Recently, I did my selection of likely Emmy Winners for the Drama category. As I was doing it, I came to a realization. Not a single one of the many great shows that were likely to be nominated this year were similar. All of them were different in style, period, attitude, and storyline.
The fact that I could sit there and think long and hard, and still not be able to call the many great dramas of this year similar is a remarkable thing. One that demonstrates how the TV of this period is pushing boundaries TV has never pushed before and asking questions that television is uniquely suited to ask, trying things and creating great things as a result.
It is something of a television Golden Age that we are going through and here is why…
5. We’re Encouraging Quality and Punishing Crap
Yes, I know that for every Boardwalk Empire, there’s a dozen reality shows that also get high ratings. But nobody is looking at those reality shows and staring in awe like they are with Boardwalk Empire. The fact that it and shows like it are quality shows has been noted time and time again. And everywhere, they’re appreciated. With huge fanbases, dozens of awards, larger production budgets, we’re telling people that yes, you should make the best thing can and we’ll be happy to watch it. The Sopranos is really what started this trend of great television as a show that at the time it began, was considered strange compared to the type of television we were used to. But it drew audiences in and producers began to realize that here was a great chance to take risks, to try, and if they were lucky, reap massive results.
I find it very telling that of the many serious dramas attempted this year, the only ones that didn’t become successful were those of genuinely low quality, like the very dismal Mad Men rip off, The Playboy Club. All shows that were considered by critics and fan to be ‘good’ were at least somewhat successful. And that is a welcome change from the past, where one excellent show after another was cancelled in favor of more generic material, because those shows couldn’t find their audience. There will always be Jersey Shore’s in this world, but at least we aren’t actively encouraging them anymore.
This article was first posted on July 7, 2013