Liz Shannon Miller and Ben Travers, informally known as Team
TV here at Indiewire, spent a couple hours on Reddit today to talk to
fellow TV fans about, well, anything.
Redditors posed questions ranging from TV viewing rituals, to the amount of time Liz and Ben spend watching television, to opinions of Season 2 of “The Leftovers. Here are some of the highlights. You can take a look at the entire
Best show on TV, not
on a major network?
Ben: Though I’d be hard-pressed to define what qualifies as
a “major network” these days, I’m a fan of “Catastrophe” on
Amazon and “Kingdom” on DirecTV Audience Network.
Liz: Yeah, the “major network” thing is a really
hard one to define. But I’d say “BoJack Horseman” on Netflix also
doesn’t get a lot of attention. And if you enjoy period dramas, prestige dramas
and/or spy dramas, “Manhattan” on WGN America is worth checking out.
Six Feet Under is
regularly forgotten when critics and the public discuss the New Golden Age(TM).
In light of the regularly cited royalty (“The Wire,” “The Sopranos,” “Breaking Bad”),
in your opinion does it deserve mention as part of that canon? Does it hold up?
Liz: I think the thing with “Six Feet Under” is
that it was an incredibly important show for HBO during its time on the air. At that point, HBO was pretty much all male-skewing crime dramas and “Sex
and the City” (I remember watching HBO sizzle reels full of dudes and
feeling a bit bummed). But while I think that show had some truly great moments
and the acting was top-notch, the storytelling definitely got off track in
later seasons, which is why I think it’s gotten a bit left behind by history.
But it might be worth reexamining at some point, with hindsight.
Ben: Sorry to disappoint, but “Six Feet Under” never
grabbed me. I found its protagonists too unlikable to care about their
existential issues (a subjective grudge, I admit), and agree with Liz that the
writing got in its own way during the final few seasons. I’d add “Mad
Men” to the royalty list in its stead.
What’s your expectations from Leftovers season 2?
Liz: “Leftovers” Season 2 — guaranteed to be the same laugh-a-minute romp Season 1 was! I joke, but I am actually pretty excited. The interesting thing is that because they’re no longer adapting the book — Season 1 basically covered all that material — they’re really freed up to tell a new story. And the way they’ve jettisoned certain elements from Season 1 speaks to them having a potentially awesome vision for what’s to come.
Ben: My expectations are cautioned optimism. Internally, I am incredibly overeager, as Season 1 was as perfect as TV can get for me. Externally, I’m trying to be reasonable, as it’s so hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice.
Will The Leftovers Season 2 be a bigger disappointment than “True Detective: Season 2?
Ben: I’m not sure if that’s possible considering a multitude of factors:
a) “True Detective” was impossibly over-hyped heading into Season 2. Disappointment was really the only option for savvy TV viewers, and the dip in quality only exacerbated that problem.
b) “The Leftovers” does have one big issue working against it: Season 1 used up the majority of the book’s story, so the follow-up year is almost wholly original. That being said, I love the bold new direction Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta are taking the show. Ambition usually leads to good things, at least in my book.
Do you ever feel
overwhelmed by just how many great shows are on now? How do I prevent myself
from feeling that way?
Liz: Well, the answer to your first question is definitely
yes. But the glorious thing is that there’s so much diversity in what’s out
there right now that the simplest solution is also the best one: Figure out
what YOU like, not what critics say you should like. Try new things, especially
on new and emerging networks, and don’t beat yourself up about not falling in
love with something everyone tells you you should love.
Recommend one new
show coming in the fall? I wish the one based off limitless was more cool but
looks lame. The Matt Damon one looks like it could be good though!
