Tell me about your favorite TV show

edited September 2008 in Directed Promotion
Primetime Adventures fans, it's time for me to start thinking about a new printing of the book.

And aside from some editorial issues, I'd also like to incorporate the feedback of people who play the game.

For starters, tell me about a current TV show that's PTA-esque, and why you love it. With your permission, I might include it in the next printing.

I already asked a couple people to talk about Burn Notice and The Shield and BSG. What else are you watching that's great?

-Matt

Comments

  • Hrm... Carnivale?

    Haven't played much PTA (sat in on a couple sessions, really, is all), but I've considered buying my own copy specifically to try doing that series.
  • edited September 2008
    The Wire, Matt, The Wire. I adore how it is about the city, and the characters are lenses - almost always complimentary and opposed - through which the city as an entity is viewed. So you get the rising and falling arc of a drug kingpin and his play for power, and it parallels the race for mayor. Or how the city schools are a twisted reflection of the police force. Wheels within wheels, sympathetic and reprehensible characters in opposition and concordance, gripping stories and story-telling. I like how each season is really an extended rumination that rewards steady viewing without losing the episodic punch of television. This last bit really reminds me of PTA.

    I hate TV but I love love love The Wire.
  • Mad Men is great. I love the way that Don Draper tried to invent his entire life out of nothing and then rode it off the rails. On the downside, it may be a little bit too much about the era to be great PTA fodder.
  • Skins on BBCA is a pretty good teen drama, and a really clear example of character focus. Each character has a pretty clear issue (usually involving parents and/or social acceptance) and each episode clearly focuses on one character (at least of the 5 or so episodes shown here so far, I understand the series has been around for a bit on the other side of the Atlantic). Watching the show after reading PTA, a few of the episodes struck me as being very similar to the Bootleggers example, just in a much different setting.

    Scrubs
    might be another example, but it's probably too long and meandering to be a great one. Likewise, House is probably too episodic and formulaic to really work.
  • Deadwood.

    I hate Battlestar Galactica, but it would be great as a game.
  • One more for Deadwood:

    Rich set of characters in an evolving, living society. Complications set in time after time that continuously challenges who the characters are and the values they stand for. The white hats are flawed and the black hats have sympathetic motives. And for the explicit cursing, violence and nudity in each episode. Lots of historical details.


    One more for Carnivàle:

    Rich set of characters with a long story arc that slowly rises to a conflict of biblical proportions. Again, the heroes are not perfect and the villains have the best intentions.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarI hate TV but I love love loveThe Wire.
    Me too. Me too. For all the reasons he mentioned.

    Seth Ben-Ezra
    Great Wolf
  • M*A*S*H*, still.
  • Burn Notice is a funny, hip show about an ex-CIA agent who has been "burned" (AKA fired) and is stuck in Miami until he can find out who burned him and why.

    To get by he takes odd jobs that typically use his covert ops skills, and he partners with a homicidal ex-girlfriend and an ex-spook who is feeding information on him to the FBI. Oh, and his estranged mother lives in Miami as well.

    I love that the show is supposed to be about covert ops and finding out the truth. But it's really about the main character's commitment and family issues.

    And the voiceovers the main character does during the show really add a lot to the experience. I'd love to see more use of voiceovers in PTA.

    I also love the use of Miami as a character in the show. Miami Vice did this back in the 80s, but Burn Notice really threads the feeling of being in places like South Beach into the narrative of the show. Their use of scenic montage to setup scenes is particularly interesting, and I think this could translate to a PTA game as well.
  • My favorite current TV show, and the best current TV show, is Pushing Daisies. It's contribution to PTA is that it hits a tone and just keeps hitting it and hitting it and hitting it and hitting it, in every aspect, from plot to character to voiceover.
  • The Wire is the best thing that's ever been on TV, but everyone knows that.

