Why We Watch: Looking at our TV Choices

Genre? Cast? Plot? Storytelling? What factors entice you to tune in to a show, or take a pass?
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Even with DVR and on-Demand viewing to allow maximum scheduling opportunities, the amount of tv content available to us far exceeds that amount that we can actually consume. To that end, we must make conscious choices about what we choose to view, and when.

I got to thinking about this the other day when I went to add Elementary to my Netflix queue only to find it isn't available. I wondered why I didn't start watching it from the beginning even though I remember finding the premise interesting. That got me to thinking about that choice we make - do we watch or not, and why?
I've identified the following as a checklist of sorts, things that go in to making that decision.

1) Cast - Who is in the show? Someone I know and like, or maybe the opposite, someone I dislike to make me choose something else. Nathan Fillion is always a good bet. Noah Wylie is likable enough. Mandy Patinkin had me as a fan back on Dead Like Me, actually back to the movie Alien Nation, following him to Criminal Minds was a no-brainer.

2) Is it a spinoff? - It wasn't a stretch to watch any of the Law & Order derivatives as a fan of the original series. Some I particularly loved (like Criminal Intent), one I don't even remember (Law & Order: LA) and Law & Order: Trial By Jury which I didn't really care for. Who am I kidding, no one liked Trial By Jury. The point is that the reputation of the original was enough for me to give the other shows a chance. Same goes for Fear The Walking Dead, the quality of the original gave it an automatic slot for at least a few episodes.

3) Is it like another show I'm already watching? - If you like medical procedurals, there are always options. If you're a fan of silly husband & wife comedies, there are probably way too many of those. We all have particular types of shows or genres that we are attracted to that might prompt us to give a particular show the nod over another.

4) Who is responsible for creating, directing or producing the show? - Not everyone may care about this but certainly the behind-the-scenes folks can attract viewers. Chuck Lorre, Joss Whedon, Dick Wolf, Norman Lear, and others have attracted followings that bring an audience to any of their new projects because of their involvement. I think of The Walking Dead and how it was Frank Darabont's name in the commercials that piqued my interest. I mean, after The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption and The Majestic, this was a guy who knew how to tell a story. While The Walking Dead has proven itself to be a quality show (even after his departure), it was his name in the credits that made me give a zombie show an hour of my time.

This can work against a show as well. I was so disappointed in how Lost ended up, all it takes is to hear any affiliation with that show and my first reaction is to pass it by. Once Upon A Time is an example which, despite an intriguing premise, I passed on. Actually, I chose Grimm instead, a choice I don't regret.

5) How well is it marketed? - Orphan Black is probably the show in recent memory that I can say was most influenced by the commercials. I knew none of the cast and maybe didn't even know what it was really about - but I was damn sure going to find out - and five minutes in I was hooked. You've only got a minute to grab me and those commercials can make a huge impression on me. Things like Defiance and Haven are good recent examples. I'm already looking forward to Childhood's End based on the previews I have seen.

6) Is it named with initials? - We tend to like shows with lots of initials. NCIS, CSI, CSI NY, Magnum PI. Any combination of some initials and maybe toss in a city name and I think you get a built in audience.

There are obviously many factors that go in to such decisions, more than I have covered here, but I think it's an interesting exercise to consider these things when making our choices. Perhaps it will allow us to choose even better.

Photo via espensorvik CC Attribution 2.0

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