Whenever people here that I am a textile and fashion historian they assume I must love certain TV shows. And when people who know me hear about a new historical TV series they think I’m going to be super excited. And I don’t. And I’m not. It takes a lot more than costumes and a bit of dressed up history to make me like a TV show.
So here are the top 5 TV shows that everyone assumes I love (but I don’t). They are arranged according to how much I dislike them compared to how often people assume I will love them.
1. Downton Abbey.
I know. Shocker. Downton Abbey is #1 on my list of shows that I don’t love (even though everyone expects me to). Why don’t I love Downton Abbey? It has too many characters I wouldn’t want to know in real life. None of the storylines ever have any resolution. The characters (especially in the first season) are poorly developed and one-dimensional. The history is well…not historical. Downton Abbey has had the opportunity to explore all sorts of fascinating social and historical developments in the 1910s (I got so excited about the storyline with the Turkish ambassador, as the fall of the Ottoman empire and creation of Turkey is so interesting, but did they use that…no…!), and has ignored them in favour of soap-opera histrionics and bad period clichés. Also, despite all the love, most of the costumes are pretty disappointing. Why don’t any of the daughters wear petticoats!?!? And why do the maids wear fuller late ‘teens fashion when they are out of uniform in the 2nd series, while the ladies of the Abbey stay in outdated early ‘teens fashions?
I watched the whole first season with friends: Thursday night sewing and frocks was fun, but I didn’t enjoy the actual show. Even though the characterisation improved in the second series, I just couldn’t deal with the ridiculous plotlines.
My sister asked me why I stopped watching it and I said “It’s just like a soap opera. Next thing you know some maid is going to get pregnant out of wedlock, someone else was going to come back from the dead, and the Earl is going to have an affair”. My sister said “Uhhh…I have bad news for you….”. I assume I got at least two out of three of those right. If Season 3 has a storyline involving an evil twin you heard it here first.
2. Mad Men
This one is easy. It’s a show about despicable people doing despicable things. I work hard to surround myself with good people, who do good things. Why would I want to spend my leisure time with morally bankrupt characters who I wouldn’t want to know in real life? I don’t care if they are wearing pretty dresses: that doesn’t make their actions any prettier. And I know it’s very cleverly written, but so is plenty of stuff that is about nice people trying to do nice things (not necessarily on TV, but books are good too!).
3. Boardwalk Empire
I didn’t manage to watch enough of this show to discover if the characters were well developed or if it was historically accurate. I just disliked all the characters too much. Even Kelly Macdonald, who I adore as an actress and who could make Lucrezia Borgia seem like a sweetheart (actually, there is no evidence she wasn’t), couldn’t make her character be un-slap-worthy. The ads for BE in NZ had the tagline ‘we all need to decide how much sin we can live with’. My choice is as little as possible – even through TV.
The only thing I like about BE is that everyone started telling my Mum how much she looks like Macdonald, which is pretty adorable considering my Mum could easily be her mum.
4. The Tudors
Yeah, I know it’s not on TV anymore, but I didn’t like it when it was, and everyone was sure I must be drooling over it. Why didn’t I like it? I think the creators words sum it up pretty well: “Showtime commissioned me to write an entertainment, a soap opera, and not history … And we wanted people to watch it.” People didn’t include me. I think history is interesting enough without needing to add any extra drama.
5. Game of Thrones
Yes, it’s the ultimate fantasy geek story. It’s also hopelessly complicated, super violent, and pretty darn sexist.
So, have I horrified you Or are you glad to know another costume enthusiast who doesn’t think costumes are the be-all-and-end-all of enjoying a show?
And lest you think I am a grumpy little curmudgeon, next week I’ll tell you all about my five favourite TV shows (some of which you really might not expect)