In the era of TV on DVD, On Demand, Netflix, *coughdownloadingcough*, etc., you can catch up on a show at pretty much any point. Someone recommends a series to you, and the whole thing is at your fingertips.
It used to be that maybe a handful of people in your life would recommend a TV show, or a movie, or a book or a band to you. But if you’re following 900 people on Twitter, there’s a good chance that forty people are saying Girls or Homeland (or The Carrie Diaries, I guess, depending on who you’re following) is their new favorite show and YOU GUYS EVERYONE SHOULD WATCH IT NOW. Social media and the rest of the Internet has increased our circles of influencers and amplified their voices exponentially. And so you run into the problem of hype.
I ran into the hype problem with Homeland a few months ago. It seemed as though all of Twitter was raving about the show. It was winning awards. My friends and readers were urging me to watch. I finally did. And… I thought it was OK. Why didn’t I like it as much as everyone said I would? Because I had two full seasons to catch up on and, a) Season One didn’t live up to the intense hype that had built up in my particular world and b) Season Two was a major letdown for pretty much everyone, therefore intensifying the disappointment I felt when the show didn’t live up to the positive chatter surrounding it.
Now I see this happening with Girls. I recently re-watched much of season one with a friend, and I tried to temper his expectations as much as possible. I knew that the way I related and reacted to the show likely wouldn’t be the way he would, so I tried to play it cool. When I talk about Girls, I pinpoint the moment I fell in love with the show – a tactic that has worked on me in the past. When a friend introduced me to Happy Endings, he knew “Dave of the Dead” (Penny becomes a hipster) would be the episode to sell me on the show. A Twitter pal told me to hang in there with Cougar Town until the Thanksgiving episode, because that’s when the show finds its voice – she was right. I think it’s a well-known fact now that the first season of Parks and Recreation isn’t anywhere near the caliber of the rest of the series.
With Girls, most people will tell you the moment comes at the end of the third episode, when Hannah and Marnie dance to a Robyn song in their apartment. Hell, it’s even the song they played when Lena Dunham won all those Golden Globes. But now that the show has won awards and built a small, loyal fan base, new viewers say the show doesn’t live up to hype surrounding it.
Girls is, without a doubt, not for everyone. It tells a pretty specific story, it’s uncomfortable and makes you cringe as much (if not more often) as it makes you laugh. The characters can be incredibly unlikable. If you were to poll ten Girls viewers about their least favorite characters, I think almost every name would be mentioned by at least one person. It is absolutely possible that you might think the show just kind of sucks. When people love a show, they often can’t believe you don’t like it too – they’ll say “Well wait til you get to the cabin episode” or “You’ll really come around when you see The Crackcident.” But sometimes a show just ain’t your thang, and luckily no one has a gun to your head while you’re watching it. Another result of the culture of social media is pressure to feel in on the conversation all the time. If “everyone” is watching a show, you feel left out of the cultural zeitgeist and, if you’re anything like me, that just won’t do. But at some point, you need to be able to say “This was obviously not meant for me” and call it quits. (Hi, Boardwalk Empire! Hope you’re doing well!)
So how much should hype play a factor in your opinion of a show? If possible, not at all. My new goal is to keep my expectations lowered when diving into a show that everyone loves. If I’d taken what people were saying about Homeland with a larger grain of salt, I probably would have enjoyed the series more. When someone asks me about Homeland now, I say it’s absolutely worth watching if you have the time and interest – but I have a pretty long list of other shows I like more. Mad Men, The Wire, Breaking Bad and Sherlock to name a few. I’m no longer going to let “it didn’t live up to the hype” be a reason that I don’t like something.
It’s easier to consume pop culture if you judge it solely on its merits and not in direct relation to what everyone else told you about it. Otherwise, you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment every time.
Now go watch all the shows I review. They’re all the best ever, you’re bound to love them.