We Live In The Golden Age Of TV, And It's Terrible
Confession: I don’t get excited over most of the pop cultural produce others happily graze upon anymore. There’s a certain joy in participating in the collective moment, but those gardens of delight are barred to the ruthlessly contrarian, and the hopelessly behind-the-curve. Nevertheless, I don’t think anyone could conceivably argue with me over this – TV is hard to watch, and the golden age of television makes it terrible because there’s more TV than there ever has been.
Give me your Big Little Lies, your Luke Cage, your Fresh Off The Boat – but don’t. I will never watch your recs. I’m more into the idea of prestige television than I will ever be into actually watching it, and recently I’ve even soured on the concept of prestige television. Instead of being ashamed, let’s take a little lean in.
TV is hard to watch. With books you can go at your own pace and it’s so nice and relaxing, even when you’re reading something truly gruesome, like a celebrity tell-all. With TV you are fighting the eternal battle of toggling between screens so you can check Facebook/Twitter/your social media poison of choice. There, your scumbag brain has made the decision for you: you’d rather be reading off a hellhole website than watching something. This is because most TV, especially prestige TV, is kind of boring. (Game of Thrones proves both sides of the rule — it started off as prestige TV, and was dull. Now it’s settled comfortably into trash TV — dull. On a related note, is anyone ever truly happy, or at a minimum do they ever enjoy things, in Game of Thrones? It’s like the opposite of a postcard). And prestige television is by definition worse than ‘normal television’ because its episodes are 45 minutes long at minimum, compared to 20 minutes for sitcoms like Parks and Recreation. That is too much television. Remember when the pilot of Twin Peaks was two hours? I do, and it was terrible and didn’t make any sense. You’d get just as much out of reading Wikipedia synopses of the series.
With films, it’s better because there’s less footage? You don’t get bad or filler episodes in ‘an otherwise good series’. The critics of film are less forgiving, and I think justly so. Like, if a film has bad scenes, it’s a bad film. Why is this so hard for connoisseurs of television to understand? And don’t drone on about percentages – if one episode of an ‘otherwise good series’ is bad and that’s only 1% of all the TV produced for that TV series, it’s still 20 minutes of being bad, minimum. We call that a bad film.
The only counterpoint I would conceivably accept is that there’s more diverse television nowadays. Like, you will pry Jane the Virgin from my cold dead heads even though its only recurring queer character has the worst storyline? Jane the Virgin is good because of its funny-smart meta-commentary, good-hearted magical realism, and also because it has empowered bookish young women of colour to shit on Gilmore Girls. But the main problem of there being too much TV remains. Instead of allowing more TV though here’s an actual solution: cishet white people need to shut up and make less TV for a while. Let’s say, a moratorium until 2050.
There can never be too many books or films, because books and films end. (Film franchises are basically garbage TV with even less original content (looking at you, Marvel) on huge screens.) I really, really don’t need six seasons and a movie. If you must, make one season – not ‘the first’, as that would imply a second and so on – and give it six episodes. Then don’t ever think of repeating especially if it becomes a runaway success. Just leave it, god!
That’s it, go off and make less TV and talk less about TV, except for the series I’m watching.