Like novels, best TV shows form a bond
Every book reader knows that moment of triumph/despair when you finish a terrific book. You exalt at wrapping up an adventure even as you mourn the end of a relationship you have developed with the characters. What is hardest in those moments after finishing a good book comes when you think, “I want more,” but there is no more. Until you find the next great book and the next terrific stable of characters to follow and enjoy. It is a sad feeling, but it’s one we overcome in our continuing search.
This is an odd way to start a blog post about television, but lately I have noticed this same tendency with television shows—for an odd reason.
Streaming television via the Internet is changing the way I watch television. It used to be that I watched a few shows each week. Perhaps I followed along year after year. When the show ended, it might bring on strong feelings about breaking that bond that you might form with television characters.
Now, however, I find that relationship with a television series has changed.
Recently, I watched the entire run of the ITV television series “Foyle’s War.” It was a wonderful show. I should say is a wonderful show because although it appeared to be over with, ITV has announced that it is returning for an eighth season in 2013.
In case you are not familiar, “Foyle’s War” is a detective series set in Hastings, England. The show begins in 1940 as England is already preparing for a possible invasion by the forces of Nazi Germany. Paranoia, justifiably, is high. Englanders want to do their parts to defend the island. Christopher Foyle is a World War I veteran who is now the detective chief superintendent, or DCS, for Hastings. He wants to help out the country in the armed forces but because of his age and his value as a police officer, he is rejected for the service. He is valued as a policeman. Nevertheless, he feels left behind.
Over the course of some 20 episodes, Foyle and two colleagues solve a variety of mysteries that carry the viewer through the emotional upheaval of World War II. It is instructive for an American to get a fictional television glimpse of life on those battered islands in that terrible time of war. The mysteries provide a sort of respite from the horrors of war and offer an insight into the English character. Over the episodes you come to respect DCS Foyle for his intelligence, patience and wit.
Michael Kitchen is brilliant in the role. Soft-spoken, with a wry sense of humor, Foyle is an advocate for truth, justice and the English way.
Watching the entire run of a series in a week or two can be instructive. You come to understand the formula of a show, the way the writers structure the mystery and the denouement of individual episodes while they explore and change the relationships between characters.
“Foyle” is a gentle show, perhaps too understated for a lot of people nowadays. There are no shoot-outs and few chases. It’s just the mind of Foyle solving a puzzle and understanding the motives of a character, who usually happens to be a murderer. It is closer to the more sedate English drawing room mystery than the modern American cop show.
When I got to the end of the run, I felt that familiar sadness with losing touch with a character who I had grown to like very much. Perhaps there will be more episodes, perhaps not, but I have to admire a show that can turn a character into someone you feel you really know.
I know friends who have done this same sort of compressed viewing of a show with “The Wire,” “Mad Men” or “Breaking Bad.” I think when we watch TV this way, it changes our relationship with a show to some extent.
My streaming service has an option to “look for more shows like this.” When I did that with “Foyle,” it recommended several other BBC or ITV shows. I am looking forward to meeting some new folks along the way.
Do you have any characters that you particularly enjoy in television shows? Do you watch television over-the-air or via streaming? Have you ever watched an entire run of a series in a short time? Did you enjoy it? Will you do it again? Please join our conversation.
Follow Shawn Sensiba on Twitter @shawnsensiba.