Billie's Ten Rules of Television


Many moons ago, I mentioned off-hand that something was one of my "television rules". I didn't really have a list of rules, but it sounded good. Awhile later, I did it again. And then a third time. And then I decided maybe I'd better keep track of the rules, and if I ever had ten, I'd post them. And then I had ten, and kept forgetting to post them. (This article is quickly turning into "Ten reasons why Billie procrastinates".)

So I should have posted them awhile ago. I'm posting them now. Without further ado or procrastination, here are my Ten Rules of Television. If you have some of your own, I'd love to see them in the comments.

1. If I really love a new show, it is usually swiftly and immediately canceled. (Corollary: A show that I later fall passionately in love with will initially turn me off in a big way.)

2. The most obvious murder suspect in real life is usually the one whodunit. On television, the opposite is true.

3. Good drama takes time. Less is more.

4. Always avoid creepy demonic statues, especially at archaeological sites.

5. Supernatural stories about Native Americans usually suck, especially when the Native Americans are elderly men.

6. In the beginning, fans are crazy about a show and love everything about it. And then, usually around season three, some of them start compulsively ripping it to shreds. Why? Because a good show must innovate and change or it gets boring as well as canceled, but some believe it must continue to be what they initially fell in love with, forever and ever, period. You'd think they'd stop watching, but no; they stick around and complain endlessly, instead. That's Billie's Television Rule #6, also known as the "Buffy season six Rule."

7. Never try to apply logic to time travel stories.

8. Any episode that starts with people burning at the stake is going to suck.

9. Nearly everyone living in a foreign country speaks perfect English.

10. (Josie's Law): If you don't see the body, don't believe anyone is dead.

67 comments:

Paul Kelly said...

Haha...fun list. I like it. How about:

11. In real life a group of people in a haunted house where murders were happening would never split up. In a TV show they can't seem to help themselves.

percysowner said...

Rule 6 is right on the money and one of the ways fandom drives me crazy. I'm a quitter, for the most part, and once I find more to criticize than love, I leave. But while I still like the show the complaining drives me crazy.

I should take no. 7 to heart, because time travel gives me a headache.

Rule 10(a). Even if you see a body that doesn't meant that someone is dead. The body may have been a doppleganger or an previously unknown twin. Or even part of a year long dream, EVEN when you have a spinoff show that had crossovers and that thought the death would stick, so they devoted an episode to having one brother grieve the death of another (until the death turned out to be a dream). I'm looking at you Dallas and poor Knots Landing,which was a far superior show and got stuck holding the "Bobby is still dead in OUR universe" bag.

Paul Kelly said...

Hmmm... after watching The Cape, and after Heroes Season Four, can I add... Any show featuring a carnival (unless it has an "e" on the end) is probably not worth watching?

DrAlice said...

THIS is why I continue to read your words. Pure genius. Braaa-vo!

Thanks for the many years of endless amusement. :)

Well... Except for Rule #1. That just makes me sad. Stupid TV PTBs.

Gus Brunetti said...

Paul,

Carnivale was really good.

Rule #9 is attestedly true. Though I know lots of people who speak English very well (they work with me, and I meet them in congresses), we're a minority. I have a friend who works at HR, and she's been looking for a long for somebody who speaks fluent English. The job is still open and nobody who applies meet the criteria.

And Rule #10 is true for movies as well. I never thought for a second that a certain character had died at the end of season 4 of LOST.


Great rules, Billie!

Google Girl also procrastinates said...

I have to back both Paul and Gus on rule 10.
Even when you see a dead body, when the body is pronounced dead before your very eyes, expect a Juliet...

Olga said...

Billie, great and fun list!
Reading anything on this site is a quality time spent. Thank you!

"expect a Juliet" - that was LOL funny

2. The most obvious murder suspect in real life is usually the one whodunit. On television, the opposite is true.

Also when they cast a familiar actor/actress he or she is usually the one whodunit

Juliette said...

1, 2 and 10 are so true.

I do loathe Buffy season 6 with a passion, but in my defence I actually stopped watching and went away. The problem was when I came back for season 7 and had to catch up on what had happened in season 6!

My personal TV rule - if I love it, everyone else hates it. Star Trek Voyager, Keanu Reeves in general, and old BBC show you've never heard of called Crime Traveller, Paul McGann's Doctor... I even quite like season 8 of The X Files.

Mark Greig said...

Juliette, you’re not the only one who loves Paul McGann's Doctor. I’d easily place him in my top five Doctors along with Tom, Matt, David and Peter.

But, seriously, Crime Traveller? I’m all for guilty pleasures but, seriously, Crime Traveller???!!!

Jess Lynde said...

Number 10 tops my list of "Things I Learned from Watching the Soaps."

