Pop Culture, our new focus here at Mind of Modern Man, has always been based in the world of television for me.
I am a former member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. My website TwoCentsTV was read by thousands of readers a month.
I got to meet some of my favorite celebrities, chat with television royalty and interview many many familiar faces.
I got married. We bought a house. We had kids. Then, I found myself in my 40s. My life was moving in a fantastic direction, and the incredible amount of time I spent in front of my television was filled with other things – from home repairs to changing diapers to cooking dinner to just trying to catch up on sleep!
Want to know the most surprising thing about all this? For a guy who was raised on TV and enjoyed it his entire adult life… I didn’t miss it. My life was full with all the other things going on and I didn’t miss the brainless plopping down on the couch and ‘zoning’ out.
I cut my cable bill – big savings and went all online. Now, I still watch shows. There’s some quality on TV, but without having to know EVERYTHING about TV – I could just focus on what I truly enjoyed. So, I surfed the networks, NETFLIX, Amazon Prime, YouTubeTV and everything else – seeing what I was interested in.
It dawned on me – when it comes to pop culture, especially TV, I like shows I can enjoy, like and root for the people I watch every week. It’s a trend that my favorite all-time shows have – I truly LIKED the people! The Office, Friday Night Lights, The West Wing – genius shows filled with humans you can root for and like.
Want to know why The West Wing season 5 sucked? Or why The Office was hard to watch after Steve Carell left? Because the writers turned the characters into jerks. Toby was mad at everyone. President Bartlett was always fighting with someone. Jim and Pam were hinting at being unhappy. Robert California was an AWFUL man. Was like watching an ex, who you truly loved, dating a real tool or letting life just beat them down. Painful to watch.
It’s why all those “greatest show” ever lists always bothered me. Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, even the new Fleabag… Who do you root for? Who do you LIKE? I don’t debate that the acting and most of the writing is superb, but when I have a few scarce hours a week to watch TV – I want to LIKE the people I’m watching.
So… what DO I like to watch now? What does this old man (sounding cranky over the past few paragraphs) actually sit down and watch as his “stories”?
First and foremost, I’ll be honest. Repeats of The West Wing are still the best TV I can find. I’ve watched the entire series all the way through tens of times, and I still enjoy it every.single.time.
But, aside from re-living the genius of Aaron Sorkin, there are some currently airing shows I enjoy.
This Is Us – NBC
This is one of the last shows I fell in love with as a critic. It was the first season and as I watched an advance screening of the pilot, and witnessed the ending that gave away how this show would jump time before our very eyes, I said to myself – DAMN – THIS SHOW IS GOING TO BE HUGE! I was right! (I’m not always right – after seeing the pilot of The Big Bang Theory, I thought it would be canceled before mid-season.)
My wife and I enjoy catching up with Jack, Rebecca and the Pearsons every week. We laugh, cry, scream and LIKE the people!
God Friended Me – CBS
This isn’t a show I ever would have looked for. A friend suggested it, so we tried it out and my wife and I were hooked. A weekly mystery where the cast tries to wrap their minds around helping a lost soul – and in the process, searching their own. And.. it’s not really religious if the title scared you away – the main character is actually an atheist! The cast is great and all names (who you may not know now, but have seen in many other things) that will break out from this show when it ends.
Superstore – NBC
Created by one of the minds who worked on The Office, this show is a hidden gem people are missing out on. America Ferrera, Ben Feldman, Colton Dunn and Mark McKinney (yes, the guy from Kids in the Hall) lead this really funny, touching and unexpected show.
FOR HER – Call The Midwife – BBC/PBS
Taking place in the 1950s/60s in the East End of London, this show focuses on a group of midwives and nuns who live together and help the newborns (and their families) all around the area. It’s a great feel-good show that has some fantastic stories. Truth be told – a few of the maladies that the babies are born with/go through are a bit tough for me to watch, so I zone in and out while my wife watches – but the show is very good.
FOR HIM – The Mandalorian – Disney+
Are the 8 episodes of Season One of The Mandalorian worth the price of Disney+? Yes. The answer is yes. This show captures the essence of Star Wars for the fans that grew up with it in the 70s and 80s. Each episode speaks to the history of the beloved franchise while forging its own path in the universe.
Familiar names, locations and more, but a cast of new characters that you can instantly fall for and root for!
Also… has there been a TV-related phenomenon bigger that Baby Yoda in recent memory?
That it. Sure, a lot of my TV time is filled with Paw Patrol, Fancy Nancy, and Daniel Tiger, but the shows above are all enough to fill the hours after the Littles are snoring away in their beds.
Do you have suggestions for shows where you really root for and care for the characters? What else should I be watching?