Yeah, I know I know I know – just saying this sentence feels as “surprising” as Daniel Day-Lewis winning yet another Oscar (honestly wonder whether he’s truly retired, or if he’s coming back…?) or Meryl Streep getting yet another Oscar nomination (who’s even counting at this point, honestly? Just always presume if Meryl had a movie out during a year, she’s getting nominated the year after, your life will become much simpler and in a weird way, it will make more sense).
But I feel like sometimes when people discuss this they focus on certain points and the way I’m thinking about it might be unique (that is until somebody links me 10+ blog posts like this making the same exact points and calling me a thief where I’ll be forced to go into hiding in a Moldavian cave, because as we all know, once you’re cancelled on the “internets”, it’s for good.)
On more a serious note, it’s a great time to be alive, unless of course you remember everything else except the TV, like:
- Who’s the current president of USA.
- Our planet dying.
- COVID-19 in full strength and not getting weaker any time soon.
- Disappearing middle class all over the world and increasing wealth gap.
- The hive mentality of social media, where everyone needs to be 100% all the time, that’s not THAT difficult, right?
And the list goes on and on and, holy fuck this is getting depressing. Wait, let’s go back to topic, golden age of TV!
That leads me to my first point:
- Escapism is real – Look, I’m not saying what was happening in the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s was all peachy, not by a long shot. But it does feel like lately, everything that can go wrong, goes HORRIBLY wrong (see the entire 2020 so far). And that’s why I believe people are switching on their TV screens much more often and just prefer to stay at home, where the danger, hatred and the cruel reality of the outside world can be replaced by something that gives us hope, that makes us laugh, or reminds us why this blue dot in the outer space is still worth fighting for.
But why are more and more people staying home, watching TV? Well, the escapism isn’t the only known unknown in this equation, as that’s been one of THE appeals of the cinema ever since its beginning! But only recently we’ve gotten our hands on so much more content than we could ever consume in 3 lifetimes.
- Streaming changed everything, forever – To me, this is the most obvious point. With the rise of Netflix, and later Amazon Prime, HBO Go, Sky etc., we have now much more to consume for really good price! Entire box sets of TV shows we’ve always heard about and never could watch instantly, or brand new Netflix originals, where they still have a level of quality (even though you can make an argument for that level of quality decreasing by the year) to capture our time and give something a chance. After all, it’s only 6/8 hours of your life, right?
This actually brings me slowly to my biggest point of why we are living in the golden age of TV, because when I wrote “streaming changed everything, forever” I meant it. And not only availability wise, but rule wise. What am I talking about?
- First rule of streaming club, we don’t give a fuck about number/length of episodes – Think about it. There were always great TV shows, but most of them had one, major weakness. They had too many episodes, and those episodes had to have a certain length, always. But not because they had the story to tell, or characters to develop, but they had a year of TV to fill in. And that’s hard, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a lighthearted sitcom, or serious drama, eventually you find yourself in a trap of writing for a sake of “we need 22/24 episodes, goddammit! That’s how it always was!”. Or at least that’s how it’s been before HBO (exactly, we need to acknowledge the true OG, as young people say, and I should know as I’m still young and definitely not getting old) came along and we’ve started to get TV shows with 12/10/6 episodes a season. I know, I know, it’s not exactly fair to compare network TV stations like CBS or ABC to HBO, but stick with me. Because I honestly believe people at Netflix, when they established themselves as a streaming giant, took notes and took the most important one from HBO – just give us a story that makes sense, that captures the audience and we don’t care if it’s told over 6 hours or 16. We don’t care if one episode is 48 minutes long and the other 42. Suddenly, these “filler” episodes, or “best-of” episodes from previous seasons (and you DO know what I’m talking about, perfect example would be The Simpsons, or the classic of Czech TV programming Step by Step) were not there anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT saying we don’t get “weaker” episodes, not by a long shot, what I am saying is, there are less of them and that makes any TV show more fluid, coherent and watchable. And I genuinely hope more network TV shows will just acknowledge that this is the way, for a future of better TV.
There is one more thing why I think we live in the golden age of TV, and it kind of relates with, surprise suprise, streaming changing the game. And that thing, or a point is:
- It’s no longer shameful for a proper A-lister to have a TV show – Not that long ago, the TV show was a medium where movie actors and actresses went “to die” – they were either too old, too outside of the mainstream or the studio considered them too unmarketable to be in a movie. It wasn’t until late 80’s where one actor finally managed to make his mark, and going from a successful TV show to be an international movie star – that man is of course, Bruce Willis. Yes, some people are either too young to remember, or have already forgotten that he started on (at that time) successful TV show called Moonlighting and has managed to fight his way through to the silver screen. Then, in the 90’s, George Clooney had followed Bruce’s example and made his leap from another successful TV show (ER) to the silver screen. And these two were the major examples that it CAN be done, that those two worlds can co-exist together. But there was still this “fear” from A-listers, where they thought “once I’m on TV, my career as a movie star has officially ended” and there was no two ways about it. Yes, you can find some examples, but the general rule of thumb was, TV is for when you get older. Then the “revolution” came with Netflix and I need to mention 2 names, one of which is controversial to mention nowadays – Kevin Spacey and David Fincher.
Yes, House of Cards was the actual turning point in finally blending in these two worlds, where 2 talented people at the height of the power, have fearlessly went to Netflix, and lead the way for others, where suddenly, a few years later, it’s a thing of pride to have a TV show, or a limited TV series. Just look at (still haven’t seen it, but hopefully getting to it soon) Big Little Lies – a TV show where the first season already had Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz and Laura Dern but that wasn’t big enough I guess, so in their second season they’ve added nobody smaller than Meryl Streep.
And this is the thing – all of these women still have successful movie carriers and they are not in any way shape or form ready to “die” on that show, nor they are afraid by being in one would get them less movie offers.
The TV nowadays is considered the “adult” medium, where grown-ups get their stories, their doses of drama, comedy, thriller etc. Movies are for spectacles, comic book films, and larger than life movies. That’s not to say you can’t still find a great drama or comedy on the big screen, sure you can. But there is a shift happening, slow one, but there is.
Even back in 2013, Spielberg and Lucas gave an interview about something similar, saying movie going experience will be for big blockbusters only and it’s only a matter of time for some stories to be told on the smaller screens.
George Lucas about movies in the future:Lucas lamented the high cost of marketing movies and the urge to make them for the masses while ignoring niche audiences. He called cable television “much more adventurous” than film nowadays.
“I think eventually the Lincolns will go away and they’re going to be on television,” Lucas said. “As mine almost was,” Spielberg interjected. “This close — ask HBO — this close.
The full link for the interview can be found here.
When you think about it, it makes sense – the way we consume art, has changed with new technology, we want something good immediately, and preferably yesterday, so we can say to our colleagues or fellow students “Oh yeah, I watched it yesterday, it sucked!” And that is why this trend will not only not stop, but we will see even better TV shows in the next couple of years. This golden age can last for a quite a while and the only thing we can regret is having no time to watch everything that comes out.
What do you think about this topic? Did I miss something obvious? Let me know below!
Until next time,