TV’s Transcendence: Why It's The Golden Age


"The Golden Age of Television" by Rick Marschall
No matter where you turn nowadays, it seems, an expert in one industry or another is proclaiming the modern era as the “golden age” in regards to its trade.

To wit, currently, it is the “golden age” of Journalism, Reading and International CooperationEven seemingly niche subjects are in their “golden age”; it’s now the best time ever for font design and various categories of cuisine, including delicatessen fare and barbecue in FYI Television’s home state of Texas.

Apparently, we are all very fortunate to be living in 2014: it is also the Golden Age of Television and Movies, according to many, many sources.

Let’s explore why.

“[It’s the] television content,” says David Poltrack, chief research officer for CBS. “The public is embracing television and engaging with television in a way that they never did before, because it is so much good programming.”

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, who recently appeared on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria: Global Public Square,” believes it’s because that “all of television, all your favorite shows, are now on-demand,” and “advertising revenue, subscription revenue has all come in to create much bigger TV budgets, [which allows for] much more participation of movie actors in TV.”

Academy Award-winning Halle Berry, one of those movie actors who appears in sci-fi show “Extant” on CBS, proclaimed that “some of the best writing” is a result of this.
Halle Berry in "Extant"
Halle Berry in "Extant"

Kevin Spacey, who has also won Academy Awards and stars on Netflix’s original series “House of Cards,” spoke at last year’s Edinburgh Television Festival, and stated that in this advanced time, the true difficulty becomes the continuation of what’s occurring.

“Our challenge now is to keep the flame of this revolutionary programming alive by continuing to seek out new talent, nurture it, encourage it, challenge it, give it home and the kind of autonomy that the past and present … has proved it deserves,” he said.

In fact, some feel that the quality of 21st century writing can be put in the same class as that of respected Victorian novelists.

On CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts offered that in today’s gilded landscape, “there's never been more excitement, more platforms, more choices, more direct ways for authors and creators of that content to get it to the consumer.”

But what was the catalyst that sparked this revolution? There seems to be an agreement that it was an acclaimed premium cable series about mobsters.

In the February 2014 issue of “Reason” magazine, Glenn Garvin, a TV critic from the Miami Herald, wrote that the era was “ushered in by HBO, which shattered the TV programming mold with The Sopranos.”

Similarly, in critic Alan Sepinwall’s book The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers, and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever, he observed that “[The Sopranos] rewrote the rules and made TV a better, happier place for thinking viewers.”

Since that show’s debut, New York Times media columnist David Carr is certain that “the idiot box gained heft and intellectual credibility to the point where you seem dumb if you are not watching it.”
The Sopranos

And over the past decade, the idea of the television itself has transformed: TV everywhere has now proliferated, and viewers often use their second-screens and connected devices.

“The breakthrough content … is happening because the model is sturdy in terms of giving consumers more freedom to take the content wherever they go on different devices and to enjoy it in different ways,” said John Lansing, president and CEO of the Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing.

Former Viacom CEO Tom Freston, prophesizes that “the idea that people are going to be watching anything other than their own personal network when they want to watch it is going to be obsolescent,” in an interview with Brief. He goes on to describe television as the place where “thoughtful, interesting stuff” can be located and where “new barriers being broken.”

So, overall why are we in this Golden Era of Television? The pros attribute it all to first-rate writing, actors and content (which could in turn be linked back to shorter seasons), as well as the ability to watch on-demand and across connected devices.

For a more comedy-inspired look at this topic, check out the debut episode of “The Approval Matrix” on the Sundance Channel, in which host Neal Brennan moderated a discussion with critics, actors and comedians.

Author: Brian Cameron

Image credit: Flickr
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