Some of the TV shows that keep me from reading books

"Vikings:" Meet Ragnar Lodbrok, my 38th-great grandfather -- maybe.

“Vikings:” Meet Ragnar Lodbrok, my 38th-great grandfather — maybe.

This started as a comment, but I’ve turned it into a separate post.

Over the weekend, I confessed that I just haven’t been reading books the way I once did. One of the reasons, I’m humiliated to admit, is that there is so much compelling television these days. Some of the TV shows that have distracted me over the last year or so:

  • Boardwalk Empire – I’ve finished the first season and am taking a break before plunging into the second. I really like the way this is actually based on historical figures. And I never realized before what a slimeball Warren Harding was.
  • Vikings — I’m in the second season. This is tied to my genealogy obsession. Ragnar Lodbrok, the star character, is a direct ancestor of mine — if he existed. His sons are considered historical, and I’m apparently descended from one, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye. But whether they were all brothers and Ragnar was their father seems less certain — he’s a figure in Norse folklore. Sigurd’s mom, Aslaug, may also be a fable.
  • The Last Kingdom — This is related, although fictional. It’s sort of a real-life alternative to Game of Thrones. It’s about the Viking conquest of all of England except Alfred the Great’s Wessex — the titular Last Kingdom. The hero is fictional, but historical figures a prominent characters, such as the aforementioned Alfred and Ubbe, the brother of Sigurd.
  • The Crown — We’ve watched all of that; look forward to another series. My hero is the stuffy Tommy, the senior aide who tries to keep everybody straight and make sure these silly royals do their ruddy duty — except Her Majesty, of course, who always tries to do what’s right.
  • Orphan Black — Taking a break from it after watching the first season. It was getting a little intense.
  • Mr. Robot — I’ve seen all of what’s available on Amazon for free, waiting for more. Rather silly in a political sense — full of anarchist ravings — but engaging. A plus is that the star is Rami Malek, who was so weirdly good as “Snafu” in “The Pacific.”
  • Fortitude — This offbeat murder mystery started off pretty good, but got downright weird. Oh, and don’t make the mistake of thinking you know who the hero is.
  • Okkupert, or Occupied — Speaking of series set in Norway, this one is actually in Norwegian. It was an engaging what-if about what happens after a relatively bloodless invasion of Norway by Russia.
  • River — This is a really good weird one. It’s about a British detective (actually, he’s a cop in Britain, but for some reason is originally Scandinavian) who talks to dead people — in the most calm, matter-of-fact way. But they’re not always terribly informative; he still has to figure out who killed them.
  • Longmire — Why’d they have to get an Australian actor to play a modern Western sheriff? I don’t know, but it works.
  • The Walking Dead — I haven’t watched the latest season to appear on Netflix, which means I’m two years behind the people who watch it the old-fashioned way, as it appears on broadcast TV.
  • The Night Manager — I’m a HUGE fan of the novel and ran out and BOUGHT the series as soon as it appeared — only to have it show up on Amazon Prime for free, so I feel stupid. It was good, although there were changes. One GOOD change was changing the hero’s case officer to a pregnant woman, which really worked. The BAD change was the ending, in which… well, I won’t give it away.
  • House of Cards — I have NOT been able to get into the most recent season. I watched one episode and turned away.
  • Grantchester, Endeavour, Lewis, Midsomer Murders, Foyle’s War — Just to toss some of my fave British murder mysteries into one item. I’m sure I’m forgetting some.
  • Poldark — Watched the first season, but just haven’t gotten into the second. This guy just keeps having the same tiresome problems.
  • The Man in the High Castle — I haven’t even made it through three episodes of the FIRST season. I was expecting something awesome like Len Deighton’s SS-GB (another book I’ve read obsessively over the years), but no dice.
  • The Wire — Loved it, but it kind of slowed down for me after about three seasons. The first two were awesome, though.
  • Wolf Hall — This may not count; it may have been more than a year ago. I should watch it again, though, because since then I’ve discovered that a bunch of the characters are apparently related to me. And let me say in my defense that I read both of Hilary Mantel’s books before watching this.
  • The Tudors — I try and try to get into this and fail. I like that the first character addressed by name in the very first episode is an ancestor of mine (diplomat Richard Pace), and I love Maria Doyle Kennedy (a Commitmentette!), but the soft-core porn approach is rather silly. And am I really supposed to believe that everyone in the court was in their 20s and looked like models?

OK, I’m tired of making this list, so I’m not going to get into “The Americans,” “Justified” and others. Additional shows keep popping into my head. Suffice it to say that I find TV very distracting these days…

"The Wire"

“The Wire”

7 thoughts on “Some of the TV shows that keep me from reading books

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    OK, I forgot some:

    • Game of Thrones — I feel like I have to keep up with it, to be conversant in the popular culture of the day. Besides, in the last season, they let the good guys win some. And finally that slacker Khaleesi is getting off her duff and crossing the Narrow Sea!
    • Daredevil — Pretty good superhero series. I’ve only watched the first season so far, looking forward to the second.
    • Westworld — I’ve tried to give it a chance, but it’s pretty disappointing. Need to move the plot along, people.
    • Gotham — Was enjoying it there for awhile, but got out of the habit.
    • Orange is the New Black — I think I might have gotten through the second season before it got tiresome. Not sure I’ve watched it in the past year, but I include it in case. Still like the theme music, though.
    • Designated Survivor — Not as good as the Tom Clancy novel it ripped off — which was far more subtle and better-written, if that tells you anything.
    • Madame Secretary — Better than “Designated Survivor” so far, but I’m not very far into it.
    1. Burl Burlingame

      “Madame Secretary” didn’t hit its stride until about halfway through the first season, when it toughened up. The current episodes are quite good.

  2. Scout

    Well this is another book to read, but The Last Light of The Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay is an interesting and engaging take on the Viking era and Alfred the Great. The names are all changed….they call it historical fantasy I think….but you can tell who is who. Kay does very good research and tells a very good story.

    We watch some of those. I love Madame Secretary. The music at the beginning of Man in the High Castle freaks me out. I have to leave the room when my husband watches it. Turn, Washington’s Spies is pretty interesting. I don’t know how historically accurate the details are but it is well written and well acted with good music.

    And my Nook is full of books I’ve yet to read but really do want to. Hoping to finish at least one this Christmas break.

  3. bud

    Off until Jan 3. Then 2 months till I retire. Then I can spend Doug Ross’s hard earned money. 🙂

    I mostly watch the political channels, sports and a few sitcoms. Sadly The Big Bang Theory has jumped the shark. These story arc series are really just dressed up soap operas. I did like Breaking Bad.

  4. Doug Ross

    A lot of Amazon series:

    Mozart in the Jungle is great. Transparent is very, very good. Red Oaks was much better in Season 2, Catastrophe is good but the “seasons” are only 6 episodes. A friend just recommended The Detectorists on Netflix so I’ll give that a shot soon. I also re-watched several seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm and the Larry Sanders Show recently. They both hold up better than Seinfeld in my opinion.

    I rarely turn on real TV any more except for sports. I’ve been watching a lot of Indian movies in the past year. I highly recommend one called PK – it’s about an alien who lands in India and must navigate his way through the various religions there to retrieve an amulet that will allow him to call his spaceship. It’s also a love story. Sort of ET meets Forrest Gump.


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