Readers, yours truly is not a person to whom the positives of life are either readily apparent or understandable, but even someone as typically dour as myself can’t deny that we are living in a golden age of television.
Now I’m not exactly sure why that is- why all of a sudden we seem to have had a jump in quality and quantity of shows. An age thing, perhaps? I considered that, but as much as we could argue that we simply prefer the television shows we had when we were in our 20s, I don’t think my generation is alone in the belief that TV is better now than it was a decade ago.
Let’s try to figure out why.
Theory #1: It’s Random
And yeah, it very well could be. We’re not given an infinite amount of channels or an infinite amount of time, but one way or another, there’s bound to be some chunk of time where most of the shows out there just happen to be good ones. It’s definitely possible, but it really doesn’t seem to fit quite so well as some of the alternatives out there.
Theory #2: It’s Deliberate
Of course “deliberate” is a tricky word. I don’t mean to suggest that there’re smokey backrooms filled with conspiring media moguls and writers all agreeing that television doesn’t have to be quite such a trough of stupidity, but definitely that everyone in the industry is keeping a close eye on everyone else and trying to outdo each other in terms of quality programming. Certainly this is what they would want you to think. The issue is, television executives don’t have such an illustrious track record for keen insight or devotion to artistic value.
If network bigwigs were really feeding off of each other, the more likely scenario would probably be Breaking Bad spawning a host of drug-related crime dramas, rather than shows simply of the same caliber.
Theory #3: It’s Technological
We could argue that it’s boiled down simply to an ability to produce special effects. It’s kinda hard to tell the courageous story of the last remnants of humanity, cast adrift in the endless void of space without the ability to really show that.
Same thing for any sprawling western or any epic battle sequence. Time there was when only movies could afford anything of this size and scale, and only now is television able to match that sheer scope.
Only that’s not entirely true now, is it?
Old TV might not have been pretty, but as far as being limited in terms of subject material, that just wouldn’t seem to hold up. Even if it did, one can always have good writing without having to show stars exploding in graphic detail.
Theory #4: It’s the Internet
It could be argued by some that television has been since its creation a cultural cesspool. The dregs of entertainment, designed for swift and mindless consumption of stimulation and nothing more.
One could argue that this role has since been usurped by the internet, leaving TV open as a medium for more intelligent or thought-provoking material. Crap TV has been replaced by crap webisodes, and stepping in to fill the void has been some refreshingly high-quality material- though that’s not to knock YouTube videos, of course.
Theory #5: It’s the Actors
…Though that might be e’er so misleading a title. Really, we might have it backwards, and it’s our growing appreciation for television that’s allowing it to be good, rather than increasing quality improving our view of it. There was a bit not too long ago on 30 Rock in which character Tracy Jordan, tiring of is fame and respect as a movie actor, decided to torpedo his career the only way he could- by going back to TV acting. Check out the clip here.
As funny as it was, I don’t think there’s all that much truth to it. Not anymore, anyways. Television is increasingly becoming viewed as being a legitimate alternative to film acting, and with increasing frequency we’re getting major A-list actors as lead roles in such shows as Hannibal (Laurence Fishburne, Mads Mikkelsen)…
…Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman)…
…And pretty much anyone who has ever guest starred on any season of American Horror Story.
Again, whether this is a symptom or a cause is something I can’t quite figure out- even if it is the source of TV’s sudden brilliance. And with that, I defer to you, the readers, for input.
What are your theories here?
It’s just the whole monkeys and typewriters and Shakespeare thing. We have more people creating more content for a larger audience, and we ignore the dozens of spaghetti strands that don’t stick to the wall because we’re so preoccupied by the incredible shapes of the ones that do.
That’s a fair argument, but I also feel that I’m seeing less and less of the terrible tv out there (TLC excluded). All the major networks anyways seem to have really stepped up their game, but yeah- there’s also probably something to be said for our comparatively new ability to pick and choose.
For every Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones or even New Girl there’s a show about two cheerleaders who fake being lesbians for popularity. I wouldn’t even say the ratio is one-to-one, either. Probably more like one-to-four.
I think you hit the nail on the head when you said we’re able to be more selective. You know that CBS sitcoms aren’t your thing, so you’ve managed to avoid dozens of truly terrible shows.