    I'm a big Veronica Mars fan. It's one of the few shows that manages to have an on-going season plot or mystery while still having mysteries that are solved during a single episode. Both matter, and never feel tacked on. Oh, and I think it's better than Buffy.
  • edited September 2008
    Aside from The Wire, the best thing on television is Gossip Girl, which is basically face-stabby emo-porn in the manner of a large swath of post-Forge indie play, just without swords. Also, watching The Wire and Gossip Girl back to back offers an incredibly enlightening picture of America and just what the fuck is wrong with us. (Note: I don't think that most of Gossip Girl's audience watches it with the same intentions that I do.)
  • edited September 2008
    Yes, yes, yes to The Wire, Deadwood, and Carnivale for reasons others gave. Where is the next great HBO show? Carnivale is particularly heartbreaking for all the plot threads it created that were never fully developed much less resolved before it was canceled.

    I love It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia but I think pure comedy is really hard to game. Sure, humor and funny situations arise in role-playing, inside of PTA or out, but rapid fire funny writing and characterization is hard (impossible?) to replicate live even for professional improvisers.

    My favorite current show that I would love to game is "Intelligence." I love crime drama and Intelligence would really translate well to PTA. It's character-driven, the characters are developed quickly and they all have clear agendas, but they are complicated. The plots twist on a dime, but always plausibly. There's a lot of good acting, but Ian Tracey (Jimmy Reardon) and Klea Scott (Mary Spalding) are particularly good. It's definitely one of the best crime shows I've seen. Almost as good as The Wire (though very different) and better than The Shield.
  • edited September 2008
    For me Burn Notice = The Rockford Files, just substitute spy stuff for con-artist stuff. I love it.

    Eureka is a great show.

    I haven't seen BBC's Primeval, but it's dinosaurs running around modern suburbia - what's not to love?
  • Posted By: Jonathan WaltonAside from The Wire, the best thing on television is Gossip Girl.
    Dude, you are a bad, bad person for mentioning this awful show. You have lost all cred. You have to do ten cool things to get back to zero.

    Plus they film scenes for it across from where I work.

    Posted By: nemomemeI love It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

    My favorite current show that I would love to game is "Intelligence."
    Dude. You are rad for mentioning Always Sunny. Possibly the funniest show on TV right now. I've been telling Harper to watch it, and he won't listen, the FOOL. I'm laughing just thinking about random bits on the show.

    Intelligence, I never heard of that one. I'll have to check it out.
    Posted By: Number6intheVillage

    I hate Battlestar Galactica
    OMG Banned! Banned for life from my thoughts!
  • Are we counting stuff that's airing outside USA?

    If so, my vote goes to Nodame Cantabile, which is going on its second season in Japan right now. A nice drama about the world of classical music, with a suitably narrow ensemble cast and a scope (first season, at least) that would work well in PTA.

    More generally, an anime or two wouldn't hurt as examples; I understand that the stuff is pretty popular in USA where other foreign tv has hardly managed the scrape the program charts.
  • Is everything on the CW (which has somehow turned into the channel about privileged white teenagers) worthy of being permabanned?

    Should I have admitted to a fondness for certain cross-dressing Taiwanese soaps instead?
  • Posted By: nemomemeYes, yes, yes to The Wire, Deadwood, and Carnivale for reasons others gave.
    Also Rome.
  • Posted By: Matt WilsonPosted By: Jonathan WaltonAside from The Wire, the best thing on television is Gossip Girl.
    Dude, you are a bad, bad person for mentioning this awful show. You have lost all cred. You have to do ten cool things to get back to zero.

    Plus they film scenes for it across from where I work.


    I was depressed/amused to see a review comparing Skins to Gossip Girl "but with wit and smarts." If I had heard that before I started watching, it might have scared me off, but as it is I'm hooked. It's apparently available on iTunes, for those not lucky enough to have caught it yet.
  • I say Big Love. It would be an excellent source of examples for character issues. Every character has some pretty clear issues generating all sorts of conflict.
  • edited September 2008
    Posted By: Matt Wilson
    Dude. You are rad for mentioning Always Sunny. Possibly the funniest show on TV right now. I've been telling Harper to watch it, and he won't listen, the FOOL. I'm laughing just thinking about random bits on the show.

