I found out today Veronica Mars has the ability to time travel. I saw her in the wild west, a place called Deadwood, where Wild Bill Hickok was killed. I observed her cavorting with a lesbian hooker named Joanie and stealing some of her jewelry at a gambling establishment known as the Bella Union. Joanie ended up killing her later on at the behest of her boss, Cy, but she didn't enjoy it, so it shouldn't really count.
Have I mentioned before how non-HBO-quality Deadwood is? It's actually more UPN-ish. And Veronica Mars is more HBO-esque. Maybe Veronica thought so too, and, in her confusion, ended up on both shows? To be fair, I have only watched about ten episodes of the first season of Deadwood, I've never been a fan of the Wild West, and most important of all, I'm not much of a misogynist. So you see, I'm kind of biased.
In the very recent past, I've watched entire seasons (and in some cases, all of the existing seasons, in their entirety) of: Carnivale, Six Feet Under, Nip/Tuck, Veronica Mars, Twin Peaks, Sex and the City, and Desperate Housewives.^
I've noticed some common themes amongst these amazing shows (Some more amazing than others. And others still that are hardly watchable at all.) From my observations, I've compiled a list of elements that make a show watchable (or at least popular). All of these elements involve at least one main character, unless otherwise specified or not applicable. You need at least three of the following, not to exceed ten for any one show (Otherwise the show, though it may be labeled "popular", becomes unwatchable. Also, some elements listed may or may not have been observed in only one of the aforementioned shows):
* a safety deposit box key that no one knows about until someone either skips town or dies
* a paternity test, coupled with not immediately finding out what the results are
* adultery, both in the past and ongoing
* at least one unsolved murder, preferably of a young female
* substance abuse
* at least one unplanned pregnancy
* a diagnosis or clear-cut observation of mental illness or instability
* token "other"^^ characters (at least three) that the show would die without: sullen female adolescent, dependable black male, lovable gay, proud Latino, angst-ridden middle-aged WASP female, single 30-something cosmopolitan writer, two-bit whore, etc.
* the supernatural: telepathic abilities, telekinesis, communing with the dead, ghosts, monsters, unexplained phenomena, and UFOs, inclusive
* an abusive patriarchal figure + matching victim(s)
* Sex, sex, sex... But more importantly, people talking about sex
* lies, corruption, deceit, scandal, betrayal, greed
* a gruff, drunk female character with no redeeming qualities that bears little resemblance to the historic figure she is intending to represent
* set in a small, small town, even by the standards of the time, somewhere in the northwestern United States
* alcohol used more than any other beverage
* the "everyman": strong, steady, upstanding, level-headed, usually white and in his mid-thirties; predictably winds up being some sort of hero and defender-of-the-meek, numerous times
* unintelligible, garbled, mumbled, obscure and possibly inaccurate-for-the-time-period dialogue that requires the use of Closed Captioned subtitles even for those of us that are hearing
* the use of the words "fuck", "cocksucker" and "cunt" at least seven times each, every three minutes, for the duration of each episode
* loads and loads of gratuitous, unforgivable (though, to be fair, probably historically accurate) misogyny, even though the show appears to be written mostly by women
Huh. I just perused HBO's Deadwood site again, and noticed that there's a blurb about the New York Times. Supposedly, the New York Times thinks Deadwood is "as absorbing and addictive as The Sopranos".
Remind me never to watch The Sopranos.
^ I know, I should get some kind of award.
^^ Meaning, in addition to the plethora of complex 18-50-year-old white male characters used as a "baseline". See "Band of Brothers" for more info on how a mini-series can become a raging success and not feature any single other type of character.