Fluffy to grim: the tone spectrum. And watch The Untamed!
I’ve come to realize it’s not the *subject matter* you should think about when recommending shows and books to me, but the *tone*. Here is a tone spectrum I drew up for illustration, using just TV and films.
I’m unlikely to want things that are a 10—all serious all the time. (Or even 95+% of the time.) I’m open to the complete fluff on the 0 end, but I have to be in the mood for that.
The sweet spot is 3 to 7 or thereabouts: give me tonal variety! All the shows I’ve truly adored have been in there. They have a lot of complete silliness and also a goodly amount of heartbreak. They’re not just ONE MOOD.
I sketched this because sometimes people recommend a show or book to me because it’s got Greek gods in it, or linguistics, etc.—things I like. Then it turns out to be unrelentingly depressing, and I don’t like it.
So if recommending to me, think tone! I want pleasant fluff AND meaningful depth, in harmony and balance.
N.B.: I fully realize this is only one way to evaluate media and does not cover all the relevant details that might make us like a thing. Don’t bother going into full “but but but” mode about it. It’s just one angle.
For those who can’t read an image, the chart goes:
0 (Fluffy) to 10 (Grim)
0: Most Disney
1: Comedy in general
2: Gilmore Girls
3: Most Studio Ghibli
4: Harry Potter; Avatar: the Last Airbender
5: The Untamed; Buffy
6: Angel; Sherlock; BBC Merlin
7: Star Wars; Downton Abbey
8: Lord of the Rings
9: Tragedy in general
10: Game of Thrones; Witcher
Some of these, especially the ones right in the middle (e.g., Buffy, The Untamed, Merlin, Angel…) have a LOT of variety, with episodes at 0 and episodes at 10. So I went with my gut instinct on what the average number would be for the whole series. Opinions there may vary.
By the way, this year I've watched all 50 episodes of The Untamed twice—first alone and then with my husband—and would like to officially welcome WangXian (Lan Wangji/Wei Wuxian) to my (unofficial) top 5 ship list. Look how fluffy! Look how cute! (My husband calls the show "Bunnies and Zombies." It's probably a more apt title than "The Untamed," actually.)
If you're a Merthur shipper and don't mind reading subtitles (or happen to understand Chinese), you may want to check out this show. Because of Chinese censorship, there are no kisses or "I love you"s, but the romance between the two is nonetheless canon (and very clear).