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Search Party, Tiger King and Black Summer, some of the shows that were started, but not finished, in 2021. Image: Getty/Tina Tiller

Pop CultureFebruary 9, 2022

In 2022, I pledge to finish some damn shows

Search Party
Search Party, Tiger King and Black Summer, some of the shows that were started, but not finished, in 2021. Image: Getty/Tina Tiller

Last year, I tried to scale the summit of peak TV. I failed. This year’s going to be different…

Standing against a dodgy backdrop, with a handheld camera pointing straight at his face, Cary Dubek twitches nervously as he stares down the lens. With equal parts eagerness and embarrassment, the wannabe actor prefaces his big audition, his moment to shine, his chance to break through, with an introduction. 

“Hi, I’m Cary Dubek and I’m reading for the role of ‘Man at party who smells fart’.”

That moment is when I thought I’d found it, the antidote to Auckland’s enforced five-month staycation of 2021. It comes in the first episode of The Other Two, last year’s hot lockdown binge-watch that follows the exploits of the two hapless siblings of a Justin Bieber-esque teen superstar called – what else? – Chase Dreams.

With great characters, a rapid joke count and vicious swings at the fame game, it took just one episode to fall in love. After another day working from home, emotions tied intimately with the 1pm announcements while failing at home cooking and home schooling, The Other Two was the perfect evening escape, a routine I looked forward to. 

Halfway through The Other Two’s second season, I ruthlessly stopped watching. I just straight up gave up. Quit. Done. Finito. I never went back.

The same thing happened with Search Party. Alia Shawkat is absolute dynamite in this shape-shifting show, one of my favourites from the past five years. It begins as a millennial missing-persons mystery but keeps reinventing itself, turning into a murderous misadventure, a courtroom drama and an examination of the fickle nature of friendship and the diabolical effects of fame.

How does it end? I don’t know. During the same 2021 lockdown, when Neon began screening its fourth season, I watched it, loved it, then inexplicably bailed. Once again, I was about halfway through. Once again, I had no apparent reason. I was out, onto the next thing.

Across last year, this exact thing happened dozens of times. Like a stressed out meerkat, my attention kept getting stolen by other things. Many critics hailed 2021 as the best yet for television, the absolute summit of peak TV.

I tried, I really did, to climb those peaks. I wanted to see what everyone was talking about. It was to no avail.

Here’s a short list of all of the TV shows I started, and did not finish, in 2021: Loki, The Righteous Gemstones, Good Grief, Foundation, Raised By Wolves, Yellowjackets, Only Murders in the Building, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Sex Lives of College Girls, Scenes From a Marriage, Allen v Farro, Ted Lasso, Dexter, Catfish, Immigration Nation, Tiger King’s second season, Dirty Money, Trapped, The Shrink Next Door, For All Mankind’s second season, Vigil, I Think You Should Leave, Mythic Quest, Master of None’s third season, Line of Duty’s first season, Wandavision, Mare of Easttown, The Panthers, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Invasion, Nine Perfect Strangers, What We Do in the Shadows, and Dopesick.  

(The Sex and the City sequel And Just Like That could also be on this list, but I lasted so little time – just long enough to hear Carrie say she makes podcasts now – that it didn’t seem fair.)

Here’s an even shorter list of all the shows I managed to finish: The White Lotus, Succession and Squid Game.

Why am I doing this? Why do I start, then quit, so many shows? What televisual nirvana am I searching for? I put this madness, this constant search for something new to take my mind off the mundane, down to the pandemic. The constant stress of, you know, staying alive, meant some things needed to take a back seat. For me, that was every TV  show I was watching, every couple of weeks. 

Or perhaps I was looking for just one thing: murderous mayhem and vicious savagery. By some country mile, my favourite show of 2021 was the relentlessly violent pandemic zombie survival show Black Summer. In it, main characters are offed regularly, everyone is a villain, blood is a given, and cameras zoom up so close you can see individual nose hairs twitch.

One of those survivors is Lance, an anxiety-riddled nice guy entirely unfit for pandemic life. He hangs in there, pathetically, until he doesn’t. The result is some of the most compelling television I’ve seen, so overwhelming and edge-of-your-seat thrilling it became impossible to think about anything else, like my own pandemic survival.

I loved Lance. I loved Black Summer. I loved every single second I spent watching that show.

I never finished it.

In 2022, I pledge to try harder. Has anyone heard anything good about Landscapers?

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