    Intelligence, I never heard of that one. I'll have to check it out.
    Always Sunny (along with shows like Seinfeld and Arrested Development) might be worthy of a treatise in your next edition. The characters are truly contemptible, w/o any redeeming features. What makes them insanely fun, and funny, to watch? How might you attempt a similar paradigm at the table in a role-playing game? If everyone at the table is playing a character who is an ass and cannot, presumably, improvise hilarious dialogue, can that make a fun ongoing show?

    Intelligence is Canadian (CBC) and was canceled after 2 seasons but looks to be coming to Fox with all the cast and creative team in tow for a third (plus?) season.
  • The MiddleMan is my favorite thing on TV at the moment. Purest Geekstuff. They have a really wonderful sense of using reference sources, returning lines, recurring characters and cat suits.
  • You know, some classic shows with limited production runs might also deserve a mention. Number Six in the Village up there reminds me of one of my wife's all-time favorites, the Prisoner. Not that it's an ensemble cast, like PTA...

    I liked the Avengers a lot, too.

    I don't actually watch a lot of what's on TV right now. I liked the formulaic elements of House, though.
    Everybody Hates Chris and My Name is Earl were very good ensemble sitcoms.
  • I'm a lowbrow guy and I like Trailer Park Boys and Reno 911. Now, how to make PTA game based on the these series, I don't know.
  • edited September 2008
    BBC's excellent Life on Mars and its sequel series Ashes to Ashes. Life on Mars is a very interesting look at Manchester in the 70's, especially the police, but is also a psychological thriller. Ashes to Ashes does the same to 80's London, with a different main character. Very strong ensemble casts (although the main character was more prominent than in PTA), regular sets, strong issue for the main characters, they've got it all.
  • I'm currently watching ER season 1 and that, my friends, is pure genius. I love the characters, the taseful mix of humour, heartbreak, human distress and everyday struggles.

    I also love Desperate Housewives.

    Also, I second Rome, Carnivale and Deadwood.
  • Posted By: pedyoER season 1 and that, my friends, is pure genius
    Don't worry, it gets worse later. :-D
  • My favourite show is the Mighty Boosh. It's had three series so far, that's about 20 episodes in all. It follows the adventures of glam electropunk Vince Noir and his dour jazz friend Howard Moon. In the first series they worked in a zoo the owner of which didn't recognise any animals ('carpert man don't dance, carpet man don't eat' was his rant at a bear, actually a man in a beat costume made of carpet). The second series was in a flat and the third in a shop.

    Vince and Howard are aided and abetted by the shaman Naboo and his familiar, the gorilla Bollo. Recurring characters are the Moon, Ol' Gregg, various shaman chums of Naboo, cockney geezer the 'Itcher with his polo eye. Each show features a song in a different style from the punk of 'I took a shit on your mum (and she rather liked it)' to the cockney knees-up dance cross-over 'Eels (comin' up inside you)'.
  • Avatar. Even though the show seems to focus on the Avatar, it's totally an ensemble cast and one of the ensemble is even an antagonist for awhile.
  • Current TV? Then as much as I love The Wire, it doesn't count, it's done. If it does, then the Television show I loved the most is Monster. Monster is Anime based on a Manga series of the same name, created by Naoki Urasawa. The anime is very interesting as it manages to hold a palpable sense of tension over it's 74 episodes. At the same time it's very understated and very human. The story focuses on Dr. Tenma a Japanese doctor working as a brain surgeon in a prestigious German hospital. After saving a little boy, he discovers he's saved a Monster, an almost anti-christ figure. The show is about his trying to figure out who the boy was, and is, and Dr. Tenma's quest to confront the boy, what he'll give up to face his responsibility, and to make a choice about who he is. It's one of the most wonderful things I've ever seen, but you can't purchase it in America. I'll leave you to puzzle out the logistics of how I've encountered it.

