My Poker Chip Theory About Shows, Movies, Music, etc.

By: Frank Hyden

I watch a pretty fair amount of shows. Not a ton but you know, a handful. I have my favorites and then shows I just watch while I might be doing something else. I don’t dismiss a show just because it has dumb stuff on it. All shows have plenty of really stupid things on them. Literally every single TV show, movie, music album, etc. has dumb stuff about it. It doesn’t matter what show it is, how highly it’s been praised, it has stupid parts on it. You just overlook it because of all the good stuff about it. Whether it’s Breaking Bad, The Wire, The Godfather, whatever you want to name, it has bad and dumb stuff about it. It’s just that, for you, it has more good stuff that outweighs it. What is considered good varies from person to person.

I like to use the example of poker chips. When a new show starts, you’re given 1,000 chips. I chose that number at random, but the point is, you’re given a stack of chips. Good things give you more chips, bad things take chips away. The greater the good things are, the more chips you’re given. The dumber the bad things are, the more they’re taken. Over time you build up quite a large stack of chips, assuming the series is good enough. So when a dumb thing happens that takes away 200 chips, if you’re sitting on a pile of 25,000 chips, you barely even notice.

However, the more these bad things happen, the more chips that are taken away. Suddenly, what would have only taken 100 chips away now takes 1,000 chips away because you’re noticing that the bad is happening more and more. Now, how many chips you’re given or are taken away will vary depending on you. Everyone has their sore spots and pet peeves, just as they have their soft spots and little things they like. So, two different people could have wildly different stacks of chips. The good things will give a generally consistent number of chips. However, the bad things have an exponential effect. As stated above, what once took 100 chips now takes 1,000 chips. Or perhaps 2,000? Or 5,000 or more? It all depends on how often this bad stuff is happening and to whom. If your favorite character suddenly starts doing all this dumb stuff, it can really grow.

Now, you probably won’t stop watching a show just because you get to 0 chips. However, that does depend on how many chips you had at your highest point. If you only ever got to 2,000 chips (so likely early in a series) at your highest and get taken down to 0, you’d probably say “F it, I’m out”. But if you had gotten to 90,000 chips, you might give the show a longer leash. In order to get to such a high number of chips, you would have had to enjoy a lot about a show over that time. And those feelings don’t just fade away. A show has to be more than mediocre for you to give it up. A show has to do something aggressively, actively bad for you to give it up. In poker there’s a thing called All In, where you push all your chips to the center. In this example, I would call it All Out. It’s when you cut ties and drop a show. All your chips are taken from you because the show did something so stupid that you just can’t continue. If the show had previously been good enough, though, you’ll have no chips but give them another chance. You’ll give them one last chance to win you back. They’re on thin ice and there’s almost no room for error but you give them this chance because of what they’ve done in the past. You don’t want to give up, you’ve invested a lot of time. More importantly, though, you’ve been given good stuff in the past. You know they have it within them to give you that good stuff again.

I’ll give you an example. I used to watch The Walking Dead. In the early seasons, I was wowed by the gore and the character deaths. In season 2 you had Dale die in one episode and Shane in the next. Those were main characters, especially Shane. Not a lot of shows do that. And like I said, the gore was excellent. Was there stupid things in those first 2 seasons? Of course there were, but the good far outweighed the bad to me. Then you moved to season 3 and the prison and The Governor. Then Lori died. Freaking Lori died. Another huge main character died. This was awesome, the stack of chips was falling off the table there were so many. And Hershel was the wise old man dispensing wisdom. They introduced Tyrese, I liked him. Michonne was cool. Merle went after The Governor and probably should have killed him but got killed himself and there was that great scene where Daryl comes across his zombified brother and has to put him down. Yeah, it was stupid the way Merle got taken out, he should have killed The Governor, it was only TV logic that stopped that. But I overlooked that because of all the other cool stuff up until then. Then, holy shit, they killed Hershel. I liked him, but this is bigtime stuff. Then as the seasons progressed, less cool stuff started happening. I know why, it was Scott Gimple’s dumb ass. The pace kept getting slower and slower, and less stuff started happening. Tyrese died, but it was kind of a bullshit death as he slowly bled out over time. Beth got killed, which happened suddenly and was out of nowhere. But it was out of nowhere because of how stupid her death was. She stabbed a character with some tiny scissors and got capped. Noah got his face ripped apart by zombies in a revolving door. Then came the double whammy of bullshit.

