That’s entertainment!

A recent post–indeed, the most recent post–considered circumstances in which I’ll give up on an old movie.

Last Saturday, we started watching our Netflix movie of the week (the one we’d had longest) and, after ten minutes or so, took it off, packaged it to send back, and watched the other one instead. The other one got much worse reviews than the first one–for example. Rotten Tomatoes rates the one we didn’t watch at 71%, the one we did watch at only 43%.

I find myself silently screaming at the local TV critic sometimes, perhaps less now than over the past few years, when he was beating us over the head with The Great Show We Must Watch (sometimes “shows’), the show that was Serious Television. The name doesn’t matter; it changes from time to time. Pretty consistently, it’s a show I wouldn’t watch if you paid me–well, not unless you paid me pretty well. (Yes, in most cases, it’s a show I’ve seen at least one episode of, although in a couple cases I was unwilling to endure one episode.)

And I’m well aware that Proper Literary Folks would sniff at a lot of the stuff I check out from the library, certainly including the Bernie Rhodenbaar mysteries and maybe even including the Discworld books. (Maybe not: Pratchett seems to get a Bye from the Upholders of Serious Literature.)

The common thread

We watch our Saturday movies to be entertained or, occasionally, enlightened. Neither of us find lots’o’crashes terribly entertaining, or mean-spirited language, or casual violence, or… And, yes, we do find light romantic comedies entertaining if they’re at all well done. The first movie, a Gritty Con Drama, may have been better movie-making than the second–a quirky Romantic Comedy with a superb cast–but, for us, the first was offputting and not entertaining; the second was entertaining.

Note that “for us.” While I might raise broader questions about fans of certain kinds of horror movies (oh, you know the ones) and “snuff movies” of any sort, in general I no more question your taste than I allow you to dictate my taste.

We watch TV shows that we find entertaining and enjoyable (with, sometimes, digressions into Enlightening Programs on public TV). That almost always means cast members we find at least mildly sympathetic. It doesn’t hurt for the show to be reasonably well-crafted and lacking a howlingly overdone laughtrack; there’s a reason we watch very few half-hour sitcoms (How I Met Your Mother distinctly excepted).  It certainly means that we’re not sitting in front of the tube (it still is a tube, at least for another week or two) to Engage in Serious Drama; we’re there to be entertained. (“Reality” shows? Not so much…for us, that is.)

I read to be entertained and, more frequently than with visual media, enlightened or challenged–but I feel no obligation to read something because It’s Good For Me (or to avoid something because It’s Trash). (With newspapers and magazines, I read more for information, enlightenment and intellectual challenge–but a little entertainment along the way surely doesn’t hurt. And I will tell you that one high-minded monthly, which I decided to try as an airline-miles freebie, will definitely not be renewed: I don’t really need to be told, over and over, that everything I do is wrong and that I’m guilty of every crime against nature and humanity. That just gets old…and, I believe, self-defeating.)

Your mileage may vary

I sometimes think that TV critics feel the need to be Critics rather than Reviewers by stressing (over, and over, and over again) the Serious Shows in preference to even well-done fluff. I know that critics can show lots of hindsight–I will swear that there are dozens of critics (I believe including the local one) who never gave Buffy the Vampire Slayer a second glance until it was almost over and had been established as a Significant Show instead of Trashy Teenage Junk. (We watched it from the start. We’re starting the third pass…)

Reading video/home theater/etc. magazines, it’s become clear that most reviewers assume that real home theater is about spectacle–with “sound that keeps you on the edge of your seat.” Thus advice that you should spend more on speakers than on the TV, because Big Impressive Sound is at least half of the game. Not for us–because most of what we watch doesn’t involve Big Impressive Sound Effects. Again, that’s us–I have no reason to believe or desire that you’ll have the same tastes.

Rereading Crime and Punishment and seeking out more documentaries on the plight of whatever? More power to you. Maybe I’m a philistine. Maybe life is too short to worry much about that.

I know this: If I’m watching or reading or listening to a supposed Classic or Important Work and I don’t find anything that engages me on any level within the first (50-60 pages, 15-20 minutes/video, 2-3 minutes/audio), well, I’m gone.

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