    I also liked Raines which was a seven episode TV show that got cancelled about two or three seasons ago. It features Jeff Goldblum, as a sarcastic detective who can talk to dead people. However, these people aren't actually dead, they're figments of his imagination, and he knows it. The show is a bit of a twist on the serial crime drama, in that I think it doesn't portray the characters as untouched by the ugliness around them, which most of these shows do. Raines is slowly losing his mind. It also contains one of the few things I've seen, on television, that has frightened me all the way to feeling that sickness in the stomach. You can watch it on Hulu.com

    I like Chuck, which is a current NBC show, which is about a slacker tech-nerd-type guy, who has the CIA and NSA databases put into his head. Of course the actual database is destroyed, which requires the CIA, and NSA to work with him to fight bad guys. It's basically an action adventure romp, with nerdy goodness.

    I also liked Life, which is another cop show, where the main character has returned to police work after being wrongfully imprisoned for 10 or 15 years. In his prison time he's taken up an americanized Zen Buddhism which he uses to solve crimes, and irritate his partner. Underneath something darker is hiding as he tries to figure out the conspiracy that put him in jail.
  • The Wire is not the best show on TV ever. It's the best moving picture ever, the best thing ever committed to film, video, or zoetrope.

    I will heartily second Avatar. One of the best things on TV, as well.

    Pushing Daisies is also excellent.

    The American and British versions of The Office are worth a hearty mention, if they're not already on there. Excellent character development, no one is absolutely evil, and funny as fuck.

    Finally, I just watched Spaced, the British series that just came to DVD in America. Much like The Office, it's a very funny show but also one with actual characters that develop and have heart.

    Oh, and while the quality of it varies, Reaper is a pretty good show. Often funny, with actual character development and change.

    If you want negative examples, I recommend Smallville. It is like getting punched in the nuts continuously (with breaks so you can feel it again), though I did watch it religiously.
  • One show that hasn't been mentioned, which I quite like is Weeds. I'm only half-way through the second season so far, but unless it changes radically soon I think it's a very good fit.

    First of all it's a comedy-drama which is a genre that PTA excels in, I think. Another thing I quite like, which I've since adopted as an unspoken rule in my PTA games, is that there are (almost) no hardcore violence/moral greyness/fantastic/off-the-wall elements. It's all reasonably down-to-earth stuff (within the slightly skewed perspective of the show of course). One if the things I noticed in PTA games, is that the more "out there" or hardcore the show becomes, the less engaging and interesting it is. Instead of characters I can relate to as a viewer/player I end up with caricatures of "cool", "clever" or "post-modern hipness".
  • I don't know PTA, but I usually see Doctor Who popping up in threads like that (RPG threads about TV series). Isn't it PTAish? I mean it's totally like the Doctor would always speak out of character.
  • Rome, Weeds, Deadwood, Carnivale, Six Feet Under, BSG, Arrested Development, Firefly, Dead Like Me, Big Love, and Entourage are some of my favorites. I've never played PTA, so I don't really know whether they fit the game, but they're good shows.

    True Blood is pretty cool so far.
  • Spooks (you guys get it as MI:5, I believe) is excellent.

    There has just been a very-hear future version on BBC3 called Spooks: Code 9. Its set in 2013, one year after a nuclear bomb blew up London and took out most of the security service. The new agents are all bright young things. What started as a very ropey premise (Sort of Spooks as written by the writers of Friends) developed into a really good show and whilst the big reveal in the last episode was very Scooby Do, the cliffhanger had me spitting bullets.

    Neil
  • edited September 2008
    John said
    --I haven't seen BBC's Primeval, but it's dinosaurs running around modern suburbia - what's not to love?

