COLLAPSE: ARE WE STILL IN A GOLDEN AGE FOR TV? We’re not; even if one ever existed…

Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Homeland, The Wire, The Sopranos…You can’t compare them to movies necessarily; we’re dealing with entirely different modes of narrative duration and character development. And yes, those aforementioned series are proof that TELEVISION WRITING can be considered on par with the best that film, novels, and theater can offer.

Everyone (both inside and outside the industry) keeps saying how long-form DRAMA is filling the VOID left by FILM’S ABANDONMENT of complex characters and concepts in favor of FRANKEN-FRANCHISES (see my post from yesterday on that front). Just a month or so ago, one of the top MANAGERS IN HOLLYWOOD said to me: “Movies don’t do drama anymore. You want to write drama you need to be in TV.”

But is that true? Is that just another NARRATIVE we’re telling ourselves so we can still BELIEVE IN TV.

Two articles from yesterday make me wonder just how different THE CONTENT is between FILM AND TV.

Yes one medium deals in LONGER FORM STORYTELLING, but regarding the NARRATIVE CONTENT, we have entered PEAK COLLAPSE in TV regarding DRAMA…


Stephen Gaghan, the Academy Award winning writer of “Traffic” and writer/director of “Syriana”, just had a DRAMA pilot rejected from AMC.


TV series based upon “Django Unchained” and “Suspiria” are in the works.

On top of which, Netflix has unleashed “Daredevil”, and other networks are clogged with Comic Book adaptations: Agents of S.H.I.EL.D, Gotham, Arrow, The Flash, and if you think I’m exaggerating, there’s 23 more coming

So if Gaghan (a man with enough awards to weigh down a shelf) can’t get a show picked up on AMC, the same network responsible for giving the go-ahead to Seth Rogen’s “Preacher” — how can we differentiate between the TV and FILM industry outside of pure NARRATIVE DURATION?

Answer: We CAN’T. it’s the exact same PRODUCT, just longer. So I guess what I’m asking is:

Yes. Movies do deserve the bashing they’re receiving; but why has TV gotten a total pass thus far?

3 thoughts on “COLLAPSE: ARE WE STILL IN A GOLDEN AGE FOR TV? We’re not; even if one ever existed…

  1. Ah here. Come on. I agree with most of this, there IS a tide of crap coming our way on TV, but when has this ever not been the case? It’s the curmudgeonly, cheap back-lash-ery of “if one ever existed”, in relation to the idea that we’ve been through a Golden Age of TV, that I have a problem with. Sure, these long-form TV shows are not novels, and they’re not nouveau films – what they are, I believe, is a highly-developed, super-sophisticated form of the soap opera, a form of the open-ended river of story that goes back to the serialised Victorian novel – but AS such, if you don’t think we’ve been through a golden age of THAT, then I don’t know what. Remember that most of these are ORIGINAL narratives. When I was growing up and watching TV, it was either literary adaptations – I, Claudius, War And Peace, The Pallisers – or it was American network shows like the admittedly great Columbo, or Kojak and The Rockford Files . . . or stuff like, ahem, Rich Man, Poor Man, and Roots. In the late 80s there was Twin Peaks, in the 90s, there was . . . I don’t remember. When I was in my teens, or even in my twenties, and if I’d turned on my TV and seen The Wire, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Battlestar Galactica, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, or The Americans, I would have freaked the fuck out. If I’d seen Mad Men, my head would have fucking EXPLODED. The future of TV maybe bleak, but claiming we haven’t just been through a golden age is just plain ornery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ok. Ok. That’s fair. Maybe my desire for a flashy title made me a little ornery, but I have a question:

      Do you think the collapse of the film industry producing DRAMA may have helped usher in the new Golden Age? Also, a backlash to standard network’s doubling-down on reality TV and DRAMA migrating to the cable channels in response? I wonder if Film and Network TV actually paved the road for the Golden Age with their short-sightedness? What do you think?

      Also, and I’m going to be ornery for a second, but outside of Twin Peaks in the 90’s: You also had X-Files, Homicide: Life on the Street, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, My So-Called Life…Granted, it’s not a huge roster, but it wasn’t quite the wasteland you’re painting it to be.


  2. I agree, yes, but I don’t think Film and Network TV would ever perceive their jettisoning of DRAMA as short-sighted, they just went where the money was, i.e., the global youth demographic, on the one hand, where merch could be pedalled and the English language reduced to international-friendly grunts and slogans, and, on the other hand, minimal-budget reality TV shows. The Cable model allowed the long-form drama to flourish, then aided by sleeper box-set viewing and now streaming and VOD. As always, the tech leads and we humans develop our habits accordingly. Btw, I wasn’t being sarcastic about the 90s, I really don’t remember – I was living in Italy for most of it and didn’t have a TV. But yes, the shows you mention are key (and Millennium, Frank Black . . .) And your main point is still true, sadly – these things aren’t a replacement for great movies, and great movies are what I crave the most . . .


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