Liz: So I don’t think the “Limitless” trailer does
it justice — I’ve seen the pilot and it’s got some fun quirks to it, and it
sounds like they have some interesting stuff planned beyond what you might
expect from a CBS procedural. I’d also say that “Man in the High Castle” is
gonna get dark but definitely feels exciting. And that one you can check out
right now and determine yourself. :)
Ben: Gotta go with “The Grinder.” Rob Lowe is
criminally underrated as a comedian, as his performance on “Parks and
Rec” should’ve been raking in awards left and right. Now he’s back with
another wild-eyed ball of energy, this time focused on skewering a genre ripe
for criticism (courtroom dramas). Great pilot with lots of possibilities.
What is your favorite
thing about working for Indiewire and your least favorite thing?
Liz: My least favorite thing is the tough choices we have to
make about what we do and don’t cover — because there really is a lot of
interesting stuff out there, and sometimes in the course of prioritizing, we
miss out on potentially great shows. (I’m a terrible person who’s only seen two
episodes of “Rick and Morty,” for example.)
My favorite thing is that that the above is my least
Ben: My favorite thing is the overall mission of the site.
Indiewire is focused on the discussion surrounding popular art, be it in film
or television. We have an intelligent readership with demanding taste and a
deep knowledge of the arts and the arts industry. That keeps the editorial
staff on its toes, and helps us produce some of the best analytical content on
the web. We’re driven to discover new shows on various mediums before others
because we’re constantly searching for quality, no matter the source. So, in
short, I like having a platform to expose great works of art that maybe you
haven’t heard of before.
My least favorite thing is that no one at the office wants to talk about
sports with me. Go Cubs!
“X-Files” revival: Are you more excited, worried, or some other
Liz: Expectations are set on very low, at this point. I was
at TCAs a few weeks ago when Fox aired a big clip from what I believe to be the
first episode — no spoilers here, but it was all very much in line with Chris
Carter’s writing and directing style, which hasn’t aged particularly well. I’m
very excited about seeing the characters return, and seeing what kind of
season-long arc they have in mind, and DARIN MORGAN IS WRITING AND DIRECTING AN
EPISODE, allegedly, and Darin Morgan is one of my very favorites. So I’m trying
to keep positive, but within limits.
Ben: I’m concerned based on all the things Liz mentions, but
remain optimistic about the revival overall. I try to remain positive about all
my beloved programs, even if signs point to a dip in quality. Getting pumped up
for a new show is a huge part of enjoying television in general, and I’m not
ready to deny myself that basic human emotion. I guess I’d rather be let down a
few times than become overly cynical toward a medium I love so much. (Note: Liz
is not cynical. Far from it. She’s just even more invested than I am and needs
to protect herself.)
When you are watching
specific shows, do you prepare yourself/surroundings differently? Any ritual
like things? Do you have rules on who you’ll allow to watch with you?
Ben: Great question!
For favorite shows, I do choose who I watch with very
carefully. I use the same rules that have always applied to my annual Oscars
1) No talking
2) You must be invested to be invited. (aka, you must care
about what we’re watching)
3) No inviting anyone without consulting with your host
4) I’ll bake treats and provide drinks, but if you want to
BYOB, that’s cool, too.
5) Dress code: formal
(Okay, maybe that last one only applies to the Oscars.)
Liz: This might be dorky, but when I’m getting ready for a
big binge-view, I’ll sometimes get a small bottle of champagne to toast the
first episode. (Added bonus: The sugar helps keep me awake.)
But my big ritual is saving special episodes as a reward for
completing other tasks. Like, right now I’m one episode away from finishing a
rewatch of “Veronica Mars” Season 1, but I’m saving that final
episode (which is great) for after I finish up the review of “Narcos”
that will consume the rest of my day today. “UnREAL” was also a show
I would deny myself until other things were done, because it was so incredibly
great. This makes me sound vaguely masochistic, I suppose, but whatever keeps
you productive, right?
Ben and Liz, how many
hours per week do you watch TV shows?
Ben: That is a figure I cannot compute accurately, but if I
had to guess…30-40 on average.
Liz: I might estimate the same for myself, but some of it is
TV that I’m rewatching or not watching for the purposes of writing a review or
prepping for an interview — and so it’s playing in a second screen while
working on other stuff. Different shows require different levels of attention,