I used to be very strategic about starting new shows in the fall. I would carefully watch trailers and read reviews, and only sit down to watch a pilot if I was sure it was a show I might want to follow. I didn’t want to get sucked into something if I didn’t have time to watch it. This year, I decided to throw that to the wind. I’m watching any and all pilots I want and checking out shows that I wasn’t even sure I wanted to watch based off of the promos. That means deciding whether I want to watch a show is saved for after watching the pilot, while knowing that a show can ultimately change a lot from its pilot episode. How then to decide? I use a few different criteria.
Are the vast majority of main characters white, able-bodied, cisgender, and straight? What’s the gender breakdown? Are any of these a requirement of the narrative (ie: set in a specific place and time where it would be unusual for there to be much diversity of a certain kind)? Even when a lack of diversity might be justified by a historical setting, I still question whether the show could have chosen to include more diversity anyways (such as Merlin casting Angel Colby for the role of Guinevere). When creators make a show of all white, able-bodied, straight, cisgender people, they are making a choice, and it’s generally not one I agree with.
Were there lines that made me laugh? Were there lines that felt overly clichéd or predictable? Is the show’s premise original, or does it feel like something I’ve seen before? Did anything in the episode surprise me? Shows where I can consistently predict the outcome of every episode quickly get boring for me, so if a show can’t surprise me early on (when I know less about the characters and overall story), I probably won’t stick with it. And I never discount when a show makes me laugh. Even in something very serious, including moments of humor can only make a show stronger, in my opinion.
Was the pilot episode engaging? Did it close on a cliffhanger, or with some sort of mystery that made me want to keep watching? Am I interested in learning more about these characters? Did I enjoy watching the episode? Quite simply: am I excited enough to keep watching? This is the final determining factor. If I’m not excited, I’m not going to spend my time watching something.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of criteria, and depending on the genre of the show I may have other concerns, or weigh them differently. If it’s a sci-fi show with half the people in prosthetics and heavy makeup, gauging “diversity” may be a little more difficult. If it’s a slow-paced period drama, it probably won’t make me laugh as much as a short-length comedy show. But these three categories provide the basic set of criteria I consider. So, Geekettes, how do you pick shows to watch? What makes you keep watching a new show?