As for #6, I think that phenomenon is part "people don't like change" and part "familiarity breeds contempt". So some of the haters want things to never, ever change even a little bit and some think things haven't changed enough. And then there are those that don't mind change, but just don't like the direction of the change (which is probably at the root of most of the Buffy S6 hate).

Gus Brunetti said...

I personally don't like S06 of Buffy because the theme of "witchcraft as an analogy for drugs" was too hamfisted. I also don't like episodes where one or more or all the characters lose their memory, so you know how I feel about Tabula Rasa.

And Billie, I've been trying, but I can't remember any episode of any show that applies to rule #8. Enlighten me, please.

Billie Doux said...

Gus asked about rule number eight. Apparently, Gus, you've never watched Smallville.

Billie Doux said...

And here's the link:

http://billiedoux.blogspot.com/2003/02/smallville-spell.html.

I tend to think, though, that whenever the burning-at-the-stake plot device is introduced -- even when it's not at the beginning of the episode -- it makes the episode a bit ludicrous. Dishonorable mention to "Gingerbread" http://www.billiedoux.blogspot.com/2002/01/buffy-gingerbread.html and "Here There Be Monsters". http://billiedoux.blogspot.com/2003/03/dead-zone-here-there-be-monsters.html.

Jay said...

Great list!

Number 9 had me in stitches. I never really thought about it but I believe that might be the truest rule of them all.

(Am I the only person here that kinda liked Buffy season 6?)

And with all the new crap on the tube lately, I think an upcoming rule might be that if you want decent tv, avoid major networks at all costs! (HBO + AMC = Win!)

Billie Doux said...

Jay, I loved Buffy season 6. But it seemed that half the fans hated it. It went too far for them, I think. Controversial season, for sure.

Dimitri A.C. Ly said...

I quite liked season 6 of Buffy too, though, in retrospect, Gustavo makes a rather good point. "Once More with Feeling" and "Life Serial" are still among my favourite episodes, mind you. I also like the smoother analogy to the way starting your new life as an adult (after college and whatnot) is so different than expected it can make even the smallest obstacle (bunch of nerds) feel like a real life challenge.

Incidentally, I have the same rule as #6 and used to call it the Supercilious X-Phile Conundrum. It also applies marvelously to Lost, as the number of episodes had to be cut down in later seasons because "fans" were outraged at the producers for making them put up with occasional reruns, oh, nos!

Speaking of these two shows, here's another rule I have:

#72. The "Man Stranded on a Roof" Law: If you drag out a mystery for more than three seasons, fans will perpetually reject any resolution in wait for the "real one" and then complain it never came.

Great list, Billie!

Alexi said...

Josie's law is spot on. Alias made me realise that nobody's ever truly dead in TV.

Juliette said...

@Mark I liked it! It was sweet and I liked it's approach to time travel. And it had King Peter from the Chronicles of Narnia in it. But I'm aware I'm the only one!

HRC said...

Not bad. I especially like 5 and 8. As always, I feel the need to point out that the inverse is often just as fallacious. For example, just because often people don't have good reasons for ripping a show to shreds as it goes on or changes or what have you does not mean that it is ALWAYS unjustified. Sometimes the show really did start sucking and certain fans are just to blind to see it.

Anonymous said...

Buffy season 6 rule cracked me up because it was so true! back when I was a regular buffy fan and not a super fan, i hated season 6, but now i like it because every time i re-watch it, it's the only season still surprising to me!

Mark said...

The Wonderfalls' episode "Totem Mole" breaks Rule #5. (Then again, the actress Alex Rice is just a bit different than an elderly man.)

Remco said...

From the category of 'things I learned from TV': don't mess with a crazy funeral chick. You just might end up with extra feet.

Anonymous said...

Unless it's the last episode of the series, the main character will *always* come back to life.

Katherine said...

The last time I watched TV Happy Days was in prime time. I recently discovered Lost, and I've enjoyed reading the reviews on this site very much. Thanks for sharing your writing with us.

Billie Doux said...

You're very welcome, Katherine. I'm glad you enjoyed Lost.

Carly said...

If someone with vital information is left out of sight for more than 2 minutes, they *Will* die.

Billie Doux said...

I've got a new one! From Fringe season three episode, "The Box." Whenever you're dragging a body across a living room floor, someone will knock at the door.

Remco said...

That reminds me: whenever something racy happens on screen, your parents will enter your room unannounced. (Jeff from Coupling)

Billie Doux said...

Good one, Remco. That's also happened to me in reverse, too, with me watching something racy and my kid unexpectedly comes into the room.

Astro Google Girl said...

When a character buys a present for another character, the chance of either of them dying soon (before giving/receiving said present) is instantly multiplied.

