A Disappointing Start to the Fall TV Season

October 16, 2018 Updated: October 16, 2018

Every September, I search for a television series that might appeal to me. The search is rarely successful. That is because I am unusually picky. There are two reasons for my pickiness: I have less leisure time than most people, and my standards are relatively strict.

This year was unusual. I found two series that interested me, and I’ll tell you about them momentarily. First, though, let me offer a couple of thoughts about viewing standards.

Most of us make decisions about becoming regular viewers of a TV series on the simple basis of whether we like it or not (“like” being a catch-all term that could mean something is interesting, touching, funny, thought-provoking, thrilling, exciting, beautiful, romantic, etc.). That certainly holds true for me.

A program has to have robust entertainment value for me to stay with it. Over the years, though, I have become increasingly concerned about what we might call “the general atmosphere of thought” and the obvious deterioration of our cultural and societal values. Consequently, I have become willing to abandon an otherwise entertaining program if it contains degrading content.

In 1973, having just moved to Phoenix and befriended a wonderful family of seven, the dad, John, taught me that viewers “vote” on what we are willing to accept as suitable viewing material by spending time watching a program or spending money on a particular film.

When I mentioned to John that I was going to see a certain movie, he replied that he would never watch that movie because the person starring in it had engaged in anti-American behavior. His comment startled me, but in the decades since, I have realized more and more clearly that patronizing movies or TV programs that we find objectionable for whatever reason confers our tacit acceptance on them.

New ‘Magnum’ Is Bland

That brings me to this season’s new TV series. As a big fan of the original “Magnum P.I.” series, I naturally was attracted to the reboot. The key word there is “was.” The new Magnum doesn’t work for me.

I feel sorry for the actor trying to reprise the title role. Just as “Superman” reboots have floundered because nobody lights up the screen like the late Christopher Reeve, so it is with Magnum.

Tom Selleck had the rare gift of totally dominating any scene he was in because of his preternatural handsomeness, his dazzling smile and twinkling eyes and the friendly, engaging voice.

His replacement—apologies for my candor, young man—is hopelessly bland by comparison. And good luck with the female version of Higgins.

‘Manifest’ One of My Favorites Until …

By contrast, the pilot episode of the other new series I watched far exceeded my expectations. I am a sucker for time-bending stories, and the new NBC series “Manifest”—in which a planeload of passengers alighted from their three-hour flight to find that the rest of the world had lived through 5 1/2 years—is fascinating.

Due to superb portrayals by the actors, you can’t help but sympathize with the characters—both those on the flight and their friends and loved ones who weren’t—as they try to stabilize their discombobulated lives and cope with all the complications, changes, heartbreaks and lucky breaks that the freakish time warp produced.

Adding further intrigue to “Manifest” is that at least some of the passengers on the mysterious flight now have psychic powers that lead them to rescue innocent people from horrible predicaments. So, this is my new favorite series, right?

Wrong.

I was completely hooked and on board until the last 30 seconds of episode two. That’s when a shadowy figure carrying a gun was shown sneaking up behind a woman in her home. When the shot was fired, the camera showed the woman’s large TV screen getting splattered with a huge quantity of blood. Ugh. That was completely unnecessary. Just the sound of the gun and a blank screen would have sufficed.

We all know that murder has become a staple of American television. That in itself merits some discussion. But for the director of “Manifest” to channel Sam Peckinpah—the movie director who built his reputation on gory images filmed in elaborate detail—by inserting a gratuitously gory scene was obscene.

Even though “Manifest” airs in the 10 p.m. time slot, you know darn well that kids are going to see that disturbing image. Why was that image included? Does NBC seriously think it will lose viewers unless they include graphic depictions of gore?

Well, TV moguls, you are free to include explicit images of gore in your show if you want, and I am free to refuse to give my approval to your degrading image by declining to watch your otherwise excellent series—a stand that I took starting with episode three.

I would be willing to resume watching “Manifest” if I learn that the pointless ugliness has been removed.

As my friend John taught me decades ago, we each have our small part to play in terms of what we give our assent to. At this stage, I cannot give mine to images that are degrading and of no redeeming value.

I hope, dear reader, that you have had better luck than I have in finding TV programming that suits your tastes and values this fall.

Mark Hendrickson is an adjunct professor of economics and sociology at Grove City College. He is the author of several books, including “The Big Picture: The Science, Politics, and Economics of Climate Change” (CFACT.org; 2018).

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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