This is my first Weekly Geek post and it’s only fitting that Mr Spock is here as this week’s theme is different forms of storytelling, and for me TV is the main alternative to books. Don’t get me wrong, I love movies (see the Film Page for evidence of that) but I don’t interact with films in quite the same way as I do with TV. When I go to the cinema I sit quietly, enjoy the film, stay until the end watching all of the credits, and then have a conversation about it afterwards. With TV, the Book God and I tend to watch together, and during commercial breaks we’ll talk about what we’re watching and try to work out what’s coming next – a bit sad, perhaps, but it works for us.

When I started to think about TV I realised that it falls into three categories for me:

  • non-fiction stuff, usually something historical
  • sci-fi or fantasy themed series
  • crime

I realised also that the series I have been most committed to have tended to have story arcs as well as really good stand-alone episodes, and the best ones don’t forget what has happened and blithely go on as if nothing has changed (I’m looking at you Star Trek).

So what do I watch? Favourites of the past have been The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5 (despite some really terrible dialogue) Lost (which I kind of lost interest in but am picking up again) and current favourites Heroes and Dr Who. Dr Who in particular has caught my imagination; I used to watch it religiously from the end of the Patrick Troughton Doctor (showing my age here) right up to half-way through the Colin Baker years (when it just got silly), and the current relaunch has me fully committed and not just because of David Tennant (though that helps). I love these series because more often than not they are trying to do something new, and even when that doesn’t succeed they are still interesting to watch.

My attitude to the crime series I watch is very different; what I like about these is the formulaic approach to each episode which can be just as comforting as the classic cosy country house murder mystery. What I mean is you know roughly how the story is going to pan out, but it’s how they get there that’s fun. A good example of this would be Cold Case, where there’s a crime in the past, new evidence opens the case, the detectives talk to all of the witnesses and almost invariably come back to the first person they interviewed as they hold the key, the mystery gets solved and the victim appears at the end. House (although I know it’s not crime, but hey it does have Hugh Laurie) is very similar in that it almost always uses the same story structure each week. The main thing for me is that I find these shows really relaxing after a hard day at work: Criminal Minds, Criminal Intent, CSI (except Miami where I got really annoyed with Horatio), Without a Trace and so on. What’s interesting is that I tend not to watch much UK crime, though Messiah has been very good in the past, and Ken Stott as Rebus is always excellent.

It’s often said that TV is a passive experience when compared to reading, but I don’t think that has to be the case if you are willing to engage with the games that the series creators play. And the Stephen Moffat Dr Who episodes have been some of the best TV I have seen in a long time, lingering with me for days after I’ve watched them, just as a good book does.