    I replied
    -- its not on BBC, its on ITV. Indeed its what ITV commissioned to try to combat the Dr Who effect (where all of your ratings are theirs!) and well. You haven't seen it? Your world is a brighter place than mine.....

    Neil
  • The Office is a good ensemble show with lots of give and take with Screen Presence, and the occasional issue episode.

    House is more issue-y but less ensemble-y.

    Burn Notice yes, though again, more issue-y and less ensemble-y.

    Big Love, yes. High on both issue-y-ness and ensemble-y-ness. (I actually felt my blood pressure rise on seeing the first episode... mouths to feed, cars to fix, roofs to repair, school clothes to buy.... times three....)

    I just realized, that's it for the most current TV I watch... and I last watched Big Love over a year ago. I think Law and Order and the Closer are the only other shows I take in, and I'm not sure how suitable for PTA either of them are.
  • Posted By: Neil GowJohn said
    --I haven't seen BBC's Primeval, but it's dinosaurs running around modern suburbia - what's not to love?

    I replied
    -- its not on BBC, its on ITV. Indeed its what ITV commissioned to try to combat the Dr Who effect (where all of your ratings are theirs!) and well. You haven't seen it? Your world is a brighter place than mine.....

    Neil
    In the US it's being rebroadcast by BBC America. This happens to a lot of Brit series, I understand the Spaced was on channel 4 (at least that's what my DVD set says) and here BBCA's got it.

    I'm not sure how well Spaced would fit PTA. I thought about it, but it seems like it would need more forward momentum to be playable. Good series, but I'm not sure how it would play.
  • I like Bones. It is light, interesting, a cool and different approach to many many other shows that deal with related stuff. It is kind of hard to know if one should take it seriously or as a big joke, but it is entertaining indeed.

    At first it was too "main character" focused, but as it has progressed, it has become more of an ensemble show. And I really like the fact that no character is less or more important than the others (even while most of the screen time is mostly focused on the main couple). Everyone has his or her personality, importance and contributions to the story. And there has been a lot of subtle character evolution and change.
  • Hmmm. Most of my favourite shows are not really PTA compatible. How lame is that? Very lame, that's how.

    But if I think it over, and try to avoid a lot of me-tooing to most of the above, I might suggest:

    Ugly Betty: I don't love this show, but I do get a PTA vibe from it. I dislike it a lot less than I thought I would, which is a bit short of a sterling recommendation, but there it is.

    Corner Gas: I do love this show. It's a Canadian thing but I hear it is or may be getting syndicated Stateside. And I like me some comedy PTA as much as the next guy.

    Little Mosque on the Prairie: I don't especially care for this show either, but the set-up for it is right out of PTA. Also Canadian.

    Fringe: Alright, I know this show hasn't even aired yet, but I have a feeling.

    Trailer Park Boys: Okay, I know I said I wouldn't be me-tooing, but damnit, this one is worth it. A lot of the examples come off a little high-concept, and this is anything but.

    Also, I know you didn't ask for anti-votes (maybe I should spin off a new thread -- but let's see if anyone else wants to pursue this line of thought first) but I feel compelled to mention some shows I like, but that I think would be problematic for PTA:

    Terminator Chronicles: I like it, but... I think it'd be a lot of work for the Director to pull this off in PTA. But I could be wrong.

    A goodly chunk of reality shows: Yeah, it's a big bucket, but I do like some of them. I'm not sure I'd care for a PTA version, though. Of course, since they fall well outside the intended purpose of PTA, that's hardly a criticism.



