Recently, I had no laptop for about a week. This is a fairly common problem as my laptop apparently decides whether to load Windows or not based on what the weather is like, or whether it feels like being a computer that day. But aside from all my annoyance at having to hand my computer over to PC World for another seven days, it gave me a bit of a dilemma – what do I watch on Netflix when I only have my phone’s screen available?
Yeah, I know, first world problems and all but, hey, when you run a blog that is kinda sorta focused on pop culture then these are the sorts of things you have to consider. I immediately ruled out starting anything new, because I’d undoubtedly miss some vital bit of information tucked away in the background of the first episode. I also decided that my choice ought to be something lighter rather than, say, continuing the excellent Orphan Black or rewatching Firefly yet again. After considering having another watch of Rick and Morty, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and Community (among others) I was hit with a flash of inspiration. I’d simply sit back with a few episodes of a couple of my favourite shows from childhood. Both Pokémon: Indigo League and Yu-Gi-Oh! have enough episodes on Netflix to fill more than a few hours, so it was time to relax and enjoy this trip back in TV time.
Yet after watching a couple of episodes of each show, I was less swept up in a tidal wave of warm nostalgia and more sitting in a lukewarm puddle of regret. My fond memories of these two shows seemed to have built up a pedestal of solid gold for them, but I’ve looked a little bit closer and the gold is peeling away, and the pedestal seems to be made of cheap Easter chocolate. Not necessarily something to dislike, and it was amazing when you were a kid, but more hollow and less satisfying than you were expecting. There was a distinct lack of quality to both shows, with the writing and acting more sub-par than my brain had promised me. Honestly, the writing was so simplistic you may have just repeated the same lines over and over again for twenty-seven minutes. I know that it’s a show aimed at children and I shouldn’t be too critical of simplistic writing but this went too far. I wouldn’t call it “dialogue” so much as “describing exactly what was on the screen at all times”. This was Yu-Gi-Oh’s big weakness, it couldn’t seem to go two minutes without pointing out some incredibly obvious plot element. And the voice acting… Pokémon was especially problematic here, and while I know that the voice actors for all the main characters get better (especially Veronica Taylor, who is supremely talented and does a great job playing Ash in later seasons), these early episodes are really not good at all.
It is at this point in the writing of this post that I realise that I’m bashing a couple of shows aimed at children that both originally aired over 15 years ago. I feel bad even looking at the words in the above paragraph. It is here that we can see the power of nostalgia. I had no problem laughing to myself as I watched both Indigo League and Yu-Gi-Oh!, and during that time I knew that I was not watching good TV. But then I come to put the words down on internet paper and I think back to the enjoyment I have got out of both these series over the years. Not just as a child but, in Pokémon’s case, throughout my life, as I’ve continued to play the games and catch the occasional episode. Even Yu-Gi-Oh made a resurgence in my pop culture circle last year when I went on a proper nostalgia trip with a few friends and briefly got back into playing the card game again. And yes, the shows are bad, but are they’re not so bad that they’re unenjoyable. Yu-Gi-Oh gets its charm from its absurdity, with those “that’s not how it works in the card game” moments that happen approximately every 15 seconds, as well when you think about the incredible drama that comes from a really elaborate system to play this pretty simple game. It uses fifty-foot tall holograms. Holograms! In a children’s card game! It’s so weird, yet absolutely amazing.
And what more do I have to say about Pokémon? I find the show so enjoyable because it was my childhood, and while the filler episodes of the show are bland and pretty rubbish, whenever they got a decent idea into the plot it usually worked well. Episodes like Bye Bye Butterfree still tug at the heartstrings, and the excellent relationships between the characters were, and continue to be, a staple of the show. Am I going to stop playing the games or occasionally watching the show just because the early stuff is pretty bad? No, of course not, and it’s not even necessarily nostalgia that’s keeping me going since the Pokémon games are virtually unrecognisable from Red and Blue at this point.
So hey, nostalgia may not be enough to keep thinking that the shows we used to watch are good, necessarily, but it’s certainly enough to keep them enjoyable, and that’s more than good enough for me.