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When Is It Too Late To Start Watching a Serialized Show?

By admin Published: December 17, 2008

What an exciting scene! And who are all you people?

A copy of "Battlestar Galactica Season 4.0" landed on my desk today. And, as has been the case with some previous "BSG" on DVD, I asked myself if it was finally the right time to start watching the show. Especially if I started watching without going too far back into previous episodes. ... (Also, another "BSG"-related item is here.)

"It's far too late," says Sepinwall, who contends that the show's narrative is too dense to allow jumping in so late in the game. And there are shows like that, which are so deeply immersed in their own history that a belated arrival can cost you a lot of nuances.

I think "Homicide: Life on the Street" was like that, and there's no question that "The Wire" was. Indeed, when I asked Sepinwall when he thought it was too late to get into "The Wire," he flatly said, "Episode 2." "The Shield" felt a little more accessible, but you obviously got more out of it when you watched from the beginning. "CSI," with the events leading up to Grissom's departure, certainly expected people to remember some old storylines, but it offered some explanation along the way; something like "Grey's Anatomy" has a lot of backstory on its characters but drops in enough references to who previously slept with whom to let new viewers catch up.

And up to now I've just been talking about dramas. Comedies, though, have their serialized aspects. Could a new viewer of "HIMYM" get the "Let's Go to the Mall" joke at the end of this week's episode? Or would a newcomer to "The Office" have been totally at sea last week, especially with things like Michael's reference to Jan?

So here's my question for you: When is it too late to join a show in progress? Any memories of trying to watch a show and just finding it impossible? And are there shows that are especially friendly to new viewers? (Other than "Law & Order," the monarch of drop-in-anytime series.) Your thoughts are welcome.

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