Tube Talk: What do the shows you watch say about you?

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

My old friend TV Snob was at it again the other day. She’ll watch almost anything on BBC America, PBS, HGTV, DIY, NatGeo or History International—maybe even Discovery Channel. But try to get her to watch anything on network television (or even popular cable channels) and she’ll launch into a diatribe about how insipid American television is.

(If she reads this, she won’t be shocked, she’ll be proud. She might even call me and say, “You forgot to add how much I hate U.S. remakes of British shows!”)

She’s made a few exceptions over the years, like occasionally watching House. I probably gasped when TV Snob admitted to watching House, but she qualified it by saying she preferred the original British version. She didn’t believe it when I told her House was a U.S. original. (Of course, Hugh Laurie is British, so perhaps that’s her loophole.) She told me she sometimes watches Bones, but that’s based on Kathy Reichs’ popular books, and TV Snob will sometimes watch book-based American series, often pointing out how the show didn’t get all the details right.

(To be fair, one of her favorite obsessions is the British Sharpe telepics based on several books by Bernard Cornwell. Sean Bean stars as Sharpe, the Napoleonic War hero. Being a history buff, TV Snob also likes pointing out inaccuracies—as well as accuracies—in these films, and how they differed from the books. But we all know she really watches because they star Sean Bean.)

Try as I might to get TV Snob to check out American shows, she seldom does. She loves Torchwood. (Who wouldn’t? It’s a fun, dark sci-fi romp.) When its star John Barrowman signed on for a guest arc on Desperate Housewives, I thought TV Snob might at least watch one episode. No such luck. She missed out on seeing him play a really bad guy.

On my advice, she said she tried watching Glee, but hated it. At least she tried. I can’t recall if she gave Mad Men or Rescue Me a try.

TV Snob refuses to watch most popular shows, although I recall her saying she watched CSI back in its heyday. The thing I keep circling back to: If she hasn’t watched at least one or two episodes of a series, how can TV Snob know she doesn’t like that particular show?

Granted, there are some genre shows one just knows won’t be their cup of tea, but sometimes it seems like TV Snob declares anything with a British accent to be superior. The fact is, she’s missing out on a lot of quality TV. So are people on the opposite side of the spectrum who refuse to watch PBS or BBC America because they have preconceived notions that British television is stuffy, overly intellectual, or dull. Doctor Who, dull? Never!

Take a look at the kinds of TV shows you tend to prefer. Do your viewing habits follow rigid parameters? Or do you prefer an eclectic mix of shows? What do the shows you watch—or don’t watch—say about you?

Are you a TV Snob, too?

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to

From the July 28-Aug 3, 2010 issue

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