    Cheers,
    Roger
  • Posted By: Roger
    Fringe: Alright, I know this show hasn't even aired yet, but I have a feeling.
    Probably a decent guess, considering it's associated with J.J. Abrams, who's other series (Lost et al) make great PTA fodder. I'll know for sure when I sit down in front of my TiVo tonight.
  • For current TV: Burn Notice - fun and interesting and Bruce Campbell and I agree that it does evoke The Rockford Files, Dr. Who, CSI:Miami (yeah, I know but I like it.), Max and Ruby (an excellent if simple formula show. Max is the epitome of the little brother.)
    Classic TV: original Star Trek - no equal for me. Gilligan's Island, and JONNY QUEST - the ultimate show.
  • This could be yet another thread but I see some opportunity to adjust the director budget per show genre for the next edtion of PTA. In my experience with PTA, it felt like the director sometimes didn't have enough budget to oppose the protagonists as hard as might have been appropriate to the grim WWI genre we were playing in.

    Not all TV shows are the same. Why does the twee Pushing Daisies have the same oppositional budget as any number of shows that puts their protagonists through utter hell?
  • Because there's just as much conflict even if there's not as much "opposition". Comedic conflict can come from trying to keep your spinster aunt from finding out there's a half-naked girl in your closet - neither the spinster aunt nor the half-naked girl really opposes you in any significant way, but you can bet I am dumping chips into the Budget to make that aunt's glasses shoot off her withered nose and out to the full extent of their garish pink plastic chain...
  • Obviously there is potentially as much conflict. That all comes down to how many conflicts the Director presents. An episode of Three's Company has continual conflict. But there are some shows where protagonists get their way 75% of the time and some shows where they get their way 25% of the time, shows where they are constantly thwarted. This fact goes directly to tone/genre.

    I'll stop the thread-jacking here. Just to be clear, PTA is one of my favorite games.
  • OMG, no one's mentioned Heroes.

    Every major character has powers that help them in one way and issues that pull them in another way.
  • God! I just finished the first Season of Heroes tonight. I love the show, and Ryan's dead right, but goddammit, the ending was crap! That vision of the future thing bit them in the ass, just like roleplayers "playing before they play" and having the ending all talked out to the point where you're just going through the motions when you play the scene. And the denoument was a gut-punch to everyone's struggle and interweaving "destinies" throughout the story.

    Also, that stuff about Hope and Heart was corny as hell. It totally was the thematic core of the story, but clumsily done. It was like, "shit, guys, last episode! We better tie in the Big Theme!"

    But the reason I'm so mad is that it was an amazing show.



    I second the Office. It's comedy, sure, but it's a comedy of deep and abiding pain.

    Posted By: Robert BohlIf you want negative examples, I recommend Smallville. It is like getting punched in the nuts continuously (with breaks so you can feel it again), though I did watch it religiously.
    But, but! I heart Lex Luthor! I heart him so heard! He is a brilliant and sympathetic bastard and Michael Rosenbaum is dripping with awesome!


    . . .you're goddamn right, though.

    peace,
    -joel
  • So I've never played PTA though I own it and really want to. I've only got 2 friends I regularly game with, and it doesn't seem like 1 Producer and 2 players is a good setup. But this thread isn't for talking about that!
    Still, my understanding is shows that are good examples for PTA are... ensemble shows that don't have a single main character? And probably shows with at least some level of constant plot that runs through the series/season rather than being purely episodic?
    Seems like Heroes fits that bill pretty well.

    My other favorite shows are Veronica Mars, which has been mentioned, and Dexter, which I can't believe no one has mentioned! I just discovered it and watching the first two seasons on DVD consumed all my free time for the last couple weeks.
    I think both of these have the same good points for PTA and the same bad points.
    Good = Strong characters that develop and plotlines that run through the season.
    Bad = Only one true Main Character. Veronica and Dexter, obviously. Everyone else, even the other major characters, are only really important insofar as they relate to the story of the Main Character's life. I mean, I don't think there is a single episode of either show in which Veronica or Dexter would have a screen presence lower than 3. The are the titular characters, after all. Others wax and wane, but they are always at the forefront. Not very PTA there.
  • Has Shameless ever been aired on US television? That's about my favourite show.
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