Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
I have a confession to make. Many would be embarrassed admitting to this particular habit. Others would make excuses. Not me. I'm ready to share my secret with the world.
I watch TV with the subtitles on.
Not just foreign shows. Every single program. Drama. Comedy. You name it, I've got the CC going. I wear headphones for work every day and will soon be 55 years old, but my hearing is just fine.
Do not be concerned. I'm not ashamed of captions. In fact, I find them essential for TV watching. You might be thinking subtitles are for the elderly or hard of hearing. Or for great foreign shows like Bordertown or Money Heist to follow the action. You'd be wrong.
Subtitles come in quite handy watching House of the Dragon. Frankly, I couldn't follow the action without having the dialogue at the bottom of my screen. On Wednesdays, I'm fortunate enough to get a subtitle-free preview of the latest happenings in Westeros, and I'm lucky to understand half of what's going on. When I re-watch live on HBO on Sunday night with the captions on, everything becomes clear.
When I was growing up, I avoided subtitled content like some avoid black and white movies. Such ignorance. My habit started full force while watching foreign TV series and reading translations of dialogue. Don't be one of those people who chooses English voiceovers to avoid text on your screen. You lose the inflection of some great actors speaking in their native tongues. It's always better hearing the language of origin.
After getting used to text on my TV screen, British series were the next adventure. Downton Abbey was my first, and I'm firmly convinced the Crawleys would not have had the same impact without the words below. I could make out the accents, but definitively knowing what all characters were saying made all the difference in the world.
The purpose of captions is clear — to help those who struggle to hear dialogue. But there's so much more. Subtitles clarify character names and who is actually saying what. If there's off-camera dialogue, you know who said it. Background music and sounds are clearly identified. These lines of text are loaded with accurate information, and here's a tip of the cap to those who enter these words with astonishing accuracy
TV purists argue “those annoying words” take away from the visual and you're "reading the show." At first, subtitles can be distracting, but that's why the good Lord created the pause and rewind buttons. Eventually you get used to having the words on your screen and it enhances any viewing experience.
Last week, my wife and I went to a movie theater for the first time in two and a half years to watch Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline in New England. I was lost. Sure I could follow the story (not great, by the way), but where were the captions to tell me exactly what was occurring? Oh subtitles, you’ve spoiled me.
As for the stigma of old people needing subtitles, well, maybe I am getting old. But if this was an option in my 20's, I would have hit that closed captioning button every time. I had the same attitude towards playing pickleball, another activity that's perceived as being for the elderly. I initially refused to play the "geriatric game", and now I'm on the court every week.
So I'm coming clean. I watch TV with the subtitles on, and I'm proud of it. Next time you fire up the remote, join me and read all about it.
Here's what’s worth watching on TV this week…
Big Shot (Disney+)
Wednesday, October 12th
It's season two for John Stamos' disgraced college basketball coach Korn who took the only job available — a Southern California private school girls’ team. Building off a solid first season, there's a new team member, boys, and plenty of drama as the team deals with tougher competition and hormonal rage. Here's to the charm and success of the first season carrying over.
I Love You, You Hate Me (Peacock)
Wednesday, October 12th
This is a two-part documentary about a purple dinosaur. Yes, it's Barney, and the reaction you're having right now is why this is worth watching. The amount of love and hate generated by a purple dinosaur who sang young children's songs is astounding to see. Shout out to Baby Bop. Watch trailer
The Playlist (Netflix)
Thursday, October 13th
Ever wonder how Spotify came about? This Swedish six-parter is a fictionalized telling of how Daniel Ek changed the music industry. Watch trailer.
THIS WEEK'S STIHTGT!
(Shows That I Hope To Get To!)
Avenue 5 (HBO) – The brilliant Hugh Laurie is back for season two of a sci-fi comedy I'm still trying to follow. Monday at 10p ET.
38 At The Garden (HBO) – New York Knicks fans need some joy, so relive Linsanity in this short doc. Tuesday at 9p ET.
The Watcher (Netflix) – A couple buys their dream home in New Jersey and gets stalked in their new not-so-friendly neighborhood. Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale lead the cast in this Ryan Murphy adaptation of a true story. Thursday.
Shantaram (Apple TV+) – Charlie Hunnam stars as an Australian prison fugitive on the run and hiding in Bombay during the 1980's. Friday.
(Really Good Shows You May Have Missed)
This Week's Pick: Monty Python's Flying Circus (Netflix) - Forget SNL. The most brilliant humor of the 70's came from across the pond with a hilarious mix of intelligence and stupidity. Terry Gilliam's surreal animation provides perfect segues for Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin to do their thing. Say no more.
It's Garry Shandling's Show (Prime Video)
The Office (UK) (Hulu)
The Prisoner (Prime Video)
The Twilight Zone (Paramount+)
Black Mirror (Netflix)
The Leftovers (HBO Max)
Deadwood (HBO Max)
House of Cards (Netflix)
Mr. Show (HBO Max, Hulu)
Downton Abbey (Peacock)
Banshee (HBO Max)
Police Squad! (Prime Video)
Party Down (Starz)
The Great (Hulu)
Magic City (Peacock)
For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
Abbott Elementary (ABC)
Luther (HBO Max)
Downton Abbey (Netflix)
The Good Wife (Paramount+)
Freaks & Geeks (Hulu)
Patriot (Prime Video Prime Video)
Battlestar Galactica (Peacock)
The Split (Prime Video)
Halt and Catch Fire (AMC+)
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Get vaccinated and boosted. Stay healthy and safe!
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.
TOPICS: Subtitles, House of the Dragon