When we talk about works of film, and I mean primarily films and TV shows, we usually think of them on a spectrum of good to bad. From this, we collectively deduce that the better a film production is, the more it is worth watching, and vice versa, unless we are talking about the “so bad that they’re good” movies. But what about movies or TV shows that are in the gray area, that are just OK? These are often cast aside as “forgettable,” “lackluster” or “unimaginative” and are summarily ignored, sometimes even before reaching a wide audience.
When Netflix’s “The Witcher” was a few weeks from release, I began to read the disappointed reviews of the show, and boy did I fear that condemnation of mediocrity. I was really hoping that the series could get a solid film adaptation, since the games and books are so interesting and rich, but I accepted its seemingly inevitable fate and prepared for what I thought would be a march to its untimely grave. However, upon the show’s release, I was shocked to see it quickly climb in popularity in mere days, eventually to the point of being even higher in demand than “The Mandalorian.” Struck with hope and curiosity, I began to watch the show myself to form my own opinion on the matter, and I ended up thinking what the reviewers thought: it was, well, fine. The characters were likeable but could have benefitted from more depth, the plot of the season might have been better concluded with an extra episode, the fight scenes could have been made more interesting and shot better — I could keep going, but in the end, I enjoyed watching it! Yes, it was mediocre, but it was worth the watch, and we should not think that something that is just “meh” is not worth our time.
But hang on, why is an OK show — I am focusing on shows here, rather than movies — like “The Witcher” worth spending time on? Well, for starters, shows that are lacking something tell you what they are lacking. When I watched an episode of “The Witcher” that left me at all disappointed, I knew what it was that bugged me: flat exchanges of dialogue, missed opportunities for development, poorly explained lore, etc. Thus, thinking about what in the show I did not enjoy made me think about what I do look for in a show. Flat exchanges made me realize the importance of lively dialogue, lack of development showed me that character growth is meaningful to me and lore that was left to the imagination taught me that I enjoy understanding a film’s world. Watching something that is substandard makes you see what your standards are, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Furthermore, the thing about TV shows is that they are usually more likely to be followed by a second season than a movie is to be followed by a sequel. If a show gets a decent initial response, it might take the risk of making another season to see if the following response grows and brings in more revenue. Movies are typically much more expensive to produce, and plus there is the issue of getting people to come out of the comfort of their homes and pay $12 for a ticket, and so making a sequel is a greater risk than a second season — again, usually. This is to say that if a show is OK and perhaps has a good structure or premise, it is worth watching and supporting its development. Not every show can come out of the gate looking like “Game of Thrones” or “Breaking Bad;” some need to work through their growing pains to find their identity and iron out the kinks. Plenty of beloved shows have done this in the past — think of “The Office,” or its superior spiritual successor, “Parks and Recreation” — yeah, I said it. These two comedies had painful opening seasons, but some elements that could be salvaged were while being further developed, and now “Parks and Recreation” characters come up in GIFs all over the internet, while “The Office” is mentioned in lifeless Tinder bios everywhere. And while it is true that dramas like “The Witcher” vary greatly from comedies, it still holds true that many shows produce their best seasons late in their run, rather than immediately from the start.
Well what does all this mean, then? Should we all just start watching lame shows and abandon the good ones? Absolutely not! You watch whatever you want to satisfy your cinematic itch; however, the next time a show catches your attention, but you dismiss it because of C-grade reviews — do not. Give it a chance! You may just find yourself learning something new about how you enjoy film, or you may help inspire improvements in the series. Or, if nothing else, you may just be lightly entertained, and what is so bad about that?