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F(l)o Show: The good, the bad and the ugly in TV genres

By Florence Lau | April 22, 2012

If you haven't already noticed from reading my column this semester, I tend to watch pretty specific genres when it comes to TV shows: cop shows, fantasy, sci-fi, and . . . well, Smash. Yes, Smash deserves its own category.

This week, though, just to switch things up, I'm going to talk about the genres I try and avoid, and why I don't like to watch those types of shows.

Let's start with horror, because this one is a hard and fast rule that I never break. I can't stand horror shows, probably because I'm a bit of a wimp. Even certain shows that are completely in my preferred genre of TV can sometimes scare the hell out of me.

I remember once, I watched an episode of Bones sometime in Season Two (remember when the show was actually good?) where Bones and Booth opened a fridge and there was a freaking severed head sitting there. I ended up staying up that night until the sun came up because every time I closed my eyes, I was sure a severed head was going to come get me.

It's not even the ghosts and monsters and such that get me when it comes to horror. It's just that seeing mutilated humans scares me beyond belief (which, I guess, begs the question of why I want to work in forensics. If you can answer this question, please find me and explain it to me). I mean, Doctor Who has some pretty frightening monsters, like the gas mask child in "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances." It's been over three years since I first saw that episode, but I remember hiding under my covers that night because I knew that if I looked up, a young boy in a gas mask would be standing over me saying, "Are you my mummy?"

If I have such strong reactions to shows that aren't designed to frighten audiences, clearly, I should just avoid all shows in the horror genre. That's one of the reasons I decided not to watch The River with my two suitemates earlier this semester. I didn't need another reason to stay up all hours of the night. I already get that from the horror of homework.

Another genre I tend to avoid is comedy, although not as strictly as I do with horror. I mean, I watch How I Met Your Mother, and that's definitely a comedic show. HIMYM does deal with serious issues presented in a lighter manner, though, so it's not all cheap gags and dirty jokes. Tragic things happen, the characters change, and everyone has some sort of depth.

But in general, I find comedy pretty boring, especially when they're comedies that depend on stock characters and clich??s, like GCB, where most of the jokes are based on stereotypes about Southern women and Christians. I can't see the characters as real people. They are mere caricatures to me, and unlike HIMYM, there's no change or growth and no sign of planned development in the future.

I like to watch TV for more than the laughs, and when it comes to comedy, that's the main focus of the scriptwriters. I want more substance, though, something for me to turn over in my mind and debate over with my fellow fans. I might be watching the wrong comedies.

That could be true.

I have heard many good things about Parks and Rec and Community, so I might just be a freak who has issues with fun and happiness and laughter. But so far, the comedies I've tried (GCB, Glee, and 30 Rock) have not satisfied me for reasons mentioned above.

The final genre I avoid is romance, and by romance, I mean shows that only focus on romance.

Obviously, I watch a lot of shows where there are pairings, usually between the main characters, and I can get pretty involved in those pairings. I'm what people in fandom call a "shipper." I like to look at pretty GIFs and read fanfiction involving the characters I want paired together. I spend time flailing over them with my friends after the episode airs and I speculate on how the pairing will eventually play out.

I'm fine with all of that, and it actually keeps the show interesting for me, what with all the drama and missed opportunities and such. It's just when the show starts to focus primarily on the romance that I get bored.

Luckily, a lot of the shows I've been watching lately have done the complete opposite. Showrunners and writers seem to have a fear of letting their two main characters get together too soon and alienating viewers who love the sexual tension (as I do) and so they let them circle each other for seasons upon seasons to the point where people just get frustrated at how silly those two characters are being. I can name a certain writer and cop duo that I just want to smack in the head with a frying pan and tell to stop acting like children. But despite the romance plot in Castle, there's always the crime of the week to focus on in each episode, giving the romance an external plot in which it can develop and grow organically.

I think, in the end, that's what is most important to me. Any show I watch needs to feel realistic and needs to grow with each season. Characters need to develop and become better (or at least more well-rounded) people. The problem for me with watching horror, comic and romance shows is that the plot is so often focused on one type of genre that there often isn't enough character development for me to enjoy the show past a couple of episodes, or at most, past a season.

Maybe that's why I stick to the few genres that I constantly talk about.

It's not the genre, per se, that I love. It's the fact that there are so few shows that have enough growth and organic change to satisfy me and to convince me that the show actually takes place in a realistic alternate world.

When I can find one, though, I watch the hell out of it, because finding a good show set in a realistic alternate universe is a way to escape the reality of (read: procrastinate on) tests and undergraduate stress in general.

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