffy Summers. Sure the clothes were more terrifying than the monsters and the show as a whole had it’s ups and downs, but it was Buffy that showed me that I liked TV better when it was girls having true adventures. That lesson stuck with me in every TV show I chose to watch from that point forward.
Charmed set a bar in my television preferences that I don’t think any show I’ve seen since has ever touched. My favorite thing about the show, and the part that was most important to me was the interaction between all of the girls and their relationships as sisters and friends. Despite always hearing people talking about Piper and Leo or Phoebe and Cole or Prue and Andy and who was best for who, I didn’t care much about the romantic relationships in the show. Charmed was the show that taught me to look for more relationships in characters than just who they date, especially in girls. There was nothing that made an episode more compelling for me than seeing the sisters fight and make up or tackle something together, get together to save one of them, or support each other through some loss or experience. To this day I won’t ever forget that Phoebe’s greatest fear was losing a sister, a loss that I experienced in my own life. So far, no show I’ve ever watched has come close to the relationships between the sisters in Charmed, but a few are up there. It’s a bar I don’t take lightly.
Similarly to Buffy, the thing that stuck out to me about Veronica Mars with that the main character was a girl and that that girl was allowed to be the best at what she did. Actually that’s pretty similar to Charmed too. I did mention these shows shaped my TV preferences right? We’re sensing a pattern by now, I’m sure. Veronica was brilliant, witty, and determined. My favorite thing about her though, was that she was so tiny. Unlike the Charmed witches or Buffy who had powers that made them strong enough, Veronica was just a tiny, averagely strong woman. Her power came from her own mind and her own intelligence paired with her lack of fear. Veronica was the reminder that girls could be great and could be heroes just as they are. Arguably, almost all of the supporting cast behind her were males, and it was a cast that could have used some more awesome women like Veronica in it, but those guys were great. Even if they did doubt Veronica sometimes, they respected her.
The other thing that sticks out to me still about Veronica Mars is that for once, I cared about the romantic relationship in it. At first, I was hesitant to, since i had never cared about them in shows in the past. But Veronica and Logan (despite my arguments about whether or not their relationship was good for them) taught me that sometimes a romantic pairing can just be interesting writing, for what it is, and that there can be balance between plot, strength of character, and romance, even if it does seem hard to find in most shows.
Being an avid television viewer now, I get asked the exact same questions every time I bring up TV outside of the internet: “Do you watch Breaking Bad?” “Do you watch Game of Thrones?” “Oh do you like The Walking Dead?” “What do think of Sons of Anarchy?” I’m sure you’re getting the point. As a writer, a critic, and a general consumer of television, I can’t argue that these shows are bad. Never. They’re well written, interesting, well acted and more than that. It’s easy to see how well received they are by most audiences. I understand their appeal and their quality. But as a viewer, as someone who wants to love a character as much as I loved Phoebe Halliwell when I turn on my TV, and someone who wants to see myself in someone the way I did in Buffy, these shows will never speak to me. None of them tell the story of a woman’s adventure beyond the ability to fall in love. I’m admittedly picky about the shows I truly love. It takes a lot for a show to bring me from general viewership to passionately involved. But I know the things that I want to see and having seen them before, I know they can be done. Bad ass female is not exclusive to Buffy. There can be more of them. Sisters who truly care about one another is not exclusive to Charmed. It can happen again. Girls who are brilliant enough to hold the respect of everyone around them on their intelligence alone are not only allowed to come around once a decade. There are enough potential female characters in the world to tell stories endlessly. Oddly enough, just as many of them as there are men. I will always love a show infinitely more when I’m reminded of that.
Do you have shows that shaped your television preferences? Or thoughts about these shows? Put em down in the comments!