Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The "problem" with the Golden Age of Television

This post comes out of a new series of writing I do on ASOIAF meta and other topics of popular culture over at the Patreon of the Boiled Leather Audio Hour. If you like to read stuff like this, chime in just 1$ and you get access to everything I write. If you throw in 2$, you even get access to mini-podcasts I'm doing with Sean T. Collins answering questions by listeners of the podcast. Give the Patreon a look!
I'm writing "problem" here in scarequotes for a reason, because I realize that to complain about what I'm going to "complain" marks me out as a spoiled brat in a certain way. A short while ago, two anouncements were made essentially back to back: there would be a non-animated Star Wars TV show, and there would be a Lord of the Rings TV show using the original WETA designs from the movie. My reaction was basically a shrug and a "let's see how it goes". 
If you had told me ten years ago, maybe even five years ago, that this would happen, I would have reacted with utter disbelief. Such high-profile stuff was restricted to the big screen, in event movies, carefully parceled out over decades. If you wanted more, you had go to VERY secondary sources of VERY varying quality - books, video games and comics. 
So, the prospect to get a high-profile, professionally produced STREAM of content from some of my favorite dream-generators sounded improbable in the extreme. But in today's environment, I'm spoiled. We get one Star Wars movie every year. The Hobbit trilogy proved to be hastily produced, expensive-yet-cheap-looking crap-heap (that nonetheless didn't even garner a hundredth of the scorn that The Last Jedi got, likely to the lack of minority actors and prominent women characters).
Even more importantly, though, is that there are so many great TV shows - and let me emphasize, not good or entertaining, but GREAT TV shows - that watching all of them is impossible within a normal human life. So I'm in the situation where making room for a frigging Star Wars or frigging Lord of the Rings series comes at the detriment of watching something else, something better. 
Take Westworld as an example. This is an incredibly expensive and well-produced show, and yet, I have not (yet) watched its second season because I don't really like plot, characters and writing. Instead, I'm entertaining myself on the likes of The Americans, The Terror, Halt and Catch Fire or The Expanse. And there are still shows I haven't yet watched because there simply is not the time. The Sopranos, for example, languishes on my "to-do"-pile forever. I only got around to finally watch the complete series of "Mad Men" because I bought Matt Stoller Seitz' incredible companion book "Caroussel". 
So, the "problem" - still in scarequotes - is that there is more brillant, engaging content on television than I could ever hope to take in. Given where TV was 20 years ago, that is nothing short of a revolution, and it is fitting to think of it in those terms. I'm blessed, and I should savour that time as long as it lasts, because at some point, it needs to end.
Right? Please tell me I'm wrong.

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