The Art of the Mediocre TV Show

I want to set a scene for you. It’s 7:30 on a Wednesday. After a long day at the office, you’re back home and helping cook dinner, still in your work clothes because you’ve only been home for ten minutes or so. You’re stressed because of some things that happened at the office, but there’s nothing more you can do about them today so you just want to see if you can relax and maybe get a good night’s sleep before grabbing your chainmail, sword, and shield and trying to slay more proverbial dragons tomorrow. Dinner’s ready and now the only thing you have to do is pick a tv show to watch.

So what do you watch? You’ve already been through the really popular stuff like Breaking Bad, Seinfeld, Game of Thrones, and The Wire. You don’t have the energy to start something new, you don’t want to just re-watch The Office for the twelfth time, and you don’t want to start something that only has a couple of seasons because you’ll just be right back here trying to choose another show in a week or two.

What you need, my friend, is a mediocre tv show.

Mediocrity is King

44,078 Watching Tv Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

No aspires for mediocrity. No one sits down and says, “I’m going to write scripts for a show that will have at least eight seasons but somehow be so forgettable that within a year of watching it people won’t remember whether they watched it.” But that’s exactly what you need after a long day.

Life is short but time is long. You know what I mean? In the grand scheme of things the eighty or so years we have on this planet seems very short because of how old everything is. But then again the days seem long. Twenty-four hours? Yikes! And to deal with this cosmic temporal anomaly, you need a mediocre tv show. What are the pros and cons you ask?

Pros

Easy to Watch. The first pro is that mediocre tv shows are easy to watch. That’s kind of the point of them. And I don’t mean easy to watch as in “not mentally stimulating” or “shallow.” I mean easy to watch in that you can be playing around on your phone or having a conversation with your spouse or whatever and not really miss much.

Lots of Episodes. Generally a mediocre tv show will have a lot of episodes. This is great because it means you might have well over 100 and possibly even 200 or more episodes to watch, meaning you won’t have to spend any time thinking about watch to watch for a while. Some mediocre shows have even more episodes than that, though you have to be careful because normally by the time a mediocre show eclipses ten seasons they’ve had so many casting changes you might not even recognize some of the folks on there.

Some Genuinely Good Moments. How does a mediocre tv show end up with that many seasons? Because there are some genuinely good moments. Not Shakespeare or Steven Spielberg good, but good enough to create some genuine interest. Sometimes they come at the perfect time, like when the show has sort of dragged for three or four episodes in a row and you’ve actually been considering trying to find something new. It’s great.

Some Ridiculous Moments. Aside from the good moments, there are also some ridiculous moments that keep you hanging on. These ridiculous moments have to be moments that would be considered jumping the shark by a better show but are perfect for mediocrity. The best thing is that it’s always some serious moment that leads to you laughing with your spouse and saying “no f***ing way they just did that!” Someone gets saved because a piano fell on their assaulter’s head, an unlikely hero shoots the bad guy then says something way too hardcore for how much of a nerd they are, someone runs inside a burning building to save a puppy, etc. A moment that would suck in The Wire but works for a mediocre show.

Widely Available. There have been so many mediocre tv shows that they are wildly available. Every streaming service has at least a couple mediocre tv shows. They’re everywhere!

Cons

A Lot of Similarity. These shows tend to be pretty similar within a given genre. A mediocre police procedural show will have a lot in common with most other police procedural shows, so you will get similar storylines and ridiculous moments. The key is to not stay on one genre for too long a stretch. If you just finished watching a police procedural, switch to a comedy or drama. Diversity is key.

Embarrassing to Talk About. Sometimes watching a mediocre tv show can be embarrassing to talk about. When you’re talking with someone who has just gotten into a great tv show and they want to talk about it, sometimes it can feel awkward to say “Oh yeah The Wire is great but I’ve been watching [insert mediocre show here] and it’s . . . it’s got its moments, too.”

“Why is That Guy Familiar?” This will be a common refrain in your home if you watch mediocre tv shows. You see, there are a lot of random character actors who show up in a bunch of different mediocre tv shows, and if you watch enough of them they will become vaguely familiar to you, but because they’re always in mediocre tv shows you’ll forget what it was you saw them in. The good news is that mediocre tv shows allow you to IMDB that actor without having to pause because you probably won’t miss anything anyway.

Retirement Home Selection. Perhaps the biggest con to a mediocre tv show is that if you do go into any retirement, nursing, or assisted living facility you will almost certainly see the show you’re watching on the common area television. It can be a wakeup call, but you just have to power through that moment of doubt. You’ll also probably see it in dentist office waiting rooms.

Examples

You might have noticed that this article hasn’t actually named any mediocre tv shows. Well, all that’s about to change. Here are the examples:

Comedies
Everybody Loves Raymond' Reunion Scrapped After Doris Roberts' Death – The  Hollywood Reporter

Everybody Loves Raymond
Chuck
Dharma and Greg
30 Rock
The Bernie Mack Show
The Simpsons (Seasons 12–Present)
That 70s Show
Cougar Town

Police Procedurals

Castle
The Mentalist
Lie to Me
Bones
Literally every iteration of Law & Order
CSI and CSI: Miami
NCIS
The Blacklist

Dramas
Why 'Gilmore Girls' Endures - The New York Times

Madam Secretary
Scandal
How to Get Away with Murder
Suits
Boston Legal
Parenthood
Gilmore Girls
24

There are plenty more, but frankly I’m tired of typing. If you think of any, drop them in the comments and maybe we’ll revisit this at a later date. Have a great Wednesday, everyone!

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