Let Me Entertain You | Are You Not Entertained?

I couldn’t resist the Gladiator reference.

This is my very last blog post of my freshman year! I’m already done with my first year of college, and it’s freaking me out. Who let me get this far into adulthood? In any case, this blog was one of my favorite activities that I did this past year, and I’m really grateful to everyone who read it and appreciated my ramblings and musings.

There’s nothing too specific going on in the entertainment world right now for me to rant about, so I’m just going to use this last blog post as an excuse to talk about one of my favorite topics: cult television. For the uninformed blog reader, cult television shows are generally based on an unusual concept. Usually, the show wasn’t popular when it originally aired, but then amassed an army of crazed fans its cancellation or later in its tenure. They are also often critical darlings. Many of these series are science fiction or fantasy, but sometimes they’re just stories of ordinary high school kids being slightly crazier than real life high school kids (e.g., Freaks and Geeks, My So-Called Life).

If you don’t like Star Trek, it’s because you’ve never watched Star Trek. Image courtesy of Forbes.

Cult TV is better than regular TV, because it addresses the moral and ethical quandaries of everyday life via unusual storytelling. I mean, sure, you could watch NCIS or The Voice or 8,000 other spinoffs and singing shows, but there’s very little substance. I’d rather watch old episodes of The Twilight Zone or Star Trek, both of which are excellent examples of classic cult television. In the former, you have aliens and mystery acting as stand-ins for the Red Scare and racism. In the latter, you have a future in which people of all races, genders, and species are united in a mission of exploration. How cool is that?

Joss Whedon is basically the king of modern cult television. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the most successful of his television ventures, lasting seven seasons. He also created or co-created Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse, each of which was cut off before its time. In my opinion, Firefly is the best of these, but also the shortest—it was tragically cancelled after fourteen episodes. I legitimately get upset every time I think about Firefly’s cancellation. (You should go watch it right now so that you can join me in my pain.) Dollhouse is basically an ethical study passing off as a science fiction show, complete with hot people and violence and moral dilemmas. I was so happy when Whedon became mainstream after writing and directing The Avengers. If anyone deserved long overdue recognition, it was that guy. If you have time in between jobs or internships this summer, I highly recommend you check out Whedon’s stuff.

Gina Torres, Nathan Fillion, and Adam Baldwin from Firefly. Ain’t they just big damn heroes? Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox/Everett Collection/EW.

My current favorite cult show is Orphan Black. I’ve gushed about it before on previous blog posts, but that’s because the series is freaking awesome. Now in its second season, Orphan Black tells the story of clones trying to figure out who made them and what their purpose is. I can’t fully describe it, because the greatness cannot be simplified in mere words. Suffice it to say the pacing is excellent and the acting—done primarily by Tatiana Maslany, who plays eight different characters—is incredible.

Sometimes shows start off with a very small, motivated fanbase which then catapults the series into fame. There is no greater example of this than Breaking Bad, which had a few hundred thousand viewers when it first aired. Its finale had over ten million. The X-Files and LOST are less drastic examples, but they also prove that shows that start small don’t always end that way.

But one of the greatest things about cult TV shows is the community. With Grey’s Anatomy or whatever, you’re just an anonymous viewer among millions. With less popular shows, there are no casual viewers, only the completely obsessed. Therefore, you get cosplayers (awesome people who dress up as characters from the show). You get conventions, featuring actors and writers. You get internet communities and forums to vent your frustration.

So do yourself a favor, and watch a critically acclaimed yet weirdly unpopular show. You’ll thank me for it when I see you again in the fall. Until then, have a great summer, dear readers. Watch a lot of stuff, and stay nerdy!