Monday, March 21, 2016

Ask JKM a Question: What Non-Genre TV Programs do I Watch?

A reader and friend named Terri writes:


We readers associate you so much with sci-fi and horror, I was wondering if you had any favorite TV shows that are not in those genres. 

Ones you are currently watching and/or ones that you have on your list to binge in the future. You must have a hard enough time keeping up with sci-fi and horror, but I was curious as to where some of your other tastes lie.

Thanks for your work,


Terri, thank you for such a great question, and thank you for your friendship.  

It's true that no one can live on a diet of horror and sci-fi alone.  Not even me.

I feel and hope that I am a better critic and writer if I sometimes go outside of the genre and sample something else; something different. Consider it a palette cleanser.

My wife and I have binged watched and -- absolutely loved -- Sons of Anarchy (2008-2015), Mad Men (2007-2015), House of Cards (2012 - ), Vikings (2013 - ) and The Americans (2013 - ) to name just a few of the non-genre programming that we've sampled.

Of that bunch, I am particularly taken with Mad Men and Sons. They are true masterpieces and works of art in my opinion.  Mad Men is meticulously-constructed and beautiful to watch, and I love how it captures the era of the 1960s. Sons of Anarchy satisfies my penchant for and love of blood-soaked gangster stories.

One of my all-time favorite movies is Brian De Palma's Scarface, and Sons of Anarchy absolutely feeds my love for that kind of violent action and tales of hubris. In way, Vikings is the same thing, but in a period piece setting. I love watching the power-plays, the maneuvering, the big reversals, and the victories in those shows.  And I have a crush on Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) in Vikings.

I could never really get into Downton Abbey (2010 - 2015), despite all the critical approbation. I could never see the series as much more than a soap opera in dress-up, right down to the implausible plot twists. Worse, I felt it glamorized the relationship between the aristocracy and servants. I liked this story much better when it was called Upstairs, Downstairs (1971-1975). My wife watched Downton and liked it, and I sort of kept one eye on it while I read a book or wrote one.

I also watched -- from start to finish -- Californication (2007 - 2014) and am a card-carrying member of the Hank Moody fan club.  I loved that series.  I also love The Fall (2013 - ), and feel it is one of the best things going.

So to answer your question, I make it a point to watch non-genre TV series, and keep up with the culture as much as I can.  I generally don't have much patience, however, for sitcoms or reality shows. I rarely if ever watch them.

But man, do I love gangster drama and Mad Men

Don't forget to ask me your questions at


  1. Anonymous4:14 AM

    Great question, great answer! Sometimes scifi (and horror) shows have bad acting and low production values so it is refreshing to have a reality check and watch some top-notch drama.

    John, one can only admire your capability of absorbing all the scifi and horror AND still getting to watch quality drama with your family.

    I have a thing for costume drama and there have been this kind of thing coming from BBC, especially in the wake of A Game of Thrones and Vikings: Wolf Hall, Hollow Crown, War and Peace seem worth a look, unfortunately my X-Files and Millennium marathon blocks everything else currently. What I am really looking forward to is BBC's Troy that should probably air sometime this year.


  2. Your taste in drama falls into the category I call "despicable people doing despicable things." It's been a strong trend in television for the last 10 years or so and it leaves me cold. I would much rather watch shows about good people put in difficult circumstances who must show strength and principle to overcome. Glorifying criminals or selfish, ruthless people so that I'm somehow supposed to sympathize with them just doesn't work for me. One exception is House of Cards, which I enjoy because I'm fascinated by politics and politicians are all basically corrupt, so it comes with the territory. I did like Downton Abbey, and I'm currently binge watching a British show called Wild at Heart about an English vet who moves his family to Africa to run a wildlife preserve. That's more uplifting to me than scruffy bikers kicking the crap out of each other.

    1. Anonymous1:37 PM

      Neal, an interesting observation about John's taste. I can totally see your point of view though I'm more inclined towards storytelling about despicable people, shades of grey and so on. Conflict creates drama and corrupt people create conflict around them. Maybe we'll see a turn to the more positive view in our entertainment once our real-world zeitgeist changes.


  3. Great picks john!
    I watched The Fall S1 last year and it was superb. I agree.
    I have purchased The Americans and that is up next.
    I thought The Affair was excellent and I always love Homeland in keeping with the category in question as Alex Trebeck would say :)