One of Chad's students lent us this and Hellsing this week. Chad started watching Hellsing while I was working, and informs me that I wouldn't like it (which I believe thoroughly), but I was interested in trying Cowboy Bebop, so we watched four episodes last night after I finished a bit of work.
I am aware that it's episode 5 where it takes off, and will watch at least that far. If I wasn't aware of that, though, I wouldn't be particularly eager to keep watching. (I had a pretty lousy day yesterday, but I was willing to like this, so I don't think it was only that.)
So far, it's got very nice visuals, interesting music (though the twangy bits in the first episode were tremendously distracting because I kept expecting them to turn into the Firefly theme), and a cute Corgi (schulman, take note). What it doesn't have, so far, is narrative momentum or information about the characters—who they are, where they've come from, and why I should care. In fact, I found myself telling Spike a couple of times, "Look, you're just not very smart, are you?"
A little more specific discussion, and consequently spoilers, under the cut.
( Cowboy Bebop, episodes 1-4 )
I was promised narrative crack and compelling characters to go along with the great visuals and interesting music. So far I haven't got them. If I haven't after episode 5, I will probably start paying much less attention to this.
(It's interesting to compare this to Firefly, which has a not-dissimilar premise of scratching out a living through dubious means on a beat-up spaceship. Firefly's pilot has River and Simon on the run; Mal and Zoe backstory; and a small argument between Wash and Zoe about her relationship with Mal. Nine characters, and you already know something about where four of them are coming from, what emotional issues five of them will deal with, and what an ongoing plot thread will be.)
Reference: rilina's rundown of the series, including which episodes are key.