They had built up Negan over the entire 6th season. He was ready to explode on screen as this force of nature. The first piece of bullshit was the Glenn dumpster fakeout death. Glenn and some jabroni named Nicholas were on a dumpster surrounded by walkers. Nicholas kills himself in a cool shot where you see the blood splatter on Glenn, but his dead body forces Glenn off the dumpster into the horde. We see Glenn’s guts being ripped apart as he screams and he “died”. Except you could tell by the way they framed the shot that it wasn’t actually Glenn being ripped apart. The camera angle gave it away. However, the show and everyone involved played it off like Glenn was actually dead. The actor, Steven Yeun, was removed from the opening credits and they basically told everyone he was dead. Savvy viewers knew it was bullshit and manipulative garbage, but the critics ate it up. Which tells you why you shouldn’t listen to most critics because they’re shills. It’s fine to have the characters on the show think Glenn is dead, that could actually be interesting and cool, but to lie to your viewers is just crap. Of course, a handful of episodes later they confirmed Glenn was still alive, he had somehow managed to crawl under the dumpster. However, when he had fallen, it was away from the dumpster. His feet were closer to it than his head was. Yet when they showed him crawling under it, his head was closer.

This took a big chunk of chips from my stack. I hate when shows do manipulative stuff like this. Don’t insult my intelligence. But ok, let’s move on. Every show does stupid things, and here comes Negan. They do a really good job of building tension during the Season 6 finale. The whole group ends up caught and waiting for Negan to come. He comes out a RV swaggering like a badass. Yeah, his monologue lasted too long, it felt like he talked for 20 minutes straight, but that’s probably just the tension of the scene. They’re all on their knees before him and he’s going to kill one of them. And he swings his bat and…they cut to a first person shot and the episode is over.

What the fuck?

Again, more bullshit manipulation. They want you to wait until the next season to find out who died. More games. Yeah, this kind of cliffhanger isn’t the worst thing in the world but after the dumpster BS I was pretty much done. This took the rest of my chips. I would tune in to the Season 7 premiere and take it from there. If it was good, I’d keep watching. If it was crap, I was probably done. To be fair, the episode was really good. However, the way they did it still drives me crazy and shows a complete lack of competence on the part of the creative team. It takes a good 15 minutes or so until they reveal who Negan killed at the end of Season 6. Okay, that’s standard TV fare, they had to build the tension back up. I get that, no problem. Abraham is the one who Negan killed. But then, like 5-10 minutes later, Negan kills Glenn. The same guy they had done a fakeout death for a handful of episodes ago. Why the hell would you do a fakeout death for a character and then kill him off for real? What kind of Rian Johnson “I’m going to try to subvert your expectations but actually show I’m a complete idiot!” kind of junk is that? This only makes the Season 6 finale that much worse. They killed 2 characters in the Season 7 premiere after a bullshit cliffhanger in the Season 6 finale. Why wouldn’t you kill Abraham at the end of the Season 6 finale, then have Negan look into the camera (like a 1st person view from Rick’s perspective) and say “We’re just getting started!” and fade to black. Then in the Season 7 premiere you build the tension back up and kill Glenn? That would be so much better than the way they did it.