Billie Doux said...

Astro Google Girl, I think I have a corollary for this one. Whenever someone gives someone else a present, they never wrap it like a normal person would. Instead, they wrap the box and the lid separately.

Josie Kafka said...

That's very hard to do well, too. I've tried numerous times and never been happy with the results.

Google Girl is too tired to think of a name said...

Billie, you are right... I imagine it comes from the fact that's how we imagine a gift, just like, when we are asked to draw a phone, we will often draw a rotary phone!

Josie, maybe it would be easier to use tissue paper and glue? It usually gives a nice effect and is rather easy.

Josie Kafka said...

G.G.I.T.T.T.T.O.A.N.,

What sort of glue would you recommend? I imagine Elmer's would leave lines that could be seen through the paper, but I worry that rubber cement is too wet.

Gus Brunetti said...

How about this: if someone says over the phone "I have to tell you something", they WILL die before conveying the information. The probability of the person being killed is directly proportional to the importance of what they have to tell.


Also, bedsheets are L-shaped, covering women's breasts while displaying men's torsos completely.

GglGrl said...

Josie, traditionally, you use watered down plain white glue. it has to be fairly liquid. (Also, please make it just plain "Google Girl" unless it's to teach me a lesson on not using long names!)

Gus, you are entirely right. It may also work by text. The moral of the story is: your phone is bugged anyway, so just tell the other person right away.
As for bed sheets, they're not necessary L-shaped,they're just auto-censuring!

jessica valle said...

dont forget if anyone is ever happy in the beginning something tragic will happen in the end.

Trebabe said...

Bones is a prime example of a show past it's sell by date. I gave up on it when they started to rely on dressing up and fantasy episodes. Mostly u'll notice that the stars are the executive producers. Ghost whisperer is another example.

Matthew L said...

@Olga mentions that when a well-known actor/actress is cast, they are often the one whodunit.


One can also add that when a well-known actor/actress is cast, they are often either the one whodunit or they are a giant red herring.


The one I notice alot because of my science background is that on any procedural show (be it a forensics and/or medical show), there will always be one or more characters that spew scientific jargon that somehow sounds like normal conversation.


Also related, on any such procedural show, the instruments they use and the tests they run amazingly provide so much more information in a shorter amount of time than in real life.


Oh, also in both tv and movies, when guns are invovled, all the good guys are crackshot wonders and the bad guys couldn't hit the side of a barn.

Mark Greig said...

If the press start calling a show "the new Lost" it will be cancelled after one season.

Sooze said...

Ha! Good one Mark.

Jonathan said...

If a bomb is introduced in the story, it will go off. The good guys will try to stop the explosion, yet in the end it always blows. Luckily, however, not in the way the bad guys intended it to.

celticmarc said...

Juliette

Keanu Reeves makes an awesome Buddha in Little Buddha !

Ozymandias_Jones said...

If there's a prophecy of any shape or form, no matter how shifty and unreliable the prophet is, and even if the show isn't usually fantasy, it will come true in some way, although not necessarily in the way it was expected to.

sunbunny said...

Baddies die instantaneously, even from things like stomach wounds. Heroes will (almost) always have time for dramatic last words, even if shot/stabbed in the head or heart and even if you only discover the body after hours. Cough, Book, cough.

Juliette said...

Any episode featuring cavemen (especially cavemen versions of regular characters) or super-evolved humans (ditto) will suck.

The Farscape episode featuring both at once is especially unfortunate.

celticmarc said...

I massively concur with Juliette. They did that on the first season on Space 1999 (cavemen). Even then, when I was a teen, I rolled my eyes and wanted to bang my head on the wall. Nowadays, now that I've added the DVD set to my collection, I have been unable AND unwilling to watch that ep again...

There are limits to decency.

Juliette said...

Agreed, celticmarc!

A certain show also complained about drinking beer AND included cavemen, which was especially bad! ;)

celticmarc said...

LMAO

sunbunny said...

Am I the only one who liked "Beer Bad"? tears.

Juliette said...

Yes :)

Katherine said...

I don’t know where to plant this, so I will leave it here. My family wished to know more about a show called “Heroes” but I couldn’t find it on Billie Doux, so I said leave it alone; it’s not for us. But they ridiculed my disregard and now my house is filled with, “Wait, what? Who is that? What are they?” etc., etc., etc. No one stays dead and so the whole, “You killed my father, prepare to die” loses its’ impact.

I’m not saying all you all are an infallible guide to television viewing, but as a TV novice I’m in need of some handholding, and if it’s not represented on Billie Doux there must be a reason

On the plus side Netflix offered a 13 episode view of a discontinued program called The Finder that we loved. I got all giddy when they made reference to “a Smoke Monster” from “Some TV series” and I got the reference!!!

