Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Rhetoric of Expectations: Question of the Day

Big Television week for Megs and I. Well, not really, but we do try albeit rather poorly.

But this leads to the question of the day: what is the proper form for a new television series (with form meaning, according to Kenneth Burke, the creation of certain appetites in the minds of the audience members- see Counter Statement) ? What should a viewer expect from a new series (or a new season e.g. Weeds)? How long do you give a show that sits on the edge of being watchable? Or, at what point do you begin to use the time to watch the paint dry or to catch up on the academic murder mystery books that piled up on the shelf?

Please note: there may be a difference between shows the broadcast on the premium channels, which, I imagine, creates a unique form or carries a different set of expectations from the regular broadcast channels.

The back story: This week we started to watch Showtime's new show, Nurse Jackie, starring Edie Falco. The show concerns a NY City Nurse dealing with, well, being a nurse, which is the signature twist from other medical dramas, as I am told, personally, by the producer, as other shows just focus on doctors for the lead roles. Simple enough. And since I do not watch other medical dramas and I am only watching this one because of Edie Falco, I do not know if the producer is right or wrong.

As for the story: the main character is both a saint and sinner: a saint for helping those in need; a sinner for abusing painkillers, having affairs, and abusing patients as the situation dictates. She deals with patients, family members, doctors, administrators, and whatever else walks in the door. There is little that occurs outside of the hospital: lunch with a doctor and some family interaction and both seem to distract from the story.

After two episodes (via On Demand), I have very little feeling for the show. It is okay though I am not sure if I would miss it if I stopped watching it. Nurse Jackie is certainly not as high on my TV list as the Sopranos, Big Love, The United States of Tera, or even Entourage, where I needed to be in my seat minutes, if not hours, before the show begins. Instead, it exists on the True Blood or Weeds plane, where if I catch it, I catch it; if I miss it, oh well. Maybe I have time for On Demand latter.

I am thankful the show is only twenty-five minutes in length. If it were an hour, it would be too much.

There seems to be some depth and intrigue in the show but I am not sure if I want to stick around to try and understand why she became a "realist," why she removes her wedding ring when she goes to work, or why she is having an affair. Instead of attempting to discuss these aspects in the first two weeks, the show just plays on the good/ bad tropes of hospital life: Nurse Jackie displays a sense of charity by helping some patient or showing compassion for some patients while demonstrating a sense of moral superiority by mistreating or yelling at others. Of course, because of her own moral failings and an absence of character development, the attitude that reveals her moral superiority seems "blah" at best. And, yes, blah is a technical term.

Thoughts? Has anyone else seen the show? What are your experiences with other shows? How long do you continue to watch before the "blahness" takes over? What is the "turning point" at which the show meets the acceptable form and you continue watching or you reject the show and find something else to do?

5 comments:

Oxymoron said...

Haven't seen that show, Solon. But I usually don't give a show too long before I find something else to do. Usually there's nothing else on that's worth watching (which always amazes me given the hundreds of channels we have), or Mrs. Oxy has the remote control (and if I don't like something, she usually does). At that point, I grab the computer, find my earbuds, and go to youtube.

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