Setting aside the cliffhanger stuff. Maybe you’re one of the people who liked that or didn’t mind it. No problem, that’s just something we disagree on, no big deal. The major problem is, they killed off two main characters within 10 minutes of each other. Glenn was one of the most popular characters on the show. People loved him because he was a good person. Yeah, they had him have no problem with murdering Negan’s soldiers in their sleep, which is just shitty writing, but he was always portrayed as the conscience of the group. Daryl was probably the most popular but Glenn was right up there with him, I think. His death is huge news, it’s going to overshadow almost anything else. So why the hell would you kill another character in the same episode, let alone so close to Glenn’s death? They completely screwed Abraham over doing that, they made him a tiny footnote. They could have killed him in the Season 6 finale and that would have been a big deal. That aside, I was sitting at 0 chips at the beginning of the episode but it was a good episode so it gave me some chips. I decided I’d watch this season, I was curious to see what happened, and I knew the show was capable of great things so I figured I’d give it a try.

That was a huge mistake.

Season 7 of The Walking Dead is one of the worst seasons of television ever. I say that because I know the show is capable of producing great TV. I know there are many, many shows out there that put out worse seasons, but those shows didn’t put out seasons as good as The Walking Dead had in the past. The highs of the show made the lows that much worse. Episode 1 was pretty good, Episode 2 focused on Carol and Ezekiel. It was slow-paced but okay, maybe they want you to breathe a bit after the tension of the prior episode. Episode 3 was all about Daryl being a prisoner in a closet. Again, slow-paced and boring but I like Daryl so I’ll hang in there. Every episode is slow-paced, like really slow, not much happens. Carl has a chance to kill Negan but doesn’t because, I don’t know why. They have an entire episode about Tara, a tertiary at best character. I actually kind of liked this episode as I liked Tara. This was one of the better episodes of the season, which is sad. Another episode sees the introduction of The Scavengers group, a Mad Max ripoff group who apparently have forgotten how to speak English properly in the handful of years since civilization fell. Seriously, when they talk, they sound like idiots. Then they do an entire episode centered around Eugene, one of the more annoying characters on the show. He can be fine in small doses but not for an entire episode. Sasha goes to kill Negan but gets captured. Negan hands her a big knife but instead of plunging it into Negan and killing him she just takes it and does nothing. The season ends with a bunch of guns firing but no casualties and Sasha having poisoned herself in hopes of her walker form killing Negan rather than using her skills to make sure the job is done.

I stopped watching after this season. However a friend of mine got me to watch Season 8 on Netflix. Me and him aren’t friends anymore. I’m just kidding about that but Season 8, while better than Season 7, was still a bad season. The Walking Dead lost 1/3 of their viewership with this crap season. They lost another third of their viewership with Season 8. To be fair, their viewership was way better than almost everything else out there. So it’s not like they were getting crap ratings, but compared to what they were, it was major cause for concern. What really bothered me about Season 8 of The Walking Dead was the ending. They had been building for quite a while the showdown between Rick and Negan. I lost track of how many times Rick had said he was going to kill Negan. He’d been saying since Season 7 over and over. And there had been multiple times where Negan should have been killed but they went full Looney Tunes and Negan somehow escape death every time. It was so ridiculous. Anyway, so Rick finally gets Negan one on one and they fight for 2 seconds before Rick slits his throat and yells at their medic to patch him up. Rick’s son Carl had apparently transcended into the wise old man role before he died and told his dad to spare Negan. Killing him will only lead to more violence, he said. That’s bullshit but Rick listened and spared Negan. But not before slitting his throat for some reason. Why slit his throat if you’re just going to save him? What sense does that make? I hate when they have characters go against their personality for no reason. Rick once ripped a guy’s throat out with his teeth. He’s murdered countless people. Even in that same episode where he spared Negan he killed people. What the hell? Why would you spare the guy you consider to be the biggest asshole in the world? The biggest villain you ever met, and you spare him? The guy who killed Glenn in cold blood, the guy who killed Abraham, the guy who would kill you in a second…and you spare him?

That took any remaining chips I might have had. I’m done with the show and I can’t go back. The bad outweighed the good. I used to love The Walking Dead but now there’s nothing but disappointment. I’m All Out with that show.

Comments and suggestions can be emailed to me at hydenfrank@gmail.com and you can follow me on Twitter at @hydenfrank

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