An Appreciation of Television in 2014

A few months back, I had read a great post on the state of TV, as it was at the end of the 2013 calendar year. That post, by Grantland writer Andy Greenwald, touched on many important topics of where we are in this era of television. Has there been a significant drop off or is television as good as ever?

This Golden Era of Television includes heavyweights such as Entourage, The Sopranos and The Wire. It “ended” with that era of television a few years back, and we have been stuck in what seems to be a rut creativity wise.  Shows seem to be recycling the same old nonsense, becoming as predictable as ever.

But as the calendar year turned over to 2014, things seemed to change. The premiere of True Detective on HBO brought a gritty, dark show into the fold as well as the premiere of Season 2 of House of Cards on Netflix. Are we moving towards a new era of television? With platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon putting out its own original content, we could very well see more iterations like House of Cards, but at the same time, we can be subject to a few sleepers such as Derek featuring comedian Ricky Gervais.

We live in a world now, littered with many different devices in which we can watch any show, at any time, in any location. But the problem with that, is we have so much access to a variety of shows that it seems like things are diluted. Sometimes, getting rid of exclusivity can be a bad thing. Netflix has seemed to get right so far with their original programming. Shows such as Hemlock Grove, Orange is the New Black and picking up Arrested Development for its 4th season are a few examples moving forward. But can they keep up this steam? It seems as if Hulu and Amazon Prime have their own original content, but do they have that mainstream appeal that some of the Netflix shows have? Is it a publicity issue? Is it because the shows just aren’t that good? Only time will tell.

As far as networks like HBO and Showtime, it seems like they may have just been stuck in a rut. True Detective premiered this past January and seems to be the most hyped show on their network anyone has talked about since Game of Thrones premiered 3 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good shows on HBO, but nothing that has really left you hanging week by week. Boardwalk Empire and True Blood are good, but something about them is lacking. Maybe it has to do with the old notion of week by week releases of episodes, something that Netflix has definitely cut out. But I really think it just has to do with the fact that these shows are what baseball players call “innings-eaters.” Plus, when was the last time a television had a scene like the one below.

Don’t get me wrong, I am appreciating the direction that the so called Television Entertainment part of our lives is going, but there is still work to do. I watched 2 long standing shows end last year in Dexter and Breaking Bad respectively, but only Breaking Bad seemed to have the balls to get it right (there were reports that Showtime would not let the writers kill off Dexter). There are some other heavyweights out there, Mad Men and The Walking Dead come to mind, but these are at the end of their proverbial runs at the top. After these end, what will the state of television be in? It’s already tough for network television programs to compete with the likes of Netflix, who release the whole season at once, but the classic television format isn’t going anywhere. If they can continue to churn out juggernauts such as True Detective, than we know that network television, whether premium or basic, is not going anywhere for the time being.

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