Don’t Call a Show Good, or Bad, Until The End is Known: On Ballers, True Detective, and House of Cards.

In a previous post, I mentioned Herodotus’s lesson, to “call no man happy until he is dead.” My specific application of his lesson in that case was to say that the biggest issue with HBO’s Ballers is the tendency for the episodes to end on soft, conflict-free notes.

I hope I didn't hurt the feelings of these guys.
I hope I didn’t hurt the feelings of these guys.

But I also failed to bring the point full-circle, which is that it’s unfair to call Ballers good or bad before we know how it ends. We should get through this season before we trash it. In particular, it’s unfair for me to do this when I can’t stand that the same thing is being done by critics and audiences to another show I love: True Detective.

We then return to another philosophy, lifted from F. Scott Fitzgerald, which is that “reserving judgment is a matter of infinite hope.” Reserving judgments and infinite hope are relevant in discussing many television shows and films, including the upcoming 2016 summer film in which Batman fights Superman: we need to draw on that infinite hope to not decide whether a movie is good or bad or somewhere in between until we’ve seen said movie.

I’ve tried, and failed, to read many articles about True Detective this season, mostly because they all seem to be nothing but critics and bloggers having meltdowns that it’s not what it was. That Farrell lacks the humor of McConaughey, or that Vaughn botches his lines, or that everyone is “too dark,” or that the dialogue is bad, or that et cetera et cetera. All of this is said by people who have only seen the first three episodes.

Maybe everyone just misses this guy.
Maybe everyone just misses this guy.

Perhaps this is why the Netflix, binge-heavy approach is the best for people now, in which the entire season is dumped on the internet and we consume it immediately. Instead of watching a show unfold slowly, week-by-week, and take only one hour per seven days to let it consume you, the new approach is for a show to kill a weekend. Viewers race through House of Cards or Orange is the New Black¬†or Bloodline in marathon stretches, shutting out society and friends and family to see just to get to the end. There’s no sense of the journey being the destination in watching these shows. Sometimes you’re motivated by nothing more than getting through it before someone else can spoil it for you on social media.

And maybe this is what we need. Perhaps it’s not enough for our entertainment¬†to all be accessible via streaming. We need it all at once. If people can’t handle waiting until True Detective is more than two episodes into it second season before saying that it’s terrible, that it’s lost its way, that it should have ended after one, then we might be circling back to another piece of wisdom. All of this seems to say that what’s the point of waiting for two months to get from the beginning of the story until the end when Netflix would give me the end through eight hours of binging? True Detective is the kind of show we need. House of Cards and Orange is the New Black? Those are the shows we deserve.

Leave a Reply