Rock on Garth.

Billie Doux said...

Hi, Katherine:

Your post made me smile. :)

Actually, I'm sad to report that I did indeed review Heroes. After a lot of frustration, I gave up in the fourth season. Because we don't recommend it, we took it off the front page. But it still lives in the "all shows" section.

http://www.douxreviews.com/2000/01/heroes_01.html

Katherine said...

If my post brought a smile to your face, it served its purpose. Now that I know there is a write up for Heroes, I will have to read it. I enjoy your writing so much I would probably derive pleasure from reading your grocery list. “She’s buying eggs, ham and cheese now it all makes sense, its fore-shadowing a future omelet!”

Anonymous said...

You can get anywhere you want within a building through the vent system.

Juliette said...

- If a woman vomits, she is pregnant.

Everyone has the exact same amount of morning sickness - vomiting occasionally for a few weeks before showing. No one ever suffers from it really badly, and no one ever gets through pregnancy without it, because whereas in real life people's bodies and experiences are different in different pregnancies never mind for different women, on TV, everyone is exactly the same.

- If an actiony series gets a proper finale (that the writers know is definitely the finale) a regular character has to die. Just because they can.

sunbunny said...

Bad guy = bad shot.

sunbunny said...

In real life, media reports are often unreliable or incomplete. On TV, the news is always 100% accurate (when used for expository purposes).

Josie Kafka said...

Or 0% accurate to illustrate that our heroes will go unsung, as in Buffy with Snyder's cover-up of the events of "School Hard."

I-ku-u said...

Corollary to #10: If a murder victim's body is unrecognizable, don't believe the ID is correct.

zharth said...

I liked Buffy season 6! I guess I would be in the support-of-innovation camp on that example. It was different, to be sure, but I thought it was a brilliant place to take the series, especially after what seemed like could be the end of the series (but wasn't), after season 5. Yeah, the nerd gang are annoying, and the season includes the most infuriating episode of the whole series (the appropriately titled Seeing Red), but it was worth it for Buffy's character arc alone, if nothing else.

Billie Doux said...

Preaching to the choir, zharth -- I loved Buffy season 6, for exactly those reasons. But a lot of the fans really hated it.

Billie Doux said...

From the discussion of the Flash episode 'King Shark': "It has to be someone you know, or he wouldn't be wearing a mask."

http://www.douxreviews.com/2016/02/the-flash-king-shark.html

Pete said...

Pete's movie and TV rules:

1. Injections must always be given in the neck, or in the eye.

2. If a main character dies, there's a good chance that he or she will later be revealed to be still alive. Even if you saw the "corpse".

2. a) If (s)he is really dead, then they will later reappear as a ghost/hallucination/dream to have a meaningful conversation with another main character.

3. If a male and female character initially hate each other, they will fall in love with each other before the end.

4. In an action/thriller, a main character will be miraculously saved in nick of time, a least twice.

5. The killer always keeps crucial self-incriminating evidence in his home or in his car.

6. When the writer is ready for a fistfight, the characters on screen will suddenly run out of bullets.

7. A horror movie must contain at least two false scares.

8. If something shocking occurs involving the main character, there's a 30% chance that it's happening in a (day)dream.

Nonei said...

Corollary to Pete's #7 - if the false scare turns out to be a cat jumping down from somewhere high, the real scare will happen in 7 seconds:
first second : AAGH!
second second : Oh whew, it's just a cat
fourth second : what a good kitty *rubs cats ears* (or watches cat run off, if it's in an alley)
sixth second : begins to turn away from the cat
seventh second : stabbed through the heart (or whatever)

TJ said...

My eye-rolling moments are usually when people start making out during various apocalyptic events - a nuclear bomb is about to go off/Hellmouth is opening/a serial-killer is on the loose/alien invasion and the earth is doomed/flying dinosaurs attacking etc etc.

I think that must be my #1 rule of Television:)

Mallena said...

One of these days I need to make a list of rules that Supernatural always seems to follow. After 11 and a half seasons, they are becoming more apparent. Let's see..... Here's a few for a start. 1. If there's glass anywhere in the room, whether it be a french door or a display case, a Winchester will be thrown into it. 2. If the big bad wants to kill Sam, they will strangle him slowly, always giving Dean enough time to sneak up behind and save him. 3. Only in rare cases do the Winchesters display bruises or cuts for more than 10 minutes. 4. If you are a beautiful female and get involved with a Winchester, you better have burial insurance. That rule often applies to the average female, also.
5. If there is a special knife or gun involved in a fight, it always gets knocked away, so the fight can continue for awhile longer.