FeaturesOctober 24, 2014

Boxset Orphans: Knowing When to Quit on a Show


Jesse Mulligan knows well the peril involved in finding a mutually satisfying show upon which your marriage can depend. //

Left wing blogger and twitter grump Giovanni Tiso declared recently that he was abandoning True Detective. “What a show”, he tweeted. “Great photography. Wonderful acting and script. Jesus. So boring. We gave up after 3 episodes. Fuck that shit.”

We went through the same thing at my house. Watching Matthew McConnaughey sit in a small office applying for an Emmy for three hours isn’t my idea of fun. And it was hell for my wife, who had to deal with the twin indignities of nothing happening on the TV and me yelling “GET OFF YOUR PHONE YOU’LL MISS SOMETHING” every time she tried to find something else to do.

I was worried about becoming a boxset orphan you see, abandoned part way through a series that I would then have to finish in my own time. And if I did finish it, I wouldn’t have anybody to talk about it with so what would be the point? I might as well read a fucking novel.

At least True Detective only has eight episodes. The last one she left me with was The Wire, part way through S02E01 (episode 14 of 60), officially citing “I hate things on boats” as the reason, but more I suspect because she couldn’t stand another whole season of trying to work out who all these people were and what they were saying.

I’ve bailed on her, too. I left Magic City as soon as I realised that I didn’t care about any of the people I’d spent six hours getting to know. If it wasn’t for all the boobs (a disappointingly rare thing in a US show) I doubt I would have lasted as long as I did.

More controversially, I’ve just ditched Orange is the New Black. My objections were partly political (when is Hollywood going to write some decent roles for men?) but mostly boredom – it was too slow for me, and there weren’t enough jokes. Every woman I know LOVES that show. Is it a guy thing?

TV show compatibility is a cornerstone of the modern marriage, so it’s much more satisfying to walk away from something together, feeling mutually affirmed in your smug world view. After the plot desolation of OITNB I had high hopes for The Blacklist, where there are no red herrings, no character development and something exciting happens every 13 seconds. But it wasn’t for us.

The formula wasn’t sustainable – five episodes in it became clear that this was just a fancier CSI, with one baddie per episode, apprehended or killed in the final few minutes with some decreasingly tantalising clue to the overall plot arc dangled at the end to make you watch another one. Plot momentum is all very well, but when every single lead captures a crook, things get boring in a new way. We left them to it, and abandoned something we both hated in order to find something we both loved.

That’s how we came back to Jack. 24: The Empire Strikes Back, or whatever it’s called, revives one of the greatest boxset franchises of all time and sets it in London. Best of all, this season is only 12 episodes long so the temptation to give it up and find something with, say, a bit less brutal torture in it doesn’t really come in to play.

We haven’t finished it yet, but we will. Jack will have saved the planet again and, more importantly, he’ll have saved our suburban weeknights. And then we’ll be looking for something new – something beautiful, accessible and indulgent for her, yet interesting, surprising and plot-driven for me. Maybe it’s finally time for Game of Thrones? But considering how brilliant it’s meant to be, could our marriage possibly survive if one of us didn’t like it?


Find out if you feel the same way as Jesse about 24, The Blacklist or Orange is the New Black by clicking here to watch them on Lightbox (Free for the first 30 days, with a freaking free pizza if you sign up before the end of Labour